TORONTO (AP) — The word of the day today that best summed up the NBA Finals was “yet.”
As in, Golden State isn’t ready to give up its throne — yet.
Kawhi Leonard hasn’t bought any property in Toronto — yet.
The Raptors don’t see any reason to start celebrating — yet.
And Kevin Durant’s Game 5 status hadn’t been decided — yet.
The NBA could have a new champion as early as Monday night, when the Toronto Raptors look to finish off the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of the title series. The Raptors lead 3-1, and returned home buoyed by two double-digit wins at Oracle Arena that put the two-time defending champions on the brink of elimination.
“We haven’t done anything,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said. “We’ve still got to get one more win. It’s the first to four. You’ve got champions coming in here and they’re going to play their butts off and play extremely hard.”
They might have Durant, too.
Out for more than a month now with a calf strain, Durant was on the floor for practice today. The Warriors are hoping he will be able to play on Monday night.
“It’s just a matter of, ‘Can you win one basketball game right now? Can you go play an amazing 48 minutes, quiet this crowd that’s going to be probably unbelievable, and slow down a team that’s been playing amazing, especially these last two games, and just win one basketball game?’” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “If we focus on that mission, our history kind of speaks for itself in terms of being able to get that done.”
The Raptors are showing no signs of exhaling. Raptors coach Nick Nurse was amused to learn that there were “Let’s Go Raptors” chants on some flights landing in Toronto today, as well as at the PGA Tour’s Canadian Open. He hasn’t paid much attention to the news in recent days, but when a Raptors watch party was held in his condo building someone put a photo in the elevator — just to make sure he saw.
“There’s still a lot of work to do,” Nurse said.
Leonard feels precisely the same way.
With the free-agency rumor mill for this summer already churning, Leonard was asked to confirm reports that he recently bought property in Toronto.
“It didn’t happen yet, no,” Leonard said.
Something else that hasn’t happened is the win the Raptors need to end this series and win their first title.
“We’re focused,” Leonard said. “We know that it doesn’t mean anything until someone has four wins.”
If the Warriors win, Game 6 is Thursday night at Oracle Arena — which would be their home floor for the final time. Warriors guard Klay Thompson said he thinks Oracle deserves one more game.
Otherwise, Oracle’s run is over.
So, too, would be Golden State’s run as champions.
“You wish to have no end in sight, but everything that’s great always comes to an end,” Thompson said. “So whether that’s (Monday) or four years from now, you never know. That’s the beauty of life.”
Here’s some of what to know going into Game 5:
FIRST IN FIRST
Nurse is on the cusp of becoming the ninth man to win a title in his first NBA head-coaching season. The others: Edward Gottlieb (1947 Philadelphia Warriors in the first season of what was then called the BAA), Buddy Jeannette (1948 Baltimore Bullets), John Kundla (1949 Minneapolis Lakers), George Senesky (1956 Philadelphia Warriors), Paul Westhead (1980 Los Angeles Lakers), Pat Riley (1982 Lakers), Kerr (2015 Warriors) and Tyronn Lue (2016 Cleveland Cavaliers).
The Raptors don’t have a single player on their roster who was taken in the first 14 spots — the lottery portion — of an NBA draft. The Warriors have seven: Thompson, Curry, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, DeMarcus Cousins, Durant and Andrew Bogut.
ON THE MARGIN
The Raptors have beaten the Warriors by double figures three times this season. No other team did it more than once. The only teams to enjoy three wins over the Warriors by 10 or more points in the same season during the Kerr era are these Raptors, Utah (last season) and Cleveland (all in the 2016 NBA Finals).
BACK TO WALL
Facing elimination isn’t something the Warriors have done often, but they’ve fared more than OK when put in that spot over the last six years. Golden State is 6-2 in its last eight win-or-else games. They were 2-0 in such games last season, 3-1 in 2016 and 1-1 in 2014.
TITLES AT HOME
There haven’t been many chances in the last 52 years for Toronto fans to enjoy a major sports title at home. The Maple Leafs’ last Stanley Cup was won on home ice in 1967, and the Blue Jays’ most recent World Series clincher was at home in 1993. In sports not considered part of the U.S. big four, the CFL’s Argonauts won the Grey Cup at home in 2012 and the National Lacrosse League’s Toronto Rock have won multiple titles at home — most recently in 2011.