Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals was fixing to be a grand win for the Toronto Raptors against a depleted Golden State Warriors. But on Monday night the defending champions mustered a desperate strength, bolstered by the return of their injured ace Kevin Durant. And while this brave gesture would cost him, it ensured the Warriors can fight again, two games to Toronto’s three.

This was easily the most fiercely-fought game of the 2019 series, as evidenced by the quarterly scores. Golden State and Toronto led first and fourth respectively, two quarters tied.

It was enough, however, to ensure the Warriors’ slim victory, 106-105.

Kevin Durant’s brief return

With the 2019 Finals games return to NovaScotia Arena for Game 5, Canada was looking forward to their Raptors triumphing and bringing an NBA title outside the US for the first time. But as The Washington Post reports, Golden State was going for broke to avoid elimination, literally. This was encapsulated in the return of Kevin Durant to the court, his absence dearly felt by his overworked teammates Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson among many. Right off the bat, the Warriors All-Star forward led the initial charge to lead Toronto 34-28 in the first quarter.

Durant in play was an object lesson of how strong Golden State can be at their best, and that is why the fun times were too good to last.

In early-Q2 Durant made a bad turn on his recovering leg, resulting in such rabid cheering from the Toronto crowd that their own Raptors had to shush them. With Durant out of the game for good, it was up to his team to make his 11-point contribution stick. They managed a 13-point lead post-Durant but Kawhi Leonard rallied to reduce that to just six.

Only a barrage of 3-pointers from Curry, Thompson kept them going.

Warriors win, but are depleted again

By Q3, the audience was wondering which team’s second wind would beat the other. CBS Sports would have it that this time the Golden State Warriors were in the groove. Long-distance shots brought their lead back to 14 points.

But the Toronto Raptors could see the NBA championship on the horizon and refused to yield. All through to the final quarter they chased the Warriors’ lead, with Leonard pushing the Raptors ahead for all of a few seconds before Golden State recovered to finish the game by a hair. Leonard (26) and Curry (31) were their respective teams’ top scorers.

So the Warriors will hang on for a Game 6, dated for Thursday, June 13. However, chances are that Kevin Durant’s time in the 2019 NBA Finals are done. Golden State coach Steve Kerr termed Game 5 as both an incredible win and horrible loss. It remains to be seen if they can beat Toronto again to force Game 7.