'Do this for Kevin': How Stephen Curry's rallying cry helped save the Warriors

TORONTO — Stephen Curry doesn't remember what he was thinking Monday evening. He had run to the locker room to walk those final steps with Kevin Durant after Durant’s comeback had turned from triumph to tumultuous, a stunning Achilles injury collapsing one of the greatest players to the court in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Durant’s exit drained the Golden State Warriors, and yet all Curry knew was that "the spirit" told him to follow behind his fallen teammate.

"You could kind of just feel the life just go right out of us," Draymond Green said. "But to Steph's credit, he kind of rallied the troops. He talked to everybody, went around the huddle and just told everybody to stay locked in and do this for Kevin. And I think we did a good job of coming together."

On a night when it looked like the Warriors’ championship run had finally come to an end — with all of Canada poised to celebrate the Toronto Raptors’ coronation — Curry and Klay Thompson delivered yet another great escape. Fighting through heartbreak and hostility, they rallied Golden State in the closing minutes for a 106-105 victory that sends the series back to Oakland’s Oracle Arena for Game 6 on Thursday.

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Kevin Durant injures leg during NBA Finals Game 5
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Kevin Durant injures leg during NBA Finals Game 5
Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) goes down with a leg injury against the Toronto Raptors during first half action in Game 5 of the NBA Finals in Toronto on Monday, June 10, 2019. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
TORONTO, ONTARIO - JUNE 10: Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors reacts after sustaining an injury during the second quarter against the Toronto Raptors during Game Five of the 2019 NBA Finals at Scotiabank Arena on June 10, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ONTARIO - JUNE 10: Kevin Durant #35 is helped to his feet by Klay Thompson #11 and Quinn Cook #4 of the Golden State Warriors after sustaining an injury against the Toronto Raptors in the first half during Game Five of the 2019 NBA Finals at Scotiabank Arena on June 10, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ONTARIO - JUNE 10: Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors reacts as Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors is carried off the court in the first half during Game Five of the 2019 NBA Finals at Scotiabank Arena on June 10, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Kevin Durant, alero de los Warriors de Golden State, es ayudado a salir de la cancha tras lesionarse durante el quinto partido de la Final de la NBA ante los Raptors de Toronto, el lunes 10 de junio de 2019 (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant glances up at the stands as he walks off the court after sustaining an injury during first half basketball action in Game 5 of the NBA Finals in Toronto, Monday, June 10, 2019. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) is consoled as he walks off the court after sustaining an injury during first half basketball action in Game 5 of the NBA Finals in Toronto on Monday, June 10, 2019. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant (35) walks off the court after sustaining an injury as Toronto Raptors' Serge Ibaka (9) addresses the crowd, while Warriors' Andre Iguodala (9) and Raptors' Kyle Lowry (7) look on during first half basketball action in Game 5 of the NBA Finals in Toronto, Monday, June 10, 2019. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
TORONTO, ONTARIO - JUNE 10: Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors is assisted off the court after sustaining an injury in the first half against the Toronto Raptors during Game Five of the 2019 NBA Finals at Scotiabank Arena on June 10, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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The victory was even more remarkable considering the Warriors’ diminishing health. Curry looked worn down in the second half of Game 4, fatigued from the grueling minutes of his 47-point Game 3 masterpiece. Thompson was in uniform for Game 3 but held out by the team for fear of re-injury — a decision that now appears all the more prudent. For much of these Finals, Curry and Thompson hadn't synced on the floor when it mattered most. After Kawhi Leonard put the finishing touches on his personal 10-0 run late in Game 5, the NBA was headed toward putting Leonard’s name on the Bill Russell Finals MVP Award.

Then with the Warriors down six, Thompson eluded Leonard off a screen. Splash. Curry followed suit off an old-fashioned, Reggie Miller-style curl. Repeat. Klay added one more triple with 56.6 seconds left — hopping back like he did that May night in Oklahoma City three years ago when he single-handedly sent the Western Conference finals back to Oakland for a Game 7 finale.

Whether Durant's injury provided an emotional numbness for the Warriors or fueled them with more urgency, they couldn't tell. They've all pressed through injuries, knowing they're trading on their bodies and that the basketball gods don't discriminate on such matters. Still, at this moment, with everything riding on the future, they couldn't process the devastation.

They merely played through the fog. During Durant's initial injury, it seemed like they were motivated to show they could win without him. Now, they want to win for him — and they’ll take that extra weight on the floor, molding it into opportunity.

"It's not that we think we have to take on the scoring load," Thompson said. "But when Kevin's not out there … the ball's going to find us a little bit more because you know what he can do, averaging 35 a game in this postseason run."

