How the Raptors Won Their First N.B.A. Championship – The New York Times

The Toronto Raptors celebrated their win over the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 to win the N.B.A. championship.CreditEzra Shaw/Getty Images

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OAKLAND, Calif. — The Toronto Raptors had more length, more depth and more athleticism than anyone imagined when the N.B.A. finals began.

The Raptors used all of that — as well as their far superior health — to close down Oracle Arena and close out the N.B.A.’s two-time reigning champions Thursday night with a 114-110 Game 6 victory over the Golden State Warriors.

The Warriors were presumed to possess the emotional advantage coming in, playing their final game at Oracle and dedicating the evening to their superstar forward Kevin Durant, who was on the other side of the country after undergoing major surgery Wednesday. But Toronto just had too much — especially after Golden State lost the All-Star guard Klay Thompson for the entire fourth quarter after a bad landing on a drive to the basket. The Warriors later announced that Thompson had torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Three Raptors, remarkably, outscored or matched Kawhi Leonard in the clincher: Kyle Lowry delivered 11 of his 26 points in the game’s first two-plus minutes. Pascal Siakam added 26 points and 10 rebounds of his own. And the undrafted Fred VanVleet made five of Toronto’s 13 3-pointers to finish with 22 points — 12 of which came in the fourth quarter.

[For six games, Fred VanVleet had the toughest defensive assignment of his life: Attach himself to one of the N.B.A.’s greatest scorers.]

Leonard hit three free throws in the final 0.9 seconds of the game to finish with 22 points and 6 rebounds in what for him ranks as a quiet night. Yet he still wound up snagging the N.B.A. finals Most Valuable Player Award as the unquestioned centerpiece of the Canadian franchise’s first championship.

“We have the best player in the league and the best player in these playoffs in Kawhi Leonard,” Siakam said.


Kawhi Leonard won the finals M.V.P. award.CreditKyle Terada/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Said VanVleet of the Raptors’ roster construction around Leonard: “None of our guys probably, other than Kawhi, are in that big boy club. And we got a team full of them coming from all different places, all walks of life, all different life stories to get to this moment. But we got some talent. We got some talent for sure.”

The vote for finals M.V.P. was close to unanimous, with Leonard getting 10 of 11 votes. The remaining vote, from the former Knicks coach Hubie Brown of ESPN Radio, went to VanVleet.

The Warriors came in desperate to win for the fallen Durant and exit their threadbare but cherished home arena of 47 years in triumph. The hosts instead fell to a stunning 0-3 at home in these finals. In their first game since Durant suffered a torn right Achilles’ tendon, they proved helpless to prevent Leonard from joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and LeBron James as the only players in league history to win finals M.V.P. honors with two different teams.

Thompson had 28 points on just 12 shots when he landed awkwardly on a drive to the rim that was contested by Toronto’s Danny Green with 2 minutes 22 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Thompson was ushered to the locker room by Jonas Jerebko and Jordan Bell, then dramatically returned to the floor to shoot the ensuing free throws to remain eligible to check back into the game.

Thompson made both free throws to finish with a game-high 30 points, expanding his reputation for playoff heroics as “Game 6 Klay,” but he was ruled out from a return early in the fourth quarter with the Warriors clinging to a 91-88 lead. He ended up leaving Oracle with the aid of a pair of crutches, just as Durant had exited Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena a few days before.

Without Durant or Thompson, Golden State nonetheless managed to hang in until the end. But a missed 3-pointer in the final 10 seconds from the right wing by Stephen Curry (21 points), after what appeared to be a costly turnover by Toronto’s Green, was the two-time reigning champions’ last shot.

A scramble for the ball following Curry’s missed shot left less than a second on the clock. Golden State was assessed a technical foul for calling a timeout it did not have, which was an intentional stalling tactic since the clock would not have stopped otherwise. There was a long delay and a great deal of confusion, but eventually Leonard hit the technical free throw and then got two more after a foul on the inbounds, sealing Toronto’s win.

[Golden State called a timeout it did not have at the end of Game 6. But don’t think of it as a mistake. ]

The absence of Durant and Thompson’s eventual exit enabled Toronto to swarm Curry in the fourth quarter. The Raptors also survived big offensive showings from two stalwarts of the Warriors’ five-year run of title contention: Draymond Green totaled 11 points, 19 rebounds and 13 assists for a triple-double, and Andre Iguodala supplied a wholly unexpected 22 points despite missing four of five free throws.

“I don’t know if it’s related to five straight seasons of playing a hundred-plus games and just all the wear and tear, but it’s devastating,” Coach Steve Kerr said of the rampant injuries, which have been plaguing Golden State in the postseason since DeMarcus Cousins tore a quadriceps muscle in Game 2 of the first round against the Los Angeles Clippers.


