Kevin Durant returns from injury as the Warriors trail the Raptors 3-1 heading into Game 5

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The Toronto Raptors are just one win away from the franchise’s first NBA Title, but they will have to contend with two-time Finals MVP Kevin Durant, who is expected to make his return for Golden State on Monday night. 

2019 NBA FINALS 

  • Game 1: Raptors 118 – Warriors 109 in Toronto
  • Game 2: Warriors 109 – Raptors in Toronto
  • Game 3: Raptors 123 – Warriors 109 in Oakland
  • Game 4: Raptors 10 – Warriors 92 in Oakland
  • Game 5: Tonight, 9pm ET, in Toronto. Raptors hold a 3-1 series lead.  

Durant represents the only good news for the Warriors, who are facing a 3-1 series deficit after dropping consecutive home games last week on Wednesday and Friday.

The 2014 NBA MVP injured his right calf on May 8 in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Houston Rockets. 

He has missed the past nine games but was cleared to return to practice Sunday.

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said there would be no minutes restriction on Durant if he is able to play. According to multiple reports, Durant plans to be ‘full go’ for Game 5.

‘You worry about the conditioning,’ Kerr said. ‘The skill, obviously, is undeniable. He’s a guy who can get a shot off anytime he wants. … He’s Kevin Durant. If we have him out there, he’ll be a threat. We know that.’ 

Kevin Durant injured his right calf on May 8 in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Houston Rockets. He has missed the past nine games but was cleared to return to practice Sunday. Now Durant is preparing to help the Warriors hold off the Raptors in Game 5 of the NBA Finals as Toronto holds a 3-1 series lead over Golden State

Kevin Durant injured his right calf on May 8 in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Houston Rockets. He has missed the past nine games but was cleared to return to practice Sunday. Now Durant is preparing to help the Warriors hold off the Raptors in Game 5 of the NBA Finals as Toronto holds a 3-1 series lead over Golden State 

'We The North' T-shirts were dispersed throughout Scotiabank Arena ahead of Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Monday night in Toronto. The Raptors are on the verge of their first NBA title

‘We The North’ T-shirts were dispersed throughout Scotiabank Arena ahead of Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Monday night in Toronto. The Raptors are on the verge of their first NBA title 

Durant averaged 26 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game in the regular season. During the postseason, he is producing 34.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. 

He scored a season-high 51 points against Toronto on November 29.  

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS: THE STEVE KERR YEARS

Since becoming head coach in Golden State before the 2014-15 season, former NBA point guard Steve Kerr has led the Warriors to three NBA Titles, including both of the last two championships

Since becoming head coach in Golden State before the 2014-15 season, former NBA point guard Steve Kerr has led the Warriors to three NBA Titles, including both of the last two championships

2014-15: In his first season in Golden State, Steve Kerr inherits a 51-31 roster from former coach Mark Jackson, guides the Warriors to a remarkable 67-15 campaign and caps the season with a 3-2 NBA Finals win over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

2015-16: Kerr misses over two months of the season because of back issues. Still, he returned to win NBA Coach of the Year as the Warriors won an NBA record 73 wins – breaking the mark set by Kerr’s Chicago Bulls in 1995-96 – and reaching the Finals. Unfortunately, James and the Warriors got their revenge by overcoming a 3-1 series deficit to win in seven games. 

2016-17: With the addition of former NBA MVP Kevin Durant, the Warriors cruise to a 4-1 NBA Finals win over James’s Cavaliers. 

2017-18: Durant wins his second consecutive NBA Finals MVP as Golden State sweeps Cleveland to win a third title in four years. 

‘He went through full shootaround and he went back to get treatment,’ Kerr told reporters. 

‘The most difficult thing is just not being able to be out there with your teammates at the biggest time of the year,’ Kerr said. ‘From that perspective, I have just felt bad for him. We all have. If you have a chance to play, go play and see what happens.’ 

The announcement of Durant’s return prompted oddsmakers to adjust the line for Game 5. 

Toronto opened as a three-point favorite but was down to a one-point edge at Westgate on Monday afternoon. The consensus line of -1.5 was still a big drop from the opening number.

Durant has ended both of his last two seasons since joining the Warriors by winning NBA Finals MVP.

In fact, his odds of winning Finals MVP this year jumped to 9-1 on Bovada.com immediately after the announcement of his return. Only Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard and Golden State’s Stephen Curry are currently getting better odds.

Durant’s return was also felt on Twitter, where the phrase ‘Warriors in 7’ began trending throughout Monday evening. 

Despite the consecutive defeats, former NBA MVP Stephen Curry says the mood in the Warriors’ locker room isn’t too bad at the moment. 

‘I think after Game 4 it was a tough vibe in the locker room just because you lose two in a row at home,’ Curry said Sunday. ‘Nobody likes that feeling at all, especially in The Finals, and it’s kind of a little self-reflection of what do we need to do, what do we need to correct for us to stay alive. 

‘But I don’t know – I wouldn’t say we’re down at all. It’s mostly just we’re anxious for tomorrow to just get out there and play a great basketball game. 

‘I think we’re confident in the fact that we can do that. The best bet for us is just to block out as much noise as possible, have a great practice today where we home in on the details that we need to correct and really come with the right mindset and the energy and effort we need to play with with our backs against the wall.’

NBA FINALS SETS VIEWERSHIP RECORDS IN CANADA 

The NBA says some portion of Game 4 of the NBA Finals was watched by almost 11 million Canadians, setting another viewership record in that country.

