TORONTO -- Postgame at Scotiabank Arena was anything but normal. Fresh off a stunning 106-105 come-from-behind victory over the Toronto Raptors in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, the Warriors were somber, and they were angry.
A brutal Achilles tendon injury to superstar Kevin Durant darkened the room. After fighting to return from a calf injury, the 10-time All-Star went down in the second quarter and had to be helped to the locker room at Scotiabank Arena.
“We miss him, we just wish him a speedy recovery,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. “That's our brother, and it's honestly, to be honest, it kind of -- it's very deflating. It's hard to even celebrate this win.”
It was clear from the moment that Durant grabbed at his right heel area that the injury was substantial. The fact that the Warriors were able to overcome the emotional toll and come out winners was shocking, especially in a hostile environment.
“I didn't know what to say because on the one hand, I'm so proud of them, just the amazing heart and grit that they showed, and on the other, I'm just devastated for Kevin,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “So, it's a bizarre feeling that we all have right now. An incredible win and a horrible loss at the same time.”
Adding insult to injury, some Raptors fans didn’t handle the situation with the grace and dignity you would expect.
Before Durant could be assisted to the locker room, cheers rained down, which turned the evening into something completely different.
“The Raptors players were telling the crowd to be quiet, out of respect, which I appreciated,” Kerr said. “Some of the fans were cheering when it happened, and I think the Raptors players understood how serious it was, and they sort of quieted the crowd. There was just a couple minutes there where it all seemed so eerie and strange, and it took maybe a little bit for both teams to collect themselves.”
The fan reaction was completely unexpected, especially from someone like Steph Curry, who spent a ton of time in Toronto while growing up.
“I've been in this city for -- I've lived here, I really enjoyed the people and their passion and excitement for not only the game, but just when you come into town, they just enjoy life and they're nice people,” Curry said of the Toronto fans. “Very confused around that reaction.
“It's not my experience with the people of this city, and I commend obviously Danny Green and Kyle Lowry, especially — I think they were the ones that were kind of signaling to the crowd, like, let's check ourselves a little bit,” Curry added. “You understand this is about an individual, a human being and not, oh, shoot he's out, he's hurt, we won the championship. Like that was probably their initial thought, and you hate to see that when a guy's going through pain like that.”
Lowry and Green both turned to their home crowd, waving at them to stop. A delicate situation quickly turned embarrassing for a fan base that had been very gracious hosts throughout the Finals.
“I don't think the fans knew the significance of the injury,” Lowry said after the game. “They kind of just seen he went down.
”In this league, we're all brothers. At the end of the day, we're all brothers, and it's a small brotherhood and you never want to see a competitor like him go down. You don't know what the circumstances are.”
Eventually, the cheers turned to a “KD” chant as fans paid respects to one of the greats of the game. But the initial reaction clearly didn’t sit well with the Warriors.
“That’s what I kinda hate about sports nowadays,” Warriors reserve Jordan Bell said. “It’s not more so about cheering for your team, it’s about being ignorant and trying to get underneath the other team’s skin, which is all good, but when someone goes down like that, I think that all has to go away.
“We’re all human beings. At the end of the day, we all have lives.”
Golden State had every right to be upset. While it’s an intense competition, dehumanizing the players on the court is unacceptable. Hopefully, a lesson is learned from this situation.
The Finals will shift back to Oakland on Thursday night, when the Warriors will try to even the series at three games apiece. They’ll have to do so without the services of Durant, who is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Tuesday, and it is widely expected to reveal a torn Achilles tendon.