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Photos and major moments from the 2019 NBA Finals
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Photos and major moments from the 2019 NBA Finals
Golden State Warriors guard Quinn Cook, left, passes the ball around Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2) during second-half basketball action in Game 5 of the NBA Finals in Toronto, Monday, June 10, 2019. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)
Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant, left, falls over Toronto Raptors center Serge Ibaka, bottom, as Warriors forward Andre Iguodala (9) looks on during first-half basketball game action in Game 5 of the NBA Finals in Toronto, Monday, June 10, 2019. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala (9) stops Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (23) during the second half of Game 4 of basketball’s NBA Finals, Friday, June 7, 2019, in Oakland, Calif. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) makes a layup as Golden State Warriors forward Jordan Bell (2) defends during the first half of Game 3 of basketball’s NBA Finals, Wednesday, June 5, 2019, in Oakland, Calif. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Toronto Raptors center Marc Gasol (33) is defended by Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson, left, and center DeMarcus Cousins during the second half of Game 4 of basketball's NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif., Friday, June 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Toronto Raptors center Serge Ibaka (9) dunks against the Golden State Warriors during the second half of Game 4 of basketball's NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif., Friday, June 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar, Pool)
TORONTO, ONTARIO - JUNE 10: Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors reacts after sustaining an injury during the second quarter against the Toronto Raptors during Game Five of the 2019 NBA Finals at Scotiabank Arena on June 10, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ONTARIO - JUNE 10: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors attempts a shot against Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors during Game Five of the 2019 NBA Finals at Scotiabank Arena on June 10, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Pool - Nathan Denette/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 05: Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors argues with Warriors minority investor Mark Stevens (blue shirt) after Lowry chased down a loose ball in the second half against the Golden State Warriors during Game Three of the 2019 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 05, 2019 in Oakland, California. According to to the Warriors, Stevens will not be in attendance for the remainder of the NBA Finals as they look further into the incident. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 05: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors attempts a shot against the Golden State Warriors during Game Three of the 2019 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 05, 2019 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ONTARIO - MAY 30: DeMarcus Cousins #0 of the Golden State Warriors attempts to block a shot from Serge Ibaka #9 of the Toronto Raptors in the second half during Game One of the 2019 NBA Finals at Scotiabank Arena on May 30, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ONTARIO - MAY 30: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors attempts a shot against Marc Gasol #33 of the Toronto Raptors in the second half during Game One of the 2019 NBA Finals at Scotiabank Arena on May 30, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2) drives to the net against Golden State Warriors guard Andre Iguodala (9) during the first half of Game 1 of basketball’s NBA Finals, Thursday, May 30, 2019, in Toronto. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)
Toronto Raptors' Kawhi Leonard (2) drives to the basket as Golden State Warriors' Andre Iguaodala (9) defends during Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals in Toronto on Thursday, May 30, 2019. (Gregory Shamus/Pool Photo via AP)
Toronto Raptors guard Danny Green (14) reacts after making a 3-pointer against the Golden State Warriors during the first half of Game 1 of basketball’s NBA Finals, Thursday, May 30, 2019, in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry fouls Golden State Warriors centre Kevon Looney (5) during the second half of Game 1 of basketball’s NBA Finals, Thursday, May 30, 2019, in Toronto. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) reacts during the second half of Game 1 of the team's basketball’s NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors on Thursday, May 30, 2019, in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
TORONTO, ONTARIO - JUNE 02: Marc Gasol #33 of the Toronto Raptors reacts to a foul call against the Golden State Warriors in the first half during Game Two of the 2019 NBA Finals at Scotiabank Arena on June 02, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ONTARIO - JUNE 02: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors is defended by Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors in the first half during Game Two of the 2019 NBA Finals at Scotiabank Arena on June 02, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ONTARIO - MAY 30: Rapper Drake and Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors exchange words during a timeout in the first quarter during Game One of the 2019 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena on May 30, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors' Kawhi Leonard (2) drives to the basket as Golden State Warriors' Andre Iguaodala (9) defends during Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals in Toronto on Thursday, May 30, 2019. (Gregory Shamus/Pool Photo via AP)
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Curry has always talked about embracing the moment, and when Raptors coach Nick Nurse called a timeout following his team's big run, the champions sensed their opportunity, even though they trailed and had lost momentum. There have been openings throughout this series, however slim, and the Warriors haven't been able to follow through. This time, they rallied. The longest-tenured Warriors — the players who made this franchise must-see TV before they became champions — found themselves standing together with stiff backs even as their hearts stayed with their fallen teammate.

"Maybe what people don't know is how competitive they are, and I think they showed that tonight," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "I've seen it an awful lot. It doesn't happen every night but it seems to happen most nights.

"They're amazing."

Thompson and Curry didn't play perfectly. They never do — the gift and the curse of playing so close to the edge, either with nonchalance or joy or arrogance that maddens more than anything.

Thompson stuck his chest in front of Leonard during those critical possessions, a necessary aid to his seven triples and 26 points. Curry's 31 might not have been as important as his inspiration, keeping this team afloat when everyone inside of Scotiabank Arena was prepping for a championship celebration.

Thompson and Curry were as emotionally exhausted as they were physically spent from the exercise — the only two people in the building who seemed to realize when Kyle Lowry's 3-pointer was tipped by Green that the game was over. Everyone else was left in a state of pause while Curry jubilantly backpedaled near rapper Drake and the Raptors bench, unsure if a night that had so many twists, turns and raw emotions had finally reached its conclusion.

"We made a lot of statements over the course of these five years," Curry said. "Win or lose, I don't feel like we need to prove anything anymore."

Whether that was a nod to Durant's possible motivations for a return that proved so costly or the perspective and freedom that comes with being a champion three times over, Curry seemed to tacitly admit that their fuel has run its course.

"Tonight was an emotional roller coaster from start to finish, and we have another game to play on Thursday," he said.

A few moments prior, Curry hadn't even considered the reality of Oracle Arena opening its doors for a Warriors game for the last time on Thursday. It didn't even hit him while he was getting dressed. So much happened, so many thoughts ran through his mind, that he couldn't even articulate himself adequately.

The Warriors survived an elimination game and now are 48 minutes away from sending this to a winner-take-all Game 7 that could eliminate any remaining doubters of this team's collective will.

"There's no more statements needed to be made about who we are as a team and our heart and our competitiveness," Curry said. "We want to win this championship, we're going to give it everything we got, but I think we're done with proving people wrong or making bold statements with our play. People know who we are."

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