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Game 5 collapse might haunt Raptors for a long time

TORONTO – Kawhi Leonard drilled what Fred VanVleet would call an f-you 3-pointer, giving the Raptors their first lead since the first quarter. Toronto fans burst into a frenzy. Leonard drove for a basket. The arena erupted. Leonard pulled up for another 3-pointer. The crowd somehow got even louder. Leonard turned a drive into a short pull-up jumper. It was pandemonium.

Raptors 101, Warriors 97

Already up 3-1 in the NBA Finals, Toronto appeared to seize control of Game 5 with three minutes left. Leonard scored on four straight possessions to cap a 12-2 run. Kevin Durant had already exited with an injury. The Warriors looked like they were running out of gas.

The Raptors’ first championship appeared imminent.

But Golden State closed the game on a 9-2 run to steal a 106-105 victory. The reversal was quick and jarring. A stunned fan base fell quiet. Just like that, the celebration was dashed.

Toronto had a 94% chance of winning Game 5 when up six with 2:59 left, per inpredictable.

Teams have lost 13 potential championship-clinching games since 1997, as far back as the NBA has play-by-play data. Only the Spurs’ Game 6 loss to the Heat in 2013 had a more devastating blown lead. Up 3-2 in the series, San Antonio had a 99% chance of winning the title when leading by five with 23 seconds left, per inpredictable. But Ray Allen hit a huge 3-pointer, and Miami won in overtime then took the series in Game 7.

Here’s every lost potential championship-clinching game since 1997, sorted by inpredictable’s peak odds for the losing team:

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Situation Odds Final Series
2013 G6: SAS 94, MIA 89 (Q4: 0:23) 99% MIA 103, SAS 100 MIA 4, SAS 3
2019 G5: TOR 103, GSW 97 (Q4: 2:59) 94% GSW 106, TOR 105 TBD
2010 G7: BOS 49, LAL 36 (Q3: 8:24) 85% LAL 83, BOS 79 LAL 4, BOS 3
2005 G7: DET 48, SAS 39 (Q3: 7:44) 76% SAS 81, DET 74 SAS 4, DET 3
2016 G7: GSW 87, CLE 83 (Q4: 5:37) 72% CLE 93, GSW 89 CLE 4, GSW 3
1998 G5: CHI 36, UTA 28 (Q2: 0:04) 71% UTA 83, CHI 81 CHI 4, UTA 2
2013 G7: SAS 11, MIA 4 (Q1: 6:46) 63% MIA 95, SAS 88 MIA 4, SAS 3
2016 G5: GSW 18, CLE 13 (Q1: 5:33) 63% CLE 112, GSW 97 CLE 4, GSW 3
2005 G6: SAS 51, DET 48 (Q3: 9:38) 61% DET 95, SAS 86 SAS 4, DET 3
2008 G5: BOS 62, LAL 60 (Q3: 8:26) 55% LAL 103, BOS 98 BOS 4, LAL 2
2010 G6: BOS 6, LAL 4 (Q1: 9:55) 54% LAL 89, BOS 67 LAL 4, BOS 3
2000 G5: LAL 1, IND 0 (Q1: 11:42) 52% IND 120, LAL 87 LAL 4, IND 2
2016 G6: GSW 0, CLE 0 (Q1: 11:37) 51% CLE 115, GSW 101 CLE 4, GSW 3

The Raptors still have two chances to eliminate the Warriors – Game 6 Thursday in Oakland and, if necessary, Game 7 Sunday in Toronto. Most teams in the Raptors’ position have won the series. Golden State losing Durant tilts the odds even further in Toronto’s direction.

But if the Raptors don’t win one more, the end of Game 5 could haunt them for a long time.

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