TORONTO — They were up by six, in the city that Torontonians call The Six, with less than three minutes left.
The NBA championship was there for the taking.
And the Toronto Raptors couldn’t finish it off.
The Raptors still lead the NBA Finals 3-2, even after losing at home to the Golden State Warriors 106-105 on Monday night (Tuesday, Manila time). But they’ll be heading back to California on Tuesday, and allowed the Warriors — the wounded two-time defending NBA champions — to have renewed life in their quest for a third straight ring.
Kawhi Leonard’s jumper with 3:28 left put the Raptors up 103-97. They were outscored 9-2 the rest of the way. They missed five of their last six shots — the only make was on a goaltending call — and went 0 for 3 from 3-point range in that crucial closing stretch. Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry scored all nine of Golden State’s points in that finishing kick.
The Larry O’Brien Trophy went back into its carrying case.
Off to Oracle it goes for Game 6 on Thursday night, the final home game the Warriors will ever play in that building.
The Raptors are still in control of the series. The worst thing that can happen to them in the next few days is to have a Game 7 in their Scotiabank Arena on Sunday night to decide the championship.
They’ve won three times at Oracle already this season. But they also knew this was a chance that slipped away.
And against a team with such a championship pedigree, even if Kevin Durant can’t come back to this series, any missed opportunity could be very costly.