The Toronto Raptors took down the Golden State Warriors 4-2 to win the 2019 NBA Finals, their first in franchise history. Toronto’s championship will be forever celebrated and remembered in Canada, however many fans in the U.S. will have an asterisk next to it because of the injuries to Golden State. Despite what some believe, the Raptors earned it and here’s why.
No Asterisk Next to the 2019 Finals- The Raptors Earned It
Just Like the Patriots, They Did Their Job
The Raptors couldn’t control which team they played in the Finals, or who the Warriors had available to play. They couldn’t have predicted Kevin Durant or Klay Thompson suffering injuries that kept them out of a significant portion of the Finals. Toronto played very well in three of the first four games before the Warriors came back to force a game six in Oakland. The Raptors won three games at Oracle Arena including two by at least 13 points. Not only did finals MVP Kawhi Leonard have a great series, but so did multiple other Raptors.
In the four Toronto victories, at least five players scored double digits. Pascal Siakam was a key contributor in games one and six including 26 points and 10 rebounds in game six to clinch the title. Fred VanVleet came up clutch in game six with 22 points including five three-pointers. In game four Serge Ibaka came off the bench and scored 20 points. Marc Gasol added nine rebounds and four assists in game six to help Toronto move the ball. The Raptors became the first team since the 1987 Lakers with six players averaging ten points in the Finals. Siakam and Leonard tied Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen for the most points by a duo in an NBA postseason.
The Beasts of the East
After losing game one to the Orlando Magic in round one the Raptors bounced back and won four straight games. Against the Philadelphia 76ers Leonard hit the infamous game-winner to win game seven. In the Sixers series, Toronto won three games by double digits including a 36-point game five victory. After trailing 2-0 to the Milwaukee Bucks in the conference finals the Raptors won four straight games to advance to their first NBA Finals. Having to face players such as Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler and Giannis Antetokounmpo the Raptors had to earn their way to the Finals. This wasn’t easy for Toronto, however, they proved they belonged in the Finals by beating the Bucks, who had the best record in the NBA.
After their game 6 win vs Milwaukee, John Schuhmann wrote “It’s kind of incredible to think about how often this Raptors’ postseason was on the brink of another disappointing finish. In the conference semifinals, they trailed 2-1 and by four points early in the fourth quarter of Game 4 in Philadelphia. They needed four bounces to win Game 7. And in this series, they were just a possession or two from being down 0-3, a deficit that no team in NBA history has ever come back from.” After years of playoff disappointment, this team has finally taken the next step and became a champion.
A True Champion
Every champion is going to have to be lucky, and it’s clear the Raptors caught a few lucky breaks. Whether an opponent goes on a cold streak or loses a key player, you have to take advantage of the opportunity to win a championship. While it’s unfortunate that Durant and Thompson were injured, the better team doesn’t always win the championship. Usually, it’s the team that plays the best when it matters the most, and Toronto did that in this series. In the last two games, the Raptors held a six-point lead with about two minutes left, holding on to win in game six after a one-point defeat in game five.
Leonard and the Raptors came back in game five to overcome a 14-point deficit and had a six-point lead before Stephen Curry and Thompson made threes to tie and eventually win. Even in game six the Raptors only gave up six points from the field in the last two minutes to seal the win. Toronto did what they had to do to win a title, and should be celebrated for how well they played as a team throughout the 2019 season. This doesn’t take anything away from what the Warriors have done, but this year was the Raptors year.
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