Raptors move to within one win of championship

AP, OAKLAND, California

Sun, Jun 09, 2019 - Page 11

Kawhi Leonard’s hot hand is sending the Raptors home to Toronto on the cusp of a startling upset for Canada.

Leonard outdueled the Splash Brothers for 36 points and 12 rebounds as the Raptors moved within a victory of the franchise’s first championship by winning a second straight game on the Golden State Warrior’s home floor, winning 105-92 on Friday to gain a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals.

Klay Thompson made a strong return after missing Game 3 with a strained left hamstring, scoring 28 points with six three-pointers in what might have been the final game after 47 seasons at Oracle Arena before the team’s move to the new Chase Center in San Francisco next season.

Stephen Curry added 27 points, but shot just nine for 22 and two of nine from three-point range on the heels of his post-season career-best 47-point outing in a 123-109 Game 3 defeat.

Serge Ibaka scored 20 points on nine-of-12 shooting in 22 minutes off the bench for the composed and confident Raptors, who for a second straight game found an answer to every Warriors threat at raucous Oracle — where home fans were stunned and silenced when the final buzzer sounded.

A huge section of Toronto fans then broke into singing O Canada.

“It’s awesome,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “Our fans travel really well in the regular season. We get this a lot on the road. It’s really amazing. It’s Canada’s team and Canadians from all over the country are traveling down and making plans when we play in Florida or California or Detroit especially.”

The two-time defending champions’ quest for a three-peat is suddenly in serious jeopardy.

Toronto are to take their first try at the title in Game 5 tomorrow at Scotiabank Arena. Golden State, still hopeful of injured star Kevin Durant’s return, must stave off elimination to guarantee one more game at Oracle. It would be on Thursday.

“It’s not over. It’s not a good feeling right now, obviously,” Curry said. “We’ve been on both sides of it and for us it’s an opportunity to flip this whole series on its head.”

Leonard’s 2017 post-season with San Antonio got cut short against the Warriors in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals after he reinjured his troublesome left ankle when Zaza Pachulia’s foot slid under his.

Leonard’s two jumpers in the final 42 seconds of the third put the Raptors up 79-64 heading into the final 12 minutes. Fred VanVleet then dealt another dagger on the first possession of the fourth with a long-range basket.

A bloodied VanVleet then went to the locker room with 9minutes, 35 seconds remaining after being hit in the face by Shaun Livingston’s left elbow when the Warriors guard went up for a shot and VanVleet was just behind him.

Replays showed a tooth in the middle of the key even after play resumed.

These poised Raptors kept level heads again after falling behind by 11 points in the first half. Pascal Siakam scored 19 for Toronto.