The Toronto Raptors made history tonight, beating the defending champion Golden State Warriors 114-110 to become the first National Basketball Assn. team based outside the USA to win the league championship.
The Raptors were led by guard Fred VanVleet, who came up big in the fourth quarter with 12 points. The North had balanced scoring, with four players scoring 20 or more points. Andre Inguodala led the Warriors with 22 points.
The game marked the final appearance at Oracle Arena for the Warriors, who head to a posh new arena in downtown San Francisco next year. It also may mark the end of the team’s NBA dynasty, as several key players are free agents. The Warriors won titles in 2015, 2017 and 2018 with the same basic core, but they were denied a third straight win in 2019 by the Raptors.
At times, it seemed like the series was more about the struggles of Golden State, even as Toronto built a series lead of 3-1 (eventually 3-2) that made it almost inevitable they would win the title. Injuries to Warriors players DeMarcus Cousins, Kevon Looney, Klay Thompson (who re-injured himself tonight), and most tragically, Kevin Durant, dominated the headlines, with Durant coming back from a calf injury, only to go down with a ruptured Achilles tendon after an impressive quarter of play.
The only time a team with a 3-1 lead did not win the Finals was 2016, when the Cleveland Cavaliers rallied past the Warriors. The Raptors were not about to make that mistake.
For the Raptors, the victory is a final vindication for a team that never seemed like it could get over the last hurdle to glory. Despite six straight years in the playoffs, the North always fell short, blocked by the dominance of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern conference.
After losing yet again last year, the franchise made the bold move of trading star DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio for Kawhi Leonard, a superstar forward who had fallen out with the Spurs over his long rehab on a hip injury. Toronto made the trade knowing that Leonard was a potential one-and-done with the team, but his addition – including a miracle shot he made to get past the Philadelphia 76ers earlier in the playoffs – has made that gamble pay off with a title. Leonard had 22 points on the night.
For the Warriors, they head into a period of uncertainty. They open a brand-new arena in downtown San Francisco in the fall, but will be missing Durant (who has a player’s option to return, but will likely miss the entire season with his Achilles injury), perhaps shooting guard Klay Thompson, and likely center DeMarcus Cousins, who was coming back from his own injury and signed a one-year deal to taste a title. He now likely leaves Golden State still searching for that elusive ring.
One of Raptors’ highest-profile supporters, Drake, reacted to the win after the game.
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