Raptors dethrone Warriors to capture first NBA crown
by Jim SLATER
An upstart Toronto Raptors squad dethroned defending champions Golden State on Thursday, defeating the Warriors 114-110 to win the NBA Finals and capture the first crown by a club from outside the United States.
Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam each scored 26 points while Kawhi Leonard and reserve Fred VanVleet both had 22 as Toronto won the best-of-seven series four games to two.
Leonard was named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player for the second time in his career after the first in 2014 with San Antonio, which traded him to Toronto last July.
“Last summer I was going through a lot. I just kept working hard and had my mind set on this goal right here,” Leonard said. “This is why I play basketball. This is what I work hard for. I’m glad to see it all pay off.”
The Raptors became the first Canadian club to win a major North American sports title since the 1993 Toronto Blue Jays captured Major League Baseball’s World Series.
“It means a lot for our city and the country and for these players,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said, who didn’t mind not winning it at home. “You get the win and you’re just happy you got it and celebrate that fact.”
The Raptors spoiled the Warriors’ farewell appearance at Oracle Arena. Golden State’s home since 1971 will be replaced by a new $1 billion venue in San Francisco next season.
“To be able to celebrate with these guys is awesome,” Siakam said, the flag of his homeland Cameroon draped around his shoulders.
“It’s a dream to have achieved this,” Spanish center Marc Gasol said. “I’ve never worked so hard.”
Klay Thompson scored 30 points to lead the Warriors but left the game with a torn left knee ligament late in the third quarter after landing awkwardly on his left leg.
It was the latest setback for an injury-hit Golden State team that was already without two-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant, who returned in game five Monday after being sidelined for a month only to suffer a ruptured right Achilles tendon.
“Tough, tough way to go out,” Curry said. “I think a lot has been proven about who we are as a team and the adversity we faced throughout the playoff run.
“The DNA and character we have on this team, I wouldn’t bet against us being back on this stage next year and going forward.”
Andre Iguodala added 22 points for the Warriors, Stephen Curry had 21 and Draymond Green contributed 11 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists.
“Everybody on this team played with a lot of heart,” Green said. “We just came up a little short.”
Golden State had a final shot to win trailing 111-110 but Curry missed a 3-pointer and Green called a timeout when the team had none, setting up three final free throws by Leonard to seal the victory.
The Warriors failed in their bid for a third consecutive title and to become the first team in 50 years to win four titles in five seasons.
Toronto’s triumph made this the first NBA Finals where road teams won five consecutive games.
Lowry, who scored Toronto’s first 11 points, won his first NBA crown in his 13th league campaign.
“To say I’m a world champion makes me feel great,” Lowry said. “It’s just kind of still surreal. It hasn’t hit me yet. I’m still in this moment of like is this real yet?
“I’m happy to say I’m a champion and it has been a long time coming.”
– Thompson goes down –
Golden State led 80-76 when disaster struck. Thompson landed awkwardly on his left leg on a missed shot and went to the floor writhing in pain, being helped to the locker room.
Thompson turned back and returned to the court, a standing crowd screaming with delight to see him sink two free throws, giving the Warriors their biggest lead at 85-80.
But after he was seen limping, Thompson was removed and later left the arena on crutches.
– VanVleet big late –
VanVleet, who had 12 points in the fouth quarter, sank two 3-pointers and his three free throws with 5:39 remaining pulled the Raptors level at 99-99.
VanVleet struck again from 3-point range and Serge Ibaka scored off a rebound to put Toronto ahead 106-101 with 3:03 remaining.
Green’s 3-pointer pulled the Warriors within 108-105 and after trading free throws, Cousins scored on a layup to pull Golden State within 109-108 with 46 seconds remaining.
Siakam and Curry exchanged points and a bad pass by Toronto’s Danny Green set up Curry’s final miss.