The average audience in Canada for Toronto’s Game 4 win over Golden State was 4.9 million viewers, nearly 600 percent more than the country’s number for Game 4 of last year’s series between Golden State and Cleveland. Combining the average audience in the U.S. and Canada, the 17.7 million viewers for Game 4 was up 4 percent over Game 4 of the finals last season.

Entering Monday’s fifth game of the series, roughly 16 million Canadians – in a country of about 37 million – have watched at least some part of the finals.

Durant, the 2014 NBA MVP injured his right calf on May 8 in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Houston Rockets. He has missed the past nine games but was cleared to return to practice Sunday

Durant, the 2014 NBA MVP injured his right calf on May 8 in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Houston Rockets. He has missed the past nine games but was cleared to return to practice Sunday

RAPTORS’ FRED VanVLEET TO RETURN FOR GAME 5 WITH MOUTHPIECE AFTER LOSING A TOOTH IN GAME 4

After taking an accidental, thundering elbow to the head in the fourth quarter of Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Friday night, Toronto backup point guard Fred VanVleet has been cleared to play in Game 5. 

VanVleet spoke to reporters on Sunday before Toronto, leading three games to one, hosts Golden State on Monday in its quest for the franchise’s first championship. The key reserve said that he was cleared with no concussion symptoms, but he will have to use a mouthpiece after several medical visits since Friday.

‘I got back home, went to the hospital, got a CT scan to make sure that no bones were broken in my face,’ VanVleet said. ‘Then (I) went and made a visit to the dentist, and went home and went to sleep.’

After taking an accidental, thundering elbow to the head in the fourth quarter of Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Friday night, Toronto backup point guard Fred VanVleet has been cleared to play in Game 5

After taking an accidental, thundering elbow to the head in the fourth quarter of Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Friday night, Toronto backup point guard Fred VanVleet has been cleared to play in Game 5

The Raptors defeated the Warriors in Game 4 despite losing VanVleet to a cut under his right eye, which required several stitches, with 9:35 remaining. Golden State’s Shaun Livingston was fouled by Serge Ibaka on a drive attempt, but the Warriors backup guard fell backward into VanVleet, with his elbow cutting open VanVleet’s face and chipping VanVleet’s tooth during the fall.

The somewhat gruesome scene Friday included VanVleet lying on the court with blood pouring out from under his right eye, which was stitched up in the locker room as the Raptors held off the Warriors.

‘It was a weird play, and I took an unfortunate shot,’ said VanVleet, who admitted he is uncomfortable wearing mouthpieces. ‘And so now I will be wearing a mouthpiece for as long as I can manage it. I’ll probably throw it at some point during the game, but I’m going to try.’

The Raptors are assuredly relieved that the third-year point guard will be available for Game 5. VanVleet has been an essential bench performer, averaging 12.8 points in 33.4 minutes per game in the series. He has shot 45.2 percent from the field, including 8-for-23 from 3-point range.

He had scored in double digits for six straight playoff games until scoring eight in his abridged Game 4 appearance. 

NEW ORLEANS PELICANS LIST TRADE DEMANDS FOR NBA All-STAR ANTHONY DAVIS 

By Reuters

David Griffin began paving a path out of New Orleans for Anthony Davis, but the Pelicans’ personnel boss wants suitors to pave that route with talent in return.

Griffin, the newly appointed vice president of basketball operations, began providing an outline of demands to teams interested in acquiring Davis, the All-Star center who demanded a trade before the 2019 All-Star break, per ESPN.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported Griffin isn’t optimistic one team can satisfy his list of needs and it might take two or even three trade partners to facilitate a deal.

Anthony Davis is expected to be traded this summer as both the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks have been mentioned as possible destinations for the All-Star

Anthony Davis is expected to be traded this summer as both the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks have been mentioned as possible destinations for the All-Star 

‘So far, Los Angeles and New York teams — the Clippers and Lakers, Knicks and Nets — have been among front offices inquiring with New Orleans, league sources said,’ Wojnarowski reported. ‘The Boston Celtics have long considered a run at Davis, but they must take into consideration the future of free agent Kyrie Irving before committing to a significant offer of assets to New Orleans.’

Griffin helped assemble a championship roster for the Cleveland Cavaliers upon LeBron James’ return from Miami.

The rebuild in New Orleans won’t likely have an established star as part of the Pelicans’ nucleus, but it likely will include prospective No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson.

Former top-overall draft picks Anthony Davis (right) and LeBron James could become teammates if the Pelicans and Lakers can reach a deal this summer

Former top-overall draft picks Anthony Davis (right) and LeBron James could become teammates if the Pelicans and Lakers can reach a deal this summer 

Davis would be eligible for a five-year supermax contract if he stays in New Orleans, with a value above $235 million. A sign-and-trade could be considered, but Griffin is said to be pushing for a deal to completed before the 2019 draft on June 20. That timing and the start of free agency 10 days later could call for creative accounting and asset-for-asset type deals, which would also beckon the involvement of multiple teams.

The Lakers engaged the Pelicans in trade talks in February but those fell apart before much traction had been gained. However, the principal negotiators for the two sides — Magic Johnson for the Lakers and Dell Demps in New Orleans — are no longer employed by the teams involved.

The Pelicans’ previous regime did not place a high value on the young talent the Lakers were attempting to send to New Orleans, including guards Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart.

The Lakers also own the No. 4 pick in the 2019 draft.

The Knicks are expected to make a major push for All-Star talent this summer. What’s not certain is whether they prefer to serve up a pairing from the ‘Special K’ group of Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant and Kemba Walker without parting with the assets it would take to acquire Davis.



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