OAKLAND – No matter how remote the possibility may have been, the Toronto Raptors entered early portions of the NBA Finals fully prepared for Kevin Durant. He was out with a calf strain and wasn't a real threat to return until later in the series, but dealing well with the world's best offensive player takes tremendous effort and strategy and maybe a little bit of luck.
The Raptors had to be prepared for that. They don't any longer. Durant ruptured his Achilles' tendon just in the second quarter of Monday's Game 5 return from a calf strain. He had successful surgery to repair the issue on Wednesday, and won't play basketball for the foreseeable future.
The Raptors still have a game to win for the NBA championship, and now their focus shifts to stopping the Splash Bros. Accomplishing that brings a title to Toronto. It's as simple as that, though far tougher to execute.
"We've got to figure out a way to control those two," Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said. "There [are opportunities created] in transition. There are pin downs. They're excellent at pushing off to create space. Their screens are long, wide and moving that they're coming around a lot. So you got to work doubly, triply hard sometimes. You got to absorb contact at the start. You got to absorb contact coming off the screen. Sometimes you put two on the ball screens. There's lots of stuff going on out there, but we do need to do better."
That was evident in Game 5, when the Warriors rallied despite Durant's devastating loss behind the NBA's best guard combination.
Steph Curry and Klay Thompson torched Toronto for a combined 57 points on 19-of-44 shooting. There were 27 3-point attempts within that shooting sum, including Thompson's torrid 7-for-13 showing beyond the arc.
That's a winning formula for Golden State, which opens up space for Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins to get involved.
The Raptors understand the importance of making life hard on Curry and Thompson. Game 5 is fresh in everyone's mind, but that was key in Golden State's Game 2 victory as well. The duo scored 48 points combined, and Thompson was red hot from deep yet again.
The Raptors have put an emphasis on slowing those two down, early. Curry and Thompson find rhythm on the same day is devastating to an opponent, and can create late-game heroics that push the Warriors to another victory.
"Stay locked in. I think they got loose last game," Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said "Those guys are going to get off shots. They're going to get up their attempts. They're going to make shots. But you got to make them a little bit tougher sometimes. They got a couple of loose ball offensive rebounds, transition breakdowns.
"Listen, you're not going to stop them from shooting threes, but you can make them a little bit tougher and try to contest them better. There are a lot of things that we learned from that [Game 5] film that we feel like we could do a better job of."