Raptors send Toronto into raptures as they beat Warriors to take first NBA title

In front of a hostile Oracle Arena crowd that stood on their feet screaming from wire to wire, the Toronto Raptors made history.

The NBA’s lone Canadian team won the first NBA championship in their 24-year history, beating the Golden State Warriors, 114-110, in Game 6 of the finals on Thursday night.

The game and series ended in thrilling fashion. With 9.6 seconds left and the Raptors up by one point, 111-110, the Raptors committed a costly turnover after Danny Green threw an errant pass to Pascal Siakam. The Warriors had a chance to win when Stephen Curry shot a three-pointer over two defenders with eight seconds left, but the ball rolled out of the rim.

In a mad scramble for possession near center court, Draymond Green attempted to call a timeout with 0.9 seconds left, but the Warriors didn’t have any left and were assessed a technical foul. The Raptors went on to make the free throw they were awarded, and two more after Kawhi Leonard was fouled just before the buzzer.

The victory wasn’t just historic. It was highly impressive given the raucous crowd in Oakland that was both trying to keep their team’s dynasty alive and honoring the Warriors’ final game ever at Oracle Arena.

“They really played together,” Raptors’ coach Nick Nurse said. “I thought they really fought hard. They were tough-minded. They didn’t seem like this was wearing on them at all. Two months of playoff basketball, they never seemed tired to me.”

The scene in the locker room after the game was one of pure joy, with goggle-clad players spraying champagne in every direction and corks littered all over plastic-covered carpet.

The game had its fair share of drama, too, including 18 lead changes. It also had its share of heartbreak. The Warriors, who were playing without Kevin Durant after he sustained a ruptured achilles tendon in Game 5, also went on to lose Klay Thompson to an injury later confirmed by the team as a torn left anterior cruciate ligament.

It happened with 2:22 left in the third quarter, after Thompson was fouled hard on a dunk and fell to the floor writhing in pain, clutching his left leg. He was walked to the locker room by teammates Jordan Bell and Jonas Jerebko. A breathless few seconds later, Thompson limped back onto the court as a shocked Oracle Arena roared at his show of heart.

Thompson went on to make two free throws. (If he hadn’t taken those free throws, he wouldn’t have been eligible to return.) Shortly thereafter, he was ruled out for the rest of the game. He finished with a game-high 30 points on 8-for-12 shooting, including making four of his six three-point shots in 32 minutes.

It was a complete team effort for the Raptors. Leonard, who carried the Raptors on his back throughout the playoffs, was named NBA finals MVP for the second time (after 2014 with the Spurs), finishing with 22 points on 7-for-16 shooting, six rebounds and three assists.

He said afterward it was extra special to him considering what he went through last season in San Antonio, when Leonard said some people thought he was “either faking an injury or didn’t want to play for a team” when he only appeared in nine games due to tendinopathy.

“Just being able to win this championship this year is just something special for me because you know how last year everybody was looking at me, and I stayed true to myself, and I had a great support system,” Leonard said. “And once I got here to Toronto, they understood everything and kept moving from there.”

Kyle Lowry opened the game with a flurry, pouring in 11 early points on 4-for-4 from the floor, including makes on all three of his three-pointers. In the first two minutes of the game, he scored more than he did in Game 5 (10 points on three-for-12 shooting). He finished with a 26 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists.

Pascal Siakam continued his season-long emergence into a star with a 26-point performance on 10-for-17 shooting and 10 rebounds on the biggest of stages, making it hard to believe that he burst from obscurity just a short time ago. Fred VanVleet added 22 points, scoring 12 of them in the fourth quarter.

Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard of the Toronto Raptors scores with a dunk. Photograph: Pool/Getty Images

The Raptors opened the game strong, taking a quick 8-0 lead. Curry, who finished with 21 points, didn’t attempt a field goal until there was 1:25 left in the first quarter. Naturally, when he finally did it ignited the 47-year-old arena as he swished a highly contested three-pointer.

Draymond Green logged a triple-double with 11 points, 19 rebounds and 13 assists. Two of those assists came off of dunks by the 35-year-old Andre Iguodala, who finished with 22 points on 9-for-15 shooting.

Thursday marked the Warriors’ final game at Oracle Arena before they move to a sparkling new $1bn arena in San Francisco. The crowd was loud, fevered and very vocal. When Thompson shot free throws, they chanted “Game 6, Klay!” After a video tribute to Durant, they chanted “K-D, K-D.” When Curry shot free throws, they yelled “M-V-P! M-V-P!” And when Curry signaled for them to make noise, they roared.

But none of it mattered. It was the Raptors’ night, and they earned it every second of the way.


Melissa Rohlin at Oracle Arena, Oakland

The GuardianTramp

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