An upstart Toronto Raptors squad on Thursday dethroned defending champions Golden State, defeating the Warriors 114-110 to win the NBA Finals and capture the first crown by a club from outside the US.
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.
Leonard was named Most Valuable Player for the second time in his career after the first in 2014 with San Antonio, who traded him to Toronto in July last year.
“Last summer I was going through a lot. I just kept working hard and had my mind set on this goal right here,” Leonard said. “This is why I play basketball. This is what I work hard for. I’m glad to see it all pay off.”
The Raptors became the first Canadian club to win a major North American sports title since the 1993 Toronto Blue Jays captured baseball’s World Series.
“It means a lot for our city and the country, and for these players,” said Raptors coach Nick Nurse, who did not 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 is to be replaced by a new US$1 billion venue in San Francisco next season.
“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 a torn knee ligament late in the third quarter after landing awkwardly on his left leg.
It was the latest setback for an injury-hit Golden State team who were already without two-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant, who returned in Game 5 on Monday after being sidelined for a month, only to suffer a ruptured Achilles.
“Tough, tough way to go out,” Curry said. “I think a lot has been proven about who we are as a team and the adversity we faced throughout the playoff run. The DNA and character we have on this team, I wouldn’t bet against us being back on this stage next year and going forward.”
Andre Iguodala added 22 points for the Warriors and Stephen Curry had 21, while Draymond Green contributed 11 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists.
“Everybody on this team played with a lot of heart,” Green said. “We just came up a little short.”
Golden State had a final shot to win trailing 111-110, but Curry missed a three-pointer and Green called a timeout when the team had none, setting up three final free throws by Leonard to seal the victory.
The Warriors failed in their bid for a third consecutive title and to become the first team in 50 years to win four titles in five seasons.
Toronto’s triumph made it the first NBA Finals where road teams won five consecutive games.
Lowry, who scored Toronto’s first 11 points, won his first NBA crown in his 13th league campaign.
“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.”
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