Raptors celebrated Canada’s first NBA title after beating injured Warriors
OAKLAND, Calif. — Kawhi Leonard raised his arms high in triumph and celebrated Canada’s first NBA championship.
‘‘We the North!’’ is now ‘‘We the Champs!’’
Leonard and the Toronto Raptors captured the country’s first major title in 26 years with their most remarkable road win yet in the franchise’s NBA Finals debut, outlasting the battered and depleted two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors, 114-110, on Thursday night in a Game 6 for the ages.
‘‘I wanted to make history here. That’s what I did,’’ a soaking wet Leonard said, ski goggles perched on his forehead and sporting a fresh black champions hat.
Stephen Curry missed a contested 3-pointer in the waning moments before Golden State called a timeout it didn’t have, giving Leonard a technical free throw with 0.9 seconds left for a 2-point lead. Leonard, the NBA Finals MVP for a second time, then got behind Andre Iguodala for a layup as the buzzer sounded, but it went to review and the basket was called off before Leonard’s two free throws. That only delayed the celebration for a moment.
When it actually ended, the typically stoic Leonard could let it all out. A Canadian team — and we’re not talking hockey here — stood on top of one of the traditional major sports leagues for the first time since the Toronto Blue Jays won the 1993 World Series.
Curry walked away slowly, hands on his head on a night Splash Brother Klay Thompson suffered a torn ACL in his left knee and departed with 30 points.
Fred VanVleet rescued the Raptors down the stretch with his dazzling shooting from deep to score 22 points with five threes off the bench, while Leonard wound up with 22 points. Kyle Lowry scored the game’s first 8 points and finished with 26 in all to go with 10 assists and seven rebounds.
Fans poured into the streets in Toronto, screaming and honking horns after the Raptors pulled off a third straight win on Golden State’s home floor that said goodbye to NBA basketball after 47 seasons. And the Raptors did it with the very kind of depth that helped define Golden State’s transformation into a dynasty the past five seasons.
This time, the Warriors were wounded.
Golden State already was down two-time reigning NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant, who had surgery Wednesday for a ruptured right Achilles’ tendon. Then, the Warriors lost Thompson — and they couldn’t overcome just one more heartbreaking injury.
Thompson was fouled by Danny Green on a drive to the basket with 2:22 remaining in the third quarter. He was helped to the locker room area, then — shockingly — came back out to shoot the free throws. He checked out three seconds later, finishing with 30 points, and left the arena on crutches. The Warriors announced that an MRI had confirmed the torn ACL.
‘‘A lot of bad breaks in the Finals, to be honest,’’ Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. ‘‘Like us, they kept on playing. We just had to keep on playing no matter who was out there. And I think they were super intense high-level games and both teams desperately trying to win.’’
This thrilling back-and-forth game featured 18 lead changes, nine ties, and neither team going ahead by more than 9 points.
Curry scored 21 points but shot just 6 for 17 and went 3 of 11 on threes. Iguodala added 22 for his biggest game this postseason as the Warriors did everything until the very last moment to leave a lasting legacy at Oracle.
‘‘More than the what-ifs is just feeling bad for the players involved. Injuries are always part of the NBA season — any professional sport, injuries play a huge role,’’ Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. ‘‘It’s just the nature of these injuries, the severity of these injuries. And we’ll know more about Klay. But we can sit here and say, well, if this hadn’t happened or that hadn’t happened, that doesn’t matter. What matters is Kevin Durant is going to miss next season with an Achilles tear and Klay suffered a knee injury.’’
The Raptors, in their 24th season of existence, rallied from two games down to beat the Bucks in the Eastern finals then took down the mighty Warriors on their home floor to deny Golden State a three-peat. ‘‘This five-year run’s been awesome but I definitely don’t think it’s over,’’ Curry said.