Oracle wanted a do-over. The arena, the fans, the Golden State franchise, they had been through too much over the 47 years there that it couldn’t end with the Game 4 effort. And while the result was the same, all lived up to the name — Warriors.
It ended up being the Raptors celebrating on the floor after a 114-110 title clinching win, but Oracle was worthy of being called champion as well.
A reflective Stephen Curry reminisced about this building after the game:
“No regrets at all about what we have been able to accomplish and even how this series ended. So we had a lot of great memories in this building. I think it’s iconic in the sense of our entire history of this organization and how we got to this point. Whenever I drive by it I’ll have great memories of, again, what we have been able to accomplish in this building… So hopefully every fan that was in this building appreciates the journey and the ride. And every fan that was watching how Oakland held us down for 47 years, and turn the page to bigger and better things coming for this franchise.”
But did they fight. A clutch defensive stand improbably gave the Warriors a chance to win Game 6, but Stephen Curry’s 3 clanked off the iron with just seconds left. It came off what seemed like a botched inbounds play that nearly sailed out of bounds. It was just one battle too many to overcome.
Even Steve Kerr was surprised they even had a chance to steal one:
“It’s amazement that we’re sitting in this position. [That] during the game we have a chance to win the game and force a Game 7 and go back to Toronto, and you just think, how? How has this group of guys put themselves in position to do it?”
And they did it down the stretch without Thompson, who despite being forced to leave the game in the third quarter with was later diagnosed as a torn ACL still managed to lead the team in points with 30 on an insane 8-of-12 from the field.
If there was one absolute positive going into Game 6, it was that the Warriors All-Star guard was going to show out. While you could get into an existential debate about whether Thompson is made for Game 6’s or Game 6’s are made for Thompson, the result is the same.
The Raptors tried to break the spirit of Oracle Arena and the Warriors with an early bombardment of 3’s. Thompson kept Golden State alive.
It was a heroic effort — until a missed dunk caused an awkward landing and left Thompson writhing on the ground. An all-too familiar sight for the Warriors these playoffs.
The dynamic crowd that turned out for one last show at Oracle was left aghast. And then it erupted when Thompson returned to shoot his free throws after being helped off the floor.
It was reminiscent of a scene from an over-the-top cheesy sports movie. There was no way this was humanely possible — and yet it was.
Draymond Green said that’s just the player Thompson is:
“If they would have let him stay out there he would have stayed. That’s just who he is. You see him try to run back down the floor like, what are you doing? But that’s Klay. How many people is going to play with a hamstring injury? No one. Like no one does that. So that’s just the way he is, man. That guy is — he’s a warrior and obviously that’s no pun intended with that, but there’s no other way to describe him. He’s going to give everything he got every time he step on the floor and even some things that he don’t have, which is his health. He was going to try to give it more. That’s just who he is. That’s why we love him.”
But it was short-lived as Thompson was subbed out immediately after sinking the two free throws. He protested but there was no way the Warriors were going to push another one of their stars after what happened to Durant.
Kerr said if it was up to Thompson he would have been right back in the game:
“Well, I think what happened was he wasn’t aware of the rule that if you don’t shoot the free throws, you can’t come back in the game. So I think somebody told him in the hallway. Klay being Klay he just turned right around and came back and shot the free throws. And we committed the automatic foul to get him out of the game and he came back and he told me just two minutes. I think there was just two minutes left in the third, and he said just a two minute rest, I’ll be ready. And next thing I heard was he was done for the night from Drew Yoder, our trainer.”
It left Curry and Green all alone — still, the fight didn’t die.
Green said that’s in this team’s DNA:
“We know what this team has been made of all along. I said it over and over again, the pretty offense will always be the story line, but this team, a ton of heart. Everybody that steps on that floor displayed a ton of heart. So it’s no shocker to us that we continue to fight, but we came up a little short and that’s just it.”
Not even as the Raptors continued to shoot the lights out. Pascal Siakam hit three 3’s, and Kyle Lowry hit four, and Fred VanVleet railed in five. Lowry didn’t seem to touch the rim to start the game, going for 11 points in the first four minutes and got any look he wanted off the pick-and-roll.
He ended up scoring 21 of his 26 points in the first half and was exceptional on the offensive end. Every time the Warriors looked on the verge of a run, it was Lowry who cooled it, with either a 3 or a layup.
It looked easy for Lowry, but it was anything but for Curry. He had zero field goal attempts in the first 10 minutes of gametime and went just 6-of-17 total.
He also saw an automatic double anytime he touched the ball, and when he did manage to shake free, Siakam or Serge Ibaka was lurking in the key. Too many times he tried to thread the needle into a tight window to set up his bigs, which led to tipped passes and turnovers.
The Raptors swarmed the Splash Brothers off every off-ball movement, content with leaving Green and Andre Iguodala to their own devices. Iguodala was more aggressive then he’s been all series — all playoffs even.
He attacked off the catch, attacked in transition and was not shy about launching from 3.
His 15 shots led the team well into the fourth and was the most he’s shot these playoffs. It’s actually the most he’s shot in a game the entire year. His 22 points were big in a game where the Warriors needed scoring.
Green was less decisive with the ball, passing up open shots, but was able to find shots for his teammates dishing out eight first half assists.
He also had four turnovers in that same span though, which for Toronto is almost an automatic bucket with the way they run the floor.
The Raptors had 14 first half fast-break points to the Warriors six. The problem for Green was that Toronto knew he was trying to distribute, and while it did work sometimes with him setting up a couple Iguodala lobs. It also got read correctly by the Raptors a bunch more times.
But Green was going to find a way to make an impact. The turnovers still piled up but so did all the other columns on the statsheet.
He had 19 huge rebounds — the Warrior with the next most? Klay Thompson with five. Green’s 13 assists also led the team, as did his three steals and two blocks, and his 11 points — on 5-of-10 shooting — gave him a triple-double.
But those turnovers, of which Green had eight himself, ended up dooming the Warriors. That, and the fact they left points at the free throw line, missing nine of them.
Bigger than the on-court nitpicks though was just the fact that they didn’t have enough bodies. Down the stretch, Kerr had to rely on lineups he’s never used before. And with those unfamiliar lineups came mistakes.
While that is going to sting this team until next season, the continued fight is what’s going to be remembered most.
A lot of people are talking about this loss as if it’s the end for this Warriors run, but Green has other plans:
“Yeah. I think everybody thinks it’s kind of the end of us. But that’s just not smart. We’re not done yet. We lost this year. Clearly just wasn’t our year, but that’s how the cookie crumbles sometimes. But, yeah, I hear a lot of that noise, it’s the end of a run and all that jazz. I don’t see it happening though. We’ll be back.”
After the buzzer amid the Toronto celebration, one last chant broke out from the Oracle faithful. It was a celebration, but also a tribute to what they had just witnessed.
What the team they have supported for nearly half a decade just proved to be.
One elongated word — Warriors.