Raptors in raptures after dethroning Warriors to capture first NBA crown

Updated: Jun 15, 2019, 14:45 IST | AFP

"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

Raptors in raptures after dethroning Warriors to capture first NBA crown
Toronto Raptors celebrate with the trophy after beating Golden State Warriors to win the NBA Finals in California on Thursday. Pic/AFP

The Toronto Raptors captured their first NBA crown on Thursday, defeating Golden State 114-110 to become the first league champion from outside the United States by dethroning the defending titleholders. Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam each scored 26 points while Kawhi Leonard and reserve Fred VanVleet each added 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. Klay Thompson scored 30 points to lead the Warriors but left the game with a left knee injury late in the third quarter after landing awkwardly on his left leg. Injury-hit Golden State 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. 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. Leonard was named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player for the second time in his career after the first in 2014 with San Antonio. 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. Toronto's triumph made this first NBA Finals where road teams won five consecutive games. Lowry scored 21 points in the first half to give Toronto a 60-57 lead, hitting 7-of-10 shots from the floor and 4-of-5 from 3-point range. Thompson led the Warriors with 18 first-half points.

Thompson goes down
Iguodala scored six points in a 14-4 Warriors run, joining Curry and Thompson in hitting 3-pointers in the spurt to give Golden State an 80-76 advantage just before disaster struck again. 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 with a knee injury as the Warriors called a timeout. Walking 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. Thompson couldn't have returned had he not shot the free throws, which gave the Warriors their biggest lead at 85-80. But after he was seen limping, Thompson was removed and later ruled out with a left knee injury, seen walking out of the arena on crutches.

VanVleet big late
Fielding largely reserves, Golden State held off Toronto but VanVleet 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. Draymond Green's 3-pointer pulled the Warriors within 108-105 and after trading free throws, Cousins scored a layin to pull Golden State within 109-108 with 46 seconds remaining. Siakam hit a jumper but Curry answered with two free throws and after Toronto's Danny Green threw a bad pass out of bounds, the Warriors got the ball with nine seconds remaining down 111-110, setting up the closing drama. A roaring crowd created an electric atmosphere with a standing ovation at the start but Lowry quieted them with three 3-pointers and a layup for all the Raptor points in an 11-2 run to begin the game. Thompson had 10 points and Cousins five in a 19-9 Golden State run for a 27-26 Warriors edge and the game stayed tight the rest of the first half.

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