Facing the basket and seeing an opening, Kevin Durant made a quick move to his left – a move he’s made thousands of times.
A second later, the Golden State Warriors star crumpled to the hardwood, clutching the Achilles tendon in his right leg.
Large sections of Raptors fans at a frothing Scotiabank Arena initially cheered, knowing what Durant – who had only just returned to the lineup after a month on the sidelines – going down might mean for Toronto’s chances of winning the franchise’s first title.
It could also end up galvanizing a Warriors team that now trails the best-of-seven NBA Finals 3-2 following Monday’s razor-thin 106-105 victory. Game 6 of the series goes Thursday in Oakland, Calif.
Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and Danny Green waved their hands to try to get the fans to stop the cheering after Durant hit the floor, and many soon turned to applause and muted “K-D” chants as he was helped off the court early in the second quarter.
But in the eyes of the Warriors, it was too little, too late.
“That’s crazy. That’s crazy,” Golden State’s Draymond Green said of the crowd’s initial response. “Come on … that’s classless. For me, I’ve always witnessed Canadians being the nicest people that I’ve ever encountered.
“That was classless.”
Fighting back tears, Warriors general manager Bob Myers addressed the media after the game, confirming that Durant suffered an injury to his Achilles tendon. The Finals MVP in both 2017 and 2018, who was playing for the first time since May 8 because of a calf problem, will have an MRI on Tuesday.
“Prior to coming back (Durant) went through four weeks with a medical team, and it was thorough and it was experts and multiple MRIs and multiple doctors, and we felt good about the process,” said Myers, who added this injury is different than the one suffered earlier in the playoffs. “He was cleared to play (in Game 5). That was a collaborative decision.
“I don’t believe there’s anybody to blame, but I understand this world and if you have to, you can blame me.”
Durant went through Golden State’s full morning shootaround earlier in the day and was originally a game-time decision.
“Kevin takes a lot of hits sometimes, but he just wants to play basketball and right now he can’t,” Myers said. “Basketball has gotten him through his life. So it means, I don’t know that we can all understand how much it means to him.
“He just wants to play basketball with his teammates and compete.”
DeMarcus Cousins, who had been starting in Durant’s place and subbed in after he went down, shared Green’s feelings on the crowd’s response to their teammate going down.
“Trash. So trashy,” said Cousins, who suffered a torn Achilles of his own last season. “We only idolize superstar athletes, not human beings. It’s always about what we can do between those lines.
“That’s it. That’s all that ever matters.”
Canadian rapper/Raptors global ambassador Drake, who isn’t shy with the trash talk, put a consoling hand on the six-foot-nine Durant as he headed for the locker room.
Lowry tried to give the crowd the benefit of the doubt.
“I don’t think the fans knew the significance of the injury,” he said. “They kind of (had) 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.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory says Raptors fans’ cheers when Durant got injured are being “overstated.”
The mayor said that while any crowd may contain some who react the wrong way, the “vast majority” of people at Monday’s NBA Finals game acted like good sports fans.
“I was in the arena and it happened right at the end of a play and people were cheering at the end of the play but very quickly after that (Durant) got a very warm round of applause as he was taken on to the dressing room – as he should, he’s a superstar, and nobody wants to see him hurt,” Tory said.
He said it’s important not to overblow such incidents or make generalizations about what Toronto sports fans are like.
“Toronto sports fans are good fans, they’re considerate fans and they understand a superstar when they see one and I think that’s the kind of applause he got as he left the arena.”
Golden State’s Stephen Curry, who accompanied Durant down the tunnel with Andre Iguodala, was surprised by the fan response.
“Very confused around that reaction. It’s not my experience with the people of this city,” said Curry, who lived in Toronto when his father played for the Raptors from 1999 to 2002. “You understand this is about an individual, a human being and not, ‘Oh, shoot he’s out, he’s hurt, we won the championship.’ That was probably their initial thought and you hate to see that when a guy’s going through pain like that.
“I just hope that ugliness doesn’t show itself again as we go forward in this series.”
Durant scored 11 points, including going 3-for-3 from three-point range, in just under 12 minutes of action before the injury.
Cousins stepped up with seven straight points after subbing in, finishing the night with 14 overall on 6-of-8 shooting.
“I’m just trying to play my part, whatever it takes to help this team win,” Cousins said. “We pulled out a tough one.”
Green credited Curry, who finished with a game-high 31 points, with helping to calm Golden State’s bench down after Durant left.
“You could just kind of feel the life go right out of us,” Green said. “But to Steph’s credit, he kind of rallied the troops.
“We did a good job of coming together and leaning on each other.”