By Ponciano Melo Jr.
OAKLAND, California — The Toronto Raptors take their maiden NBA trophy- the first one in their 24 seasons as the only team from Canada in the league, in a series that took six games and a whole lot of storylines to cap off.
Becoming the first non-US team to clinch a championship, the Raptors banked on superstar Kawhi Leonard all series long who drilled in the deciding free throws that dethroned Golden State, 114-110, Friday (Manila time) and handed the Dub Nation the cruelest of farewells at their storied Oracle Arena.
Leonard, becoming only the third player to be named Finals MVP for two different teams, scored 22 for the night while Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam each scored 26 points to take the best-of-seven series, 4-2, going 3-0 on the road against the Warriors- a feat never been done in the Warrior's 5-year run in the NBA Finals.
Fred VanVleet, who has been exceptional off the bench for the Raptors throughout this season's playoff run, delivered 22 markers, drilling five three-pointers as Serge Ibaka pitched in 15 points.
Stephen Curry, on the other hand, finished with 21 points but couldn’t add three more on an attempt beyond the arc when his team trailed by a solitary point, 111-110 in the final seconds of the game.
Draymond Green (11 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists) then caught the ensuing miss but called a timeout they did not have to hand the Raptors a technical free throw, and inevitably, the game.
2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala added 22 points, while DeMarcus Cousins, still looking for a first NBA ring, contributed 12.
For their part, the Warriors actually led entering the fourth, 88-86, off of a strong third quarter, but just like most of the series, they lost yet another vital cog in Klay Thompson, who limped off before the end of 36 minutes on an ACL tear to his left knee.
He actually scored 30 points in the game, sinking the last two of his tally on an emotional trip to the line before heading into the dugout for good. Kevin Durant, whom the banged-up Warriors dedicated their last game in Oracle to, went down in their Game 5 win due to an Achilles tendon injury.
It was all for Toronto’s taking at that point where they kept calm and collected in the payoff period, a staple in their playoff run this season epitomized by their star Leonard, who reporters say, stopped yet another potential 3-peat after the Miami Heat in 2014.
Headed by coach Nick Nurse, who joins Warriors head coach Steve Kerr and six other coaches who won a championship in their rookie year at the helm.
The Raptors have now become 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.