Fans celebrated in Toronto. CreditNathan Denette/The Canadian Press, via Associated Press

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Through their own disruptive defense on top of Golden State’s injury crisis, Leonard and the Raptors ushered the dynastic Warriors — after three titles in four seasons — into an off-season of uncertainty. Before next season’s move across the bay to Chase Center in San Francisco, Golden State must first contend with the expected forays into free agency for Durant and Thompson.

The Raptors face a similar challenge with Leonard, who has the right to become a free agent this summer. But Toronto’s gamble to trade for Leonard last July, with no assurance it could re-sign him or guarantees about how he would bounce back from an injury-plagued final season in San Antonio, has already paid off handsomely.

The marked difference for Leonard on the big stage this time, compared to his 2014 finals masterpiece with the San Antonio Spurs, is that he was the unquestioned leader.

Leonard was named finals M.V.P. in 2014 as well, when he emerged as the Spurs’ best player in a five-game demolition of James’s Miami Heat. But that Spurs team still revolved around Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

Masai Ujiri, Toronto’s team president, had the gumption to acquire Leonard via trade from the Spurs last July and instantly transformed the Raptors, who previously had struggled in the playoffs, into an Eastern Conference force.


Fans gathered in Jurassic Park in Toronto to watch the Raptors win their first N.B.A. championship on Thursday night.CreditCreditCTV, VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS

The trade also brought in Danny Green as a defensive-minded, finals-tested veteran and was followed by Ujiri’s February acquisition of the All-Star center Marc Gasol. Together with the Toronto mainstay Lowry and two gems Ujiri recently unearthed from the college game — Siakam and VanVleet — those moves gave Toronto’s rookie coach, Nick Nurse, the ability to deploy various athletic and long-limbed combinations to smother the small-ball lineups that have fueled much of Golden State’s success over the past half-decade.

“It worked out,” Leonard told ESPN’s Doris Burke during the on-court trophy presentations. “It worked out.”

Here’s how the Raptors beat the Warriors in Game 6, as reported by Benjamin Hoffman in New York.

The Raptors have the ball and lead, 109-108 with 37.7 seconds remaining.

It’s turned into a true slugfest, with the undermanned Warriors trying to save their season at home and Toronto trying to prove its mettle.

The scoring late in the game has come not from Kawhi Leonard or Stephen Curry but from Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry, Draymond Green, and DeMarcus Cousins.

Toronto has a clear advantage here, especially with Klay Thompson out, but the Warriors have made it a terrific game.

Another 3-pointer from Fred VanVleet has Toronto leading 104-101 with 3:44 left in the game.

VanVleet has simply been sensational with 12 points in the fourth quarter and 22 for the game so far.

Stephen Curry, meanwhile, is being harassed relentlessly by Toronto and his shots aren’t falling. He missed two 3-pointers in a row after sinking a floater and if he can’t find a rhythm it will be extremely hard for the Warriors to overcome a sudden disadvantage in the game.


Fred VanVleet was sensational in Game 6.CreditFrank Gunn/The Canadian Press, via Associated Press

The roof is coming off the Oracle as the Warriors take a 3-point lead, 97-94, on a huge dunk from Shaun Livingston.

Fred VanVleet continues to destroy the Golden State defense with tough 3-pointers, but a combination of Draymond Green’s rebounding and the team’s unselfish play on offense has Golden State leading a game it should, by all accounts be losing.

Green may have gotten away with offensive interference on a putback that gave him 8 points to go with his 18 rebounds, 12 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals.

The Warriors may not have a second shooter, but between Livingston’s midrange game, Curry’s drawing of double-teams, and Green’s passing and rebounding, they may have a chance to close their building with a win, forcing a Game 7.

The Warriors opened the fourth with a lineup of DeMarcus Cousins, Jonas Jerebko, Draymond Green, Quinn Cook and Shaun Livingston. That lineup may not have any natural shooters, but it outscored the Raptors, 3-2, in around two minutes of action.

Once Stephen Curry was back in the game Fred VanVleet hit a 3-pointer that tied the game at 91-91 and Steve Kerr used a timeout with 8:53 remaining.

The problem with Klay Thompson being out, beyond the loss of his shooting, is how much Toronto is able to swarm both Cousins and Curry. The Raptors do not appear scared of the other Warriors at all, and so far nothing Golden State has done given them reason to.

Klay Thompson will not return tonight. The team offered no update beyond that.

As we head into the final fourth quarter at Oakland’s Oracle Arena, the Warriors appear to be leading, 88-86, with Kawhi Leonard’s tip-in coming just after time expired in the third.

The Warriors closed the quarter without Klay Thompson, who was having his left knee evaluated, which allowed Toronto to break out its box-and-one defense on Stephen Curry once again. Andre Iguodala broke that defense once, hitting a 3-pointer that gave him 20 for the game, but the strategy did appear to be limiting the Warriors’ ability to move the ball.

