The Toronto Raptors are on the verge of making history. After stunning the Warriors at home in Games 3 and 4, and taking both games fairly comfortably, the Raptors can win the first NBA championship in history for a non-American team. All the momentum is in their favor heading into Game 5 (played on ABC at 6 PM PT), and they’re playing at home in front of what will likely be one of the loudest NBA crowds in recent memory. Things are all coming up Toronto.
However, the Warriors might finally be getting healthy in the nick of time. Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney played in Game 4 after missing Game 3, and both looked very good, especially Klay. DeMarcus Cousins is a shadow of his former self, and Andre Iguodala doesn’t appear to be quite right either, but Kevin Durant is questionable to play after missing two rounds of action. KD still might not play, and even if he does he almost certainly won’t be 100%, but his mere return might give the Warriors a much-needed morale boost. KD would give the Warriors more shooting, a go-to offensive option, and a defensive upgrade to boot.
On the other hand, the Raptors have to be feeling confident even if KD does come back. They’ve outplayed the Warriors almost the entirety of the series, and KD would be a major piece to re-integrate in the middle of a series after a month away. Most importantly, the Warriors have shown no ability to slow down Kawhi Leonard, much less stop him. The Klaw is running rampant on the Warriors, and the Dubs will need to come up with a different strategy if they’re to take Game 5. Even if they improve in that area, Marc Gasol has dominated the Warriors’ center, and Serge Ibaka has been a game-changer in his minutes. The Raptors just have more weapons right now, and are playing far better and cohesive defense. It’s very simple: the Raptors appear to be the superior overall team through four games, and the Warriors will need something big to flip that. KD’s return could do that, but that remains to be seen.
If the Raptors win the championship, it would go a huge way towards keeping Leonard, though at this point they might have done enough to secure his return even if the Warriors pull a 3-1 comeback. It would be a wonderful finishing touch on the careers of three aging NBA vets in Gasol, Ibaka, and Kyle Lowry, and solidify Masai Ujiri as one of the best general managers in recent NBA history. For the Warriors, this could be it for one of the most dominant dynasties of all time. Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson are free agents, and while a Warriors’ loss without KD could actually validate his importance to this team, it seems fairly likely that he’s on his way out. If Durant leaves, this Warriors team will certainly be very good, but not the overwhelming force that’s cast a huge shadow over the rest of the NBA the past three years. Needless to say, there’s a lot riding on Game 5.