Toronto is preparing for another chance at winning the first championship in team history as they carry a 3-2 series lead into Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
Here’s what the U.S. media sites are saying about the Raptors ahead of Thursday’s potentially historic game:
A missed opportunity
That’s at least according to former Star reporter Curtis Rush, now a sports writer for Forbes Magazine, who says things are only just getting interesting for the NBA Finals as the Raptors head to Oakland to play the Golden State Warriors Thursday night.
Rush thinks the loss of Game 5 can be pinned down to one simple reason: “they couldn’t shoot straight.” But the chance to clinch the series is far from over, he writes, as they head to Oracle Arena with a one game lead.
The Warriors without Durant?
It’s almost too easy to find a metaphor for Warriors foward Kevin Durant’s Achilles injury from Monday night, but several news sites are doing just that — contemplating whether the team can beat out the Raps without their all-star.
A panel from ESPN discussed the impact of Durant’s absence on the Warriors. Without him playing, “it’s hard to see how Golden State can summon enough to pull off two more games, no matter how much championship DNA remains,” says NBA writer Tim Bontemps.
“Toronto is firmly the favourite once again,” he says.
NBA analytics expert for ESPN André Snellings says the Raptors have been the better team when Durant is out.
“They are longer and more athletic than the Warriors, able to maintain offensive and defensive pressure that Golden State seems unable to overcome,” Snellings writes.
Rob Mahoney from Sports Illustrated certainly seems to agree.
“There are some events in the NBA so consequential as to shift the ground beneath the entire league,” wrote the NBA reporter who thinks Durant’s injury is a “tidal force in the championship series.”
Not in deep water — yet
“The pressure is starting to increase” for the Raps, writes USA Today reporter Jeff Zillgitt who covers the NBA.
Zillgitt doesn’t think the Raptors are in trouble yet, but they certainly didn’t want to go back to the Bay Area for Game 6. And yet that’s what they’re doing.
“And if there is a Game 7, even more pressure will be on the Raptors,” he wrote ahead of Thursday’s game. “It won’t be easy to beat the two-time defending champions who have won three titles in the previous four seasons.”
The New York Times pointed to the last five minutes of Monday’s game as Toronto’s reasons to “regroup” before Thursday, which culture reporter Sopan Deb wrote so far, “hasn’t been an issue for this team.”
“Each time Toronto has been challenged, it has overcome,” Deb said.
Jumping on the bandwagon
Looks like U.S. news sites are still amazed by Canada’s love for the Raptors this season. Several articles and listicles featuring the many Jurassic Parks have popped up on outlets including ESPN, Business Insider and USA Today.
A Sports Illustrated article with “evidence” about Canada’s bandwagon love is particularly interesting with its showcase of a Regina football stadium filled with more than 2,500 people watching Monday’s game.
“The scene was absolutely incredible,” wrote Dan Gartland.
Missed call on Gasol
After every game, the NBA releases a “Last Two Minute Report,” which clarifies any incorrect calls made by officials in the final two minutes. Raptors fans probably would have been better off not seeing the report from the Game 5 loss.
It said that with 49 seconds left and the Raptors down 106-103, Toronto centre Marc Gasol was fouled by Warriors’ DeMarcus Cousins, but the call was missed. The NBA said Cousins moved into Gasol, “initiating contact that affects his driving shot attempt.”
The correct call would have led to two free throws. The Raptors ended up losing by one point.
Temur Durrani is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @temurdur