OAKLAND, USA – An upstart Toronto Raptors squad dethroned defending champion Golden State, 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, 4-2, on Thursday, June 13 (Friday, June 14, Philippine time).
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.
“This is why I play basketball. This is what I work hard for. I’m glad to see it all pay off,” said Leonard.
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 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.”
“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 an ACL injury late in the 3rd 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 5 Monday after being sidelined for a month only to suffer a ruptured right Achilles tendon.
“Tough, tough way to go out,” Warriors star Steph Curry said. – With a report from Agence France-Presse