Thompson, who can still return because he came back from his free throws after the injury, leads all scorers with 30 points while Kyle Lowry is leading Toronto with 24.

With the Raptors trying to come back on the road, one potential issue is foul trouble. Kawhi Leonard and Lowry have four each while no one on the Warriors has more than three.

Klay Thompson was fouled by Danny Green on a dunk attempt and immediately collapsed to the court clutching his left knee after landing awkwardly. Stephen Curry immediately slammed the ball to the court in frustration as the training staff came out to check on Thompson.

Thompson was initially taken into the tunnel, which would have resulted in him being ineligible to return, but the wounded guard turned around and came back out for his free throws, earning an explosive ovation from the crowd at Oracle. With an injured knee he hit both of this free-throw attempts and is up to 30 points.


Klay Thompson had 30 points before being injured.CreditKyle Terada/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

The Warriors intentionally fouled to cause a break in the action so Thompson could be taken out of the game for evaluation. After all the controversy with Kevin Durant in Game 5, the team can’t afford to take any chances with another one of its stars.

In a good sign for his overall health, Thompson was shown jogging into the locker room to be evaluated.

Scott Cacciola: The atmosphere here was just morbid after Thompson’s exit. The crowd was trying to get some chants going, but everyone seems to be in total disbelief: Another injury? How?

And then, jubilation at the sight of Thompson limping back to the bench. Amazing scene.

Andre Iguodala missed both of his free throws coming out of a timeout, but the Warriors ripped off a quick 8-2 run and are suddenly leading, 78-76.

Five of the points came from Iguodala, who hit a 3-pointer and floated one in from short-range, and the other 3 came on a 3-pointer from Klay Thompson, who is not quite Game 6 Klay tonight but who has been the Warriors’ best offensive option with 25 points so far.

Kyle Lowry is taking a rest because of his four fouls, but Pascal Siakam is continuing to thrive on offense and has 19 points while Kawhi Leonard has not exactly lit up the place but has 15.

The third quarter started with both Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson missing wide-open 3-pointers, but Golden State began to find a rhythm and Andre Iguodala is heading to the foul with a chance to tie the game, with the score at 72-70 and 6:53 remaining in the period.

The biggest developments of the quarter, in order, are Kawhi Leonard starting to assert himself offensively, Kyle Lowry picking up his fourth foul, and Stephen Curry getting up to three fouls. Curry was particularly angry about one of them, which came on what appeared to be a clean swipe of a ball from Fred VanVleet, but he’ll have to be more careful down the stretch.

The Raptors were better, the Warriors were scrappier and Toronto went into halftime at Oracle up, 60-57.

The lead honestly felt like it should be much larger for the Raptors. They shot the ball well, they harassed Golden State’s shooters, and they forced 10 turnovers. Kyle Lowry, who scored Toronto’s first 11 points, is up to 21, Pascal Siakam has 13 and Serge Ibaka closed the first half on a tear, repeatedly getting to the basket against Golden State’s small lineup, and has 10 off the bench.

But somehow, some way, the Warriors are staying in the game. Klay Thompson has nearly matched Lowry with 18 points, picking up 8 from the free-throw line, Andre Iguodala has 11, showing off a nice array of dunks, and Draymond Green is being his usual versatile self with 4 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists.

The stars of the teams have been a bit quieter. Stephen Curry is being his usual disruptive self with his off-ball movement, but he’s scored just 9 points on 2 of 7 shooting. Kawhi Leonard has 9 points and 2 rebounds and picked up a costly third foul late in the quarter — one that gave Thompson three free points.

Golden State seems to have a choice: Go small to open up the offense (which lets Ibaka dominate inside), or go big to solidify its defense (leaving just one shooter on the court). Neither option is particularly appealing and Toronto, trying to close out a championship on the road, seems to be working to force an advantage no matter what the Warriors choose.

Scott Cacciola: I wrote about Kyle Lowry after he did a lot of little stuff to help the Raptors win Game 1. He did not exactly clutter the box score. Well, he has done everything for Toronto tonight: scoring, passing, leading, steadying. For all the change that the Raptors have undergone in recent seasons to shape themselves into bona fide contender, Lowry has been a constant. And he, more than anyone else in the franchise, with the possible exception of Masai Ujiri, the team’s president of basketball operations, has been through the most, including the many lows. He is doing all he can to try to end this thing tonight, on the highest of highs.

Stephen Curry came back into the game and Golden State went on an immediate 6-0 run to take a lead, 44-43.

The offensive push was all about Curry’s ability to move with and without the ball. He had defenders trailing him all over the court, helping set up two dunks: one by Kevon Looney, and one by Andre Iguodala on a feed from Draymond Green. Curry tossed in a little floater of his own while trying to draw a foul.

