TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors can win their first championship and end Golden State’s quest for three in a row with one more victory.
The Raptors can do it Monday night in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, when Kevin Durant could play for the first time in the series .
Warriors coach Steve Kerr says Durant went through their full morning shootaround Monday and said his ability to play would be determined before the game. Durant, the two-time NBA Finals MVP, has been sidelined more than a month with a strained calf.
Durant spent about 25 minutes on the court before leaving toward the end of the Warriors’ shootaround session for continued treatment.
“He went through full shootaround and went back to get treatment,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “We’ll list him game-time decision, but it looked good and we’ll see where it all goes.”
Golden State sure could use Durant after Toronto won both games at Oracle Arena to take a 3-1 lead. That deficit has been overcome only once in the NBA Finals, when Cleveland did it against the Warriors in 2016.
‘If we have him out there, he’ll be a threat’
Durant did not say anything as he walked past a horde of media to get toward the Warriors’ locker room.
Kerr was asked if he had any reservations about Durant’s ability if he is ultimately cleared to play in Game 5 of the finals.
“You worry about the conditioning,” Kerr said. “The skill, obviously, is undeniable and he’s a guy who can get a shot off anytime he wants. He’s been in similar situations with us where he’s had long layoffs. He’s Kevin Durant. If we have him out there, he’ll be a threat. We know that.”
On potentially the biggest night ever for Canadian basketball, the NBA announced there would be no singer for the Canadian national anthem, instead inviting all fans in the arena and across the nation to join in the singing of it.
Canada is in the throes of Raptors Fever. From Halifax on the east coast to Vancouver out west and all places in between, the excitement is beyond palpable. Hockey season is still going on, but in Canada, more people are watching the NBA than the NHL right now — and the viewership numbers on Monday night are expected to set another record.
The Craze Is Crossing Cultures
“3 down, 1 to go,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote on Twitter. “Bring it home, Raptors.”
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) June 8, 2019
Here’s a far-from-complete list of places where “Let’s Go Raptors” chants have broken out in the last couple of days:
At a Blue Jays baseball game in Toronto, the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, on an Air Canada flight heading into Toronto, and among spectators at the PGA’s Canadian Open in nearby Hamilton, Ontario. After Rory McIlroy won that tournament, he drew cheers as he waved and wore a red Raptors jersey bearing Kyle Lowry’s name and number 7.
“Raptors in five!” McIlroy yelled.
The craze is crossing cultures, too. Before the National Ballet of Canada performed in Toronto Friday, the same night as Game 4 of the finals, the Raptors logo and “We the North” slogan were projected on the theatre curtain while the crowd took their seats. Performers in that show even taped a “Let’s Go Raptors” message and sent it to the team as the finals were getting started.
After the Raptors won Game 4 to take a 3-1 series lead, two of the fans who had been cheering in Jurassic Park — the place where Raptors fans gather near the arena in downtown Toronto to watch games on big screens — immediately started the line for Monday’s Game 5.
Blue Jays Were Last Canadian Champs of a Major Sport
Angie Taylor, 33, and Tyler Seaton, 31, were more than prepared. They told The Canadian Press they had a tent, a portable grill, and some groceries to get them through Game 5.
“I understand where they’re coming from,” Lowry said. “We want them to be excited. We want them to be happy. We want them to be energetic. But we still got work to do.”
One more Raptors victory over Golden State would give Toronto its first major sports championship since baseball’s Blue Jays won back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and 1993. That second Blue Jays victory came a few months after the Montreal Canadiens lifted the 1993 Stanley Cup. No Canadian-based team has won a championship in baseball, basketball or hockey in the years since, although Toronto FC of Major League Soccer did win the MLS Cup at home in December 2017.
Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard said the team is very aware of the countrywide support.
“I think we have been embracing it this whole time,” Leonard said. “Just enjoying the support and the energy that they’re bringing to the team.”