Dear Bandwagon Fans,
Barring a Warriors’ miracle tonight, you probably won’t be reading this. I wouldn’t if I didn’t write it. The only thing worse than losing to Canada is reading about losing to Canada. I thought somebody was going to make America etc. You call this great?
San Francisco is not a great place to be during a heat wave. With the Dubs facing elimination, not even remotely pleasant.
Whether by advanced analytics or the eye test, the Raptors have dominated in all facets of the game. For whatever reason, they are obviously the better team.
So much for basketball.
While the Dubs flounder, the KD Show flourishes. Will he or won’t he? Can he or can’t he? KD in a hoodie. KD in shorts. KD with ice around his injured calf. KD whose teammates openly pine for him, while in private they’re pissed. KD says nothing. Keeps all doors closed.
And then the announcement: KD will play. Hooray!
First Quarter: Brew Coop/The Phoenix
Will KD make a difference? Don’t count on it.
Wrong. Count on it! Big time! In his first three minutes, he takes and makes two three-point shots. Steph Curry hits threes, Klay Thompson hits threes, KD hits threes. KD is back! He’s moving well, playing tough. And shooting like he never left the court.
The Brew Coop is crowded and loud, but not everyone is into the game, so I go next door to The Phoenix. The crowd is definitely more old-school, in it for the burgers as much as the ball. When KD hits his third three-pointer of the quarter, a guy throws his arms up in the air and his beer goes flying.
The Dubs look like the Dubs. Not the Droopy Dubs. Not the Speedy Dubs. But the slick-shooting, smooth-moving Dubs.
Even Draymond Green, who is shooting under 20 percent from beyond the arc (and you wonder why they don’t guard you), makes a three. An old guy, wearing Bermuda shorts waves his straw hat and whoops “Make ‘em pay, Dray.”
Still plagued by turnovers and unable to stop Marc Gasol, the Dubs close their second best quarter of the series: 34-28.
Second Quarter: The Pork Store
The burgers got me interested, but The Phoenix was a steam bath. I got word from friends that the Pork Store was doing a beer and burger special for $10. And they have ceiling fans.
After I order, the Raptors pull within five on a short jumper by Kyle Lowry. Now KD has the ball on the wing, and he’s up against his old teammate Serge Ibaka. KD fakes right then goes …
The gasp in The Pork Store is audible. It’s match, game, season.
Andre Iguodala and Curry help KD off the court and escort him into the locker room. They look like pallbearers.
Without KD, the Dubs are back to where they were on Friday night: Curry, Thompson and the Air Ball Express.
I can’t watch. I have to watch. And when I open my eyes, there is something different from Friday night: DeMarcus Cousins.
The All-Star Boogie Cousins, who played great in Game Two and miserably the following two games, breathes life into the suddenly KD-less Dubs. He scores seven points in 80 seconds to push the Dubs’ lead.
The crowd at the Pork Store, a collection which appears to run from eccentrics to tourists, emote with every shot, hit or miss, giving the place a family-like atmosphere. Not much schmoozing, though. The game is too tense.
With under a minute to go, the Dubs eight-point lead has dwindled to one after a Pascal Siakam shot. But Curry immediately responds with a three. In the final seconds, he misses a three, but Kevon Looney is there for the tip-in.
They aren’t as sharp in the second quarter. Understandable. But they keep pace with the Raptors. At the half, the Dubs lead 62-56.
Third Quarter: Gestalt
The coolest bar on 16th Street. A breeze is coming in from the sea, and the open space of Gestalt has picked it up. I wouldn’t say refreshing. But cool. Relatively.
Not as cool as an Andre Iguodala three-pointer to open the third quarter. When Thompson comes back with another three, the Dubs lead jumps to 11.
A few makes. A lot of misses. From both sides.
Iggy hits another three! He’s hot! (who isn’t?)
Oh, look at Kevon Looney! In agony. Why is he in there? The Raptors go right at him led by Gasol, who bulldozes him onto the floor. Looney grimaces, keeps playing and makes a shot to put the Dubs up 14.
Their Golden Third Quarter has returned.
Not so fast. Marc Gasol and Fred VanVleet keep the Raptors close.
After VanVleet’s second three, I hear cheers. Not from the TV. Cheers in the Gestalt for Toronto. Hard to believe. But then when Ibaka tips in a shot, whoops and applause.
Which is more than Thompson gets for a three-pointer to keep the Dubs up by six. They are playing exceptional defense. But the offense is grinding down. Both teams score only 22 points.
Fourth Quarter: Giordano Bros./Gestalt/The Pork Store
When I started out, I thought Giordano Bros. would be the only place where a substantial number of fans would congregate. I was wrong. But there are fans at Giordano – a substantial number of them.
Only, quite a number are cheering for Toronto.
Can this be happening? On 16th Street? While Trump loses it over the Mexican border, I’d like to know where are all these Canadian fans coming from.
The Raptors open the fourth quarter torching Cousins on defense. But he scores, as does Quinn Cook. And Jordan Bell.
The Dubs keep their lead, but the Raptors cut it to three with five minutes left in the game.
I go back to Gestalt. At least it’s cooler there.
That’s when Kawhi Leonard takes over. He nails a running three-point shot, then comes back and sinks a two-pointer. Then another three, another two. In less than two minutes, Leonard has single-handedly given the Raptors a six-point lead.
The city of Toronto is feeling it.
Don’t celebrate too soon, Northerners. The Dubs’ defense buckles down. Way down. While they hold Toronto scoreless, Curry and Thompson both hit threes to tie the game.
In less than a minute, Thompson steps back and buries another three to give the Dubs the lead. Kyle Lowry gets past Cousins to bring the Raptors to within a point.
As Curry maneuvers around for his shot, Cousins gets called for an offensive foul, giving Toronto the ball with 15 seconds.
More than enough time for Leonard to take and make the winning basket. He drives on Thompson who stops him, then Iggy comes up to trap. Leonard gives up the ball; the Raptors move it around to Lowry in the corner who shoots over a flying Green. Green nicks the ball.
Dubs win, 106-105.
For most of this year, the Dubs acted like a bunch of bored and petulant schoolboys. Not tonight. With their backs to the wall, after losing KD for a second time, they played with poise and grit. Players other than Curry and Thompson did just enough, especially Cousins.
The injury to KD, reported to be an Achilles tear, could be devastating. Not only to the Dubs’ championship hopes, but to KD’s career.
How will the players respond to this win and this loss?
How will Warriors Inc. respond to what will likely be an avalanche of criticism for playing KD too much too fast.
Game 6 Thursday night at Oracle.