Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2) pushes off Golden State Warriors centre DeMarcus Cousins (0) during second half basketball action in Game 5 of the NBA Finals in Toronto on Monday, June 10, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Stayin’ Alive: Warriors edge Raptors to force Game 6 in NBA Finals

Toronto had lead late before falling 106-105 at home

TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors will have to wait to win their first NBA title in franchise history.

Stephen Curry had 31 points while Klay Thompson finished with 26, and the visiting Golden State Warriors edged Toronto 106-105 to slice the Raptors’ lead in the NBA Finals to 3-2.

The best-of-seven series heads back to Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., for Game 6 on Thursday.

Kawhi Leonard had 12 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough to lift Toronto past the Splash Brothers as Curry and Thompson both had big three-pointers down the stretch.

Six Raptors scored in double figures: Serge Ibaka had 18 points, Marc Gasol had 17, Serge Ibaka finished with 15, Pascal Siakam chipped in with 12, and Fred VanVleet finished with 11.

In uncharted territory in their Finals debut, the Raptors are looking to capture the first championship for a Canadian franchise in one of North America’s four major sports leagues — NBA, NHL, NFL and MLB — since the 1993 Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series. And they’re carrying the pride and dreams of a country along with them.

Kevin Durant had 11 points in 12 minutes in his first game of the series after injuring his calf in the West semifinals. But he didn’t last long. The 10-time all-star reinjured the right leg with 9:46 to play in the second quarter, and had to be helped to the locker-room.

Durant went down with 9:46 to play in the second when he planted his right foot. Fans initially cheered before Lowry, Ibaka and Danny Green waved their arms to quiet them. They chanted “K-D!” as Durant was helped to the locker-room.

Toronto trailed for most of the night, never leading by more than two points in the first half before falling behind by 14 points in the third quarter. The Warriors led 84-78 with one quarter to play.

A Leonard three-pointer gave Toronto its first lead since the first quarter with 5:13 to play. He would score seven more points within the next minute-and-half and his basket with 3:28 to play put Toronto up 103-97.

Back-to-back threes by Curry and Thompson put the visitors back up by three with 57 seconds to play. And then with the nervous crowd on its feet, the Raptors pulled to within a point with 30 seconds to play after a Warriors goaltending call on a Lowry basket.

The Warriors were then called for an offensive foul, giving Toronto the ball, but Lowry’s three at the buzzer was way off and bounced off the backboard.

The Raptors opened their historic playoff run by dispatching Orlando in five games. It took a Leonard buzzer-beater — and a wonderfully improbable four bounces off the rim before the ball fell through the hoop — to top Philadelphia in seven games. The Raptors trailed 2-0 to Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference final, before neutralizing Giannis Antetokounmpo and beating the Bucks in six.

Since acquiring Leonard for DeMar DeRozan last summer, the team’s lofty goal has been an NBA title. The mantra has been to remain even-keeled throughout — never too high, never too low. Leonard has been their Zen master.

Game 5 was more of the same. While hundreds of thousands of nervous fans gathered for viewing parties from coast to coast, the Raptors have remained locked in.

“These games are tough, and we realize how hard we have to play, and we have really tried again to make it a focus,” coach Nick Nurse said in his pre-game availability.

When the Raptors dropped Game 2 of the Finals at home, Nurse told his team in the locker-room: “All we got to do is go get one (at Oakland).”

“Kawhi said ‘Expletive that, let’s go get them both,”’ Nurse said.

They just need one win now at Oracle for the title. The series would return to Toronto for a Game 7 if needed.

READ MORE: Toronto Raptors set another Canadian TV record for Game 4 of NBA Finals

The Raptors were cheered on by a star-studded crowd that included hockey star Wayne Gretzky, French soccer star Thierry Henry, former Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista, Sir Richard Branson, and actor Eugene Levy.

Drake, dressed in a plain black T-shirt, sang along with the Scotiabank Arena crowd, his head swaying, eyes squeezed shut, in a spirited rendition of “O Canada,” kick-started by opera singer Doug Tranquada. American singer Monica, who sang the 1998 hit “The Boy is Mine” with Brandy, performed the U.S. anthem.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr had been hopeful Durant’s return would impact the game, saying before tipoff: “Even without having played, he’s still such a huge threat and he can get his shot off against anybody and we’ll see.”

The two-time Finals MVP, and the league’s most valuable in 2014 made his presence felt immediately, scoring back-to-back three-pointers in the first two-and-a-half minutes. The Warriors made their first five threes, but the Raptors replied with an 11-2 run to take a brief two-point lead. The Warriors led 34-28 heading into the second.

The Warriors led 39-34 when Durant went down. DeMarcus Cousins had seven points in the next minute, his three-pointer putting Golden State up by 11. The Warriors would go up by 13 but the Raptors finished the half with a 15-5 run and they went into the halftime break trailing Golden State 57-54.

READ MORE: Kawhi Leonard billboard perfectly predicted what he’d do in Oakland

The Canadian Press

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