by Julian Spivey
The game of basketball was created by a Canadian named James Naismith. The first ever NBA game took place in Toronto on Nov. 1, 1946 when the Toronto Huskies (which haven’t even been a team since that inaugural season ended!) hosted the New York Knicks. Now more than 72 years later the country of Canada has its first ever NBA championship with the Toronto Raptors defeating the two-time reigning champion Golden State Warriors in six games.
All Star forward Kawhi Leonard would be named NBA Finals MVP with a stellar series in which he averaged 28.5 points per game on 43 percent shooting. Leonard scored 22 points with six rebounds in the game six clincher, including the final points of the game at the free-throw line. Leonard can be crowned a “dynasty killer” as he’s now ended the Miami Heat and Golden State Warriors dynasties after each team had won back-to-back titles before losing to a Leonard-led team. Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs defeated LeBron James and the Heat in 2014. Leonard’s performance In 2014 and his Finals MVP this year make him the first player in NBA history to win the honor in each conference.
Game six was a hard fought battle from start-to-finish between the Raptors and the Warriors with the lead changing back-and-forth many times throughout the game. When it came down to the final seconds of the game the Warriors, down one point, had a shot to win the game and send it back to Toronto for a game seven. Warriors star guard Stephen Curry missed a decent look at a game-winning three with a tap out ending up near half-court and in the hands of Warriors all-star forward Draymond Green who mistakenly called a timeout without the Warriors having any left, which is a technical foul by rule. That’s probably irrelevant, though, because with less than a second remaining the clock would’ve run out before the Warriors would’ve had time to get up another shot.
Game six, like the series as a whole, was brutally changed due to injury when the Warriors leading scorer on the night Klay Thompson, who had 30 points in less than three full quarters, went down with a knee injury toward the end of the third quarter and could not return. It was Thompson’s second injury of the series with a hamstring issue keeping him out of game three, which the Raptors won in Oakland.
It’s always hard to watch a championship series that you know injuries had a major impact on because it’s always going to leave question marks in your mind. I don’t believe the Raptors would’ve won this series had the Warriors been completely healthy. I’m not even sure the Raptors would’ve won this series had Thompson not missed almost a game and a half due to injury. Personally, I feel like the Warriors would’ve at least forced a game seven had Thompson been able to go in the final quarter tonight the way he was shooting. That’s got to be hard on everybody involved in this series. Warriors fans will forever say, “what if?” and Raptors fans and players will always have to deal with people saying they had a series handed to them. The franchise and fans of it shouldn’t worry about any of that. What ifs suck, but you can’t do anything about them. Enjoy your first every championship. You know after more than two decades of being a franchise that they don’t come easy and you never know when the next one will come, especially with Leonard as a highly coveted free agent who could be one-and-done with the Raptors.
The Raptors did two things incredibly well in this series against Golden State – their defense was tenacious, and they got major play, scoring and minutes from the eight key members in their rotation. Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, Danny Green, Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka all had games where they had at least 17 points and major moments that helped turn this series in Toronto’s favor. In game six alone four different players had 20-plus points with Lowry and Siakam leading the way with 26 apiece and Leonard and VanVleet dropping in 22 points. Ibaka scored 15 off the bench, as well.