The incredible thing for the Raptors is how tight this game is despite Kawhi Leonard having just 4 points and Marc Gasol having just 1. All of their offense has been Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet. Leonard can explode at any time, but so far he’s just 2 of 5 from the field and appears to be getting frustrated.

Scott Cacciola: Kawhi Leonard has had a quiet start, but the Raptors have gotten absolutely nothing from Marc Gasol, who’s missed all four of his field-goal attempts and just committed a turnover. It probably goes without saying that the Raptors can’t rely on Kyle Lowry to keep carrying them: Contributions from the likes of Gasol would be welcome.

The Warriors went to a big lineup, with Steph Curry out and DeMarcus Cousins and Kevon Looney both in, and while they started the second quarter well they started to fall behind thanks to Toronto’s outside shooting. With the Raptors leading, 43-38, Steve Kerr was forced to take a timeout.

Pascal Siakam hit another 3-pointer, making him 3 of 4 in the game after a stretch coming into the game in which he’d missed 12 straight, and Fred VanVleet is continuing his streak as a great bench scorer, with two 3-pointers in nine minutes of action.

For the Warriors to be able to score against Toronto’s terrific defense, they may not be able to have many stretches in which both Klay Thompson and Curry aren’t on the floor.

The Raptors led 8-0 and 11-2, but at the close of the first quarter their advantage had shrunk to 33-32 thanks to a 7-0 run by Golden State near the end of the period that included a smooth 3-point play by DeMarcus Cousins and a wide-open 3-pointer from Draymond Green.

Kyle Lowry is definitely the story of the game so far, with 15 points after going 4 for 4 from 3-point range, but Klay Thompson has 10, Stephen Curry — after a very quiet start to the game — has 7, and Cousins, who thus far has been making an impact since coming into the game in place of Kevon Looney.

There have already been a combined 22 3-pointers attempted in this game, with both teams trying to bury the other.

Nick Nurse brought in Serge Ibaka and Steve Kerr countered with DeMarcus Cousins, with both teams going for some size shortly before a timeout. So far the Raptors are up 26-22, a lead that seems far too small considering how well they shot the ball early.

Since the 3-pointer explosion from Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam, the Golden State response has been a lot of Klay Thompson. He came into the game with a reputation for big Game 6s and he has 10 points in the first quarter. Stephen Curry, meanwhile, has yet to attempt a field goal, and Kawhi Leonard has just 2 points.

Scott Cacciola: Pascal Siakam, a breakout star for Toronto in the playoffs, is coming off a quiet effort in his team’s Game 5 loss: 12 points on 6 of 15 shooting. Before tonight’s game, Coach Nick Nurse was asked about Siakam’s struggles. Nurse said he was not concerned.

“I think he’s proven all playoffs long, and even all season long, that he’s a prime-time player,” Nurse said. “The other night, if you want me to be totally candid, I wasn’t happy with his defensive effort. I thought he just could have done more. He could have been more active.”

Siakam definitely appears more active tonight, on both ends. He’s already got a couple of 3s to help the Raptors to their hot start.

At the first timeout the Raptors are up 17-12, having cooled off at a least a little after Kyle Lowry got them off to such an incredible start.

Toronto is 5 of 7 from 3-point range — with two coming from Pascal Siakam who had been struggling — but Golden State is forcing its way to the basket to make up for some early 3s not falling.

Maybe the most notable part of the game for Golden State’s offense is Andre Iguodala looking aggressive and Stephen Curry, so far, being quiet beyond a few free throws.

Scott Cacciola: During the first timeout, they showed a tribute to Kevin Durant on the video board, featuring highlights of the injured star and audio clips from his teammates. A “K-D! K-D!” chant broke out in the crowd. Before the game, several teammates wore warm-up shirts bearing Durant’s name and number, 35.

Kyle Lowry got off to an incredible start to the game, going on a personal 8-0 run with a layup and a pair of 3-pointers. Golden State finally got on the board when Kevon Looney drove to the basket for a dunk, but then Lowry connected again with another 3-pointer giving him 11 for the game. The veteran guard seems on a mission to get this game off to a huge start for Toronto.

Scott Cacciola: It may come as some surprise to viewers at home that the crowd was very loud before the game, this being the N.B.A. finals and all — in addition to it being final game at Oracle Arena. But Kyle Lowry: Crafty Veteran is absolutely taking the life out of this place. It is really quiet. So soon. So suddenly.

Kevon Looney, playing his way through a severe chest injury, started the game at center for Golden State and lost the tip to Toronto’s Marc Gasol. Game 6, the last N.B.A. game at Oracle, is officially underway.


  • Stephen Curry/Kyle Lowry

  • Klay Thompson/Danny Green

  • Andre Iguodala/Kawhi Leonard

  • Draymond Green/Pascal Siakam

  • Kevon Looney/Marc Gasol