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Go, Canada! Raptors top Warriors for 1st NBA title

Reuters | Updated: 14-06-2019 12:09 IST | Created: 14-06-2019 11:24 IST
Go, Canada! Raptors top Warriors for 1st NBA title
Image Credit: Flickr

The Toronto Raptors celebrated their first NBA championship on the Golden State Warriors' home floor Thursday night. The two-time defending champs, meanwhile, scheduled their consolation party at a local hospital.

Fred VanVleet gave Toronto the lead for good on a 3-pointer with 3:46 remaining, and the Raptors took advantage of another serious Golden State injury to beat the Warriors 114-110 on Thursday night and reward Canada with its first NBA championship. Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry scored 26 points apiece while VanVleet and Kawhi Leonard added 22 each in a balanced attack that allowed the Raptors to win at Oracle Arena for the third straight time en route to a 4-2 win in the best-of-seven NBA Finals.

"It means a lot for our city and the country and for these players, staff," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said of the magnitude of the achievement. "I don't know if it would have meant any more or any less (beating a team other than the Warriors), to be honest with you. You get the win and you're just happy you got it and celebrate that fact." Going for a fourth title in five years, the Warriors put up a valiant effort in their last game at Oracle Arena without Kevin Durant, who ruptured his right Achilles tendon in Game 5, and for the final 14:22 without Klay Thompson, who had 30 points before sustaining a left knee injury late in the third quarter.

"When Klay goes down and is out for the game, it's just sort of a, 'You got to be kidding me, like, this has to stop,'" Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "But it's just the way it's gone. I don't know if it's related to five straight seasons of playing 100-plus games and just all the wear and tear, but it's devastating." The game was tied three times in the fourth quarter before VanVleet buried his fifth 3-pointer of the game for a 104-101 Raptors advantage.

Toronto went on to lead by as many as six before a 3-pointer by Draymond Green cut the deficit in half, and the Warriors rallied within 111-110 with 18.5 seconds left. Golden State then forced a Toronto turnover on a bad pass from Danny Green with 9.6 seconds to go, but Stephen Curry misfired on a 3-point attempt with eight seconds left that could have put the Warriors in front.

"I just thought it was in," Kerr said of his reaction to Curry's shot. "I always think every shot Steph takes is going in. But they don't all go in. "But what a warrior, no pun intended. Steph was getting hounded this entire series. Toronto did a great job on him sending two, three people at him, hounding him and harassing him. And especially without Klay to rely on in that fourth quarter, I thought he got a little worn down."

Curry finished with 21 points, but he shot just 3-for-11 from 3-point range. He wound up 23-for-67 on threes in the series, setting a Finals record for most misses (44) in a six-game Finals. After a wild scramble for the rebound of Curry's shot, the Warriors have assessed a technical foul for calling a timeout with 0.9 seconds remaining when they had none left.

Leonard made it a two-point game by sinking the free throw, then added two more after getting fouled on the inbounds pass to secure Toronto's third road win in the series. No team had accomplished that feat since the Los Angeles Lakers in 2001. Leonard was chosen the Finals MVP, allowing him to join Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and LeBron James as the only players to claim the honour for two different teams. Leonard, who won the honour with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014, is the only one to win the honour in both conferences.

The pending free agent went out of his way to praise his teammates, even though Leonard put up the third-most points in a single postseason, 732. He total trails only Michael Jordan's 759 in 1992 and James' 748 last year. "It was a whole group collectively," Leonard said. "Fred played amazing in that fourth. Kyle played amazing tonight throughout the whole game. Pascal played big. I just kept striving and pushing, and I ended up with the trophy, but everybody deserves it."

The last five games of the series were won by the road team. The five road wins equalled the Finals record set by Boston-Milwaukee in 1974 and tied by Chicago-Phoenix in 1993. "It allows you to have that us-against-the-world mentality where the only thing that matters is the guy next to you," VanVleet said of the Raptors' road mentality. "Your crowd being anxious and excited doesn't have any effect on you when you're on the road. It takes a different level of effort, and I think that for us going on the road it allowed us to take it up a notch more than what we usually do."

VanVleet finished 5-for-11 on 3-point attempts and Lowry 4-for-7 as the Raptors outscored the Warriors 39-33 on threes in the game. The winning team outscored the loser on 3-pointers in all six games of the series. Siakam had 10 rebounds and Lowry 10 assists to complete double-double performances for Toronto. Serge Ibaka was the fifth Raptor in double figures with 15 points.

Andre Iguodala had 22 points for the Warriors, while Draymond Green recorded a second straight triple-double with 11 points, 19 rebounds and 13 assists. "I think everybody thinks it's kind of the end of us, but that's not smart. We're not done yet," the Warriors' Green said of his team, who now have injuries to conquer in the offseason while attempting to resolve the free agent status of Durant, Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins. "We'll be back."

The game formally closed Oracle Arena as an NBA home for the Warriors, who are moving to the Chase Center in San Francisco next season after playing in Oakland over a 47-year span. The Warriors managed to take an 88-86 lead into the final period despite losing Thompson with 2:22 remaining in the third on a dunk attempt on which he was bumped by Danny Green.

Thompson had his left knee buckle upon landing, and he immediately fell to the floor in serious pain. After initially heading to the locker room, Thompson returned to the court to make two free throws, which put the Warriors up 85-80 before Golden State took an intentional foul so that he would leave the game.

He never returned. Similar to Game 5, when the Warriors had a hard time celebrating a series-extending win on a night when Durant got hurt, Kerr appeared more focused on health than the final score after the season-ending loss.

"What matters is Kevin Durant is going to miss next season with an Achilles tear and Klay suffered a knee injury," he said. "It's just brutal." Thompson's agent, Greg Lawrence, told ESPN postgame that Thompson sustained a torn left anterior cruciate ligament.



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