Raptors put Game 5 loss behind them as another close-out game looms
Live in the moment. It's been the Toronto Raptors' mantra all season. Never get too high after wins. Never too down after losses.
Two days after the Raptors were an agonizing basket away from capturing their first NBA championship, with the collective voice of seemingly the entire country cheering them on, they're not sweating the loss. If anyone senses a shift in momentum in Golden State's favour, it's all outside noise to them.
"Did [Game 5] hit me any harder? Not really. They all hit you hard," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. "Listen, I'm like anybody that was there that understands the outcome of that one changes things a little bit. But I'll say this: I'm absolutely thrilled to be coaching in another Finals game. This is awesome, right?"
The Raptors, who lead the Finals series 3-2, have two more chances to bring the Larry O'Brien Trophy to Canada for the first time in history, and the first comes Thursday at Oracle Arena, Golden State's home floor.
WATCH | Warriors come back late to force Game 6:
Toronto is undefeated at Oracle, which will host its final NBA game on Thursday — the two-time defending champion Warriors are moving to Chase Center in San Francisco next season.
An unusual stat: the visiting team has won the last four games of the series with Toronto capturing Games 3 and 4 at Oracle last week.
"For some reason I think both teams are really good road teams and have been all season," Nurse said. "That's one thing. Two, two really tough-minded teams playing and you've got to be a little more tough-minded on the road."
'Deep thoughts' on momentum
The Raptors were on the defensive for part of Wednesday's media availabilities. Nurse has been criticized for taking a pair of timeouts with his team on a run late in Game 5, and then choosing not to take one before the game's final play — a three-point attempt by Kyle Lowry that Draymond Green got his fingertips on. It's been argued that both instances affected momentum.
Nurse was asked: Is there such a thing as momentum?
"Now that is a loaded question, I think, isn't it. Oh, my God," Nurse said. "Momentum is definitely real in everything in life, from the moment you get up to a basketball game moment. No doubt about it. Sometimes timeouts stop them; sometimes they don't. Sometimes not taking one stops it, and sometimes it doesn't. That's kind of the world we live in on the basketball court. . . Deep thoughts."
Nurse pointed out that the Raptors had a chance to win Game 5 after rallying from a 14-point deficit. Marc Gasol was clobbered late in the game, the NBA saying Tuesday that the referees missed the call.
WATCH | Refs miss foul against Gasol late in Game 5:
"Kyle had a wide-open three with a minute to go. We ran some nice stuff and got exactly what we wanted," Nurse said. "I'm not sure that that timeout had anything to do with about 14 plays after that."
Lowry said his team's mood hasn't changed since Game 5. It's virtually the same it's been all post-season long.
"We stayed in the moment. We didn't finish the game out. We all sat back, we watched it and watched the film today," he said. "We understand that the moment is the moment, but we still are staying in it. We're not too up, we're not too down. We're just one game — hey, we lost it, now we got to move on to the next one."
Leonard looking at big picture
Leonard has been the Raptors' emotional maestro all season, constantly pulling his teammates back into the moment. While the Warriors wear their emotions on their sleeves, the Raptors have remained all-business. It's virtually impossible to tell from the serious faces on players walking back to the locker-room whether they've just won a game or lost.
"You come into the playoffs with the same mindset: I want to win today's game, I want to win today's game," Leonard said.
Leonard's dad Mark was shot and killed at the Compton, Calif., car wash he owned when Leonard was a junior in high school.
Losing his father, he said, made his realize life is more than just basketball.
"Like I always say, this is basketball, just go out there and have fun. These are going to be the best years of my life, playing this game," Leonard said. "Being 27, this young, you shouldn't be stressing in life about things that really don't matter.
"As long as your family is healthy, you're able to see the people that you love and you're able to walk, run, you're not injured . . . all those things go into account. Go out there, lay it all out on the floor, do the best job I could possibly do and try to win."
Leonard, who's averaging 30.9 points and 9.0 rebounds in these playoffs, should capture his second career Finals MVP award with a victory. With 710 career post-season points, he's 14 away from passing Allen Iverson for fourth on the all-time NBA list, 16 from overtaking Hakeem Olajuwon, 39 from passing LeBron James, and 50 from moving past Michael Jordan, whose 759 points in 1992 are the NBA record.
WATCH | Lowry calls Leonard best two-way player in NBA:
"He's the best two-way basketball player in the NBA," Lowry said of Leonard. "He just goes. I've seen some stuff from him this year that just you say 'Wow.' You appreciate the work that's put in. He works extremely hard at his game and works extremely hard on his body. And he loves this basketball thing. He loves it."
A Raptors victory would give them Canada's first title in one of North America's four major pro leagues — NBA, NHL, NFL, MLB — since the Toronto Blue Jays won back-to-back World Series in 1992 and '93.
Canadian singer/songwriter Sarah Ann McLachlan will perform "O Canada" on Thursday night.
A Raptors loss would send the series back to Toronto for Game 7 on Sunday.