Toronto Raptors make history with NBA Championship victory
There were signs of greatness on their winning run to the NBA Finals, but nobody really expected it to continue the way it did. After stunning the Philadelphia 76ers at the very last moment, and romping past the Milwaukee Bucks – the best side in the NBA throughout the regular season – there were still not many tipping them for title glory.
This was all because of the Golden State Warriors, who had been crowned as champions-elect in some corners for quite a long period. The Warriors were pushing for three titles in a row, but went into game six 3-2 down in the series, knowing that they had to win to make it a tie and aim for a turnaround victory in Toronto in game seven. However, that moment never came, and it was Toronto’s turn to make history.
Thanks in major part to Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors have hit new heights here, and players around him have stepped up to the plate with relentless appetite. Their new heroes may not have even been likely starters midway through the regular season, which shows what kind of a journey they have all come on in the last few months.
Leonard may be their star, but he was only their third-top scorer in a 114-110 victory on the road that delivered their first franchise title win in history. The spoils were grabbed because the likes of Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam found their rhythm and their basketball voice when it mattered most.
This was key because all the attention kept falling on Leonard, so it allowed space for others to run in behind. Lowry and Siakam did this to great effect with 26 points each, while Fred VanVleet aided the cause hugely with 22 off the bench.
Their squad backing has also made a huge difference in this final series, and on a night when Serge Ibaka also floated from the sidelines to bag 15, it showed the Warriors what they were missing in reserve.
It was another tense finish, when Steph Curry missed a three-pointer in the dying embers of the game, before the Warriors made a big mistake by calling a timeout that they didn’t have available. This saw the Raptors get two free throws, which Leonard duly converted, and it was enough to get them over the line.
The celebrations were wild in Toronto as they secured their first major title for Canada since the Blue Jays managed the feat in MLB 26 years ago.
Words: Josh Dixon