OAKLAND – No matter how remote the possibility might have been, the Toronto Raptors entered early portions of the NBA Finals fully prepared for Kevin Durant. The Warriors star was out with a right 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, strategy and just maybe a little bit of luck.
The Raptors had to be prepared for that. They don't any longer. Durant ruptured his Achilles tendon in the second quarter of Monday's Game 5 return from the calf strain. He had successful surgery to repair the issue on Wednesday, and won't play basketball for the foreseeable future.
Toronto still has a game to win for the NBA championship, leading three-games-to-two in the best-of-seven series. Now, the Raptors' focus shifts to stopping the Splash Brothers in Game 6 on Thursday at Oracle Arena.
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 coach Nick Nurse said Wednesday. "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 combined to score 48 points, and Thompson was red-hot then, too.
Toronto has put an emphasis on slowing those two down, early. Curry and Thompson finding rhythm on the same day is devastating to any opponent, and the two 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."