Raptors dethrone Warriors

Toronto Raptors
THE Raptors, led by MVP Leonrad (inset), are on cloud nine.

OAKLAND, USA (AFP) - An upstart Toronto Raptors squad dethroned defending champion Golden State on Thursday, defeating the Warriors 114-110 to win the NBA Finals and capture the first crown by a club from outside the United States.

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 four games to two.

Leonard was named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player for the second time in his career after the first in 2014 with San Antonio, which traded him to Toronto last July.

“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 Major League Baseball’s World Series.

“It means a lot for our city and the country and for these players,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said, who didn’t 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 will be replaced by a new $1 billion venue in San Francisco next season.

“To be able to celebrate with these guys is awesome,” Siakam said, his Cameroon homeland flag 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 left knee injury late in the third quarter after landing awkwardly on his left leg.

It was the latest setback for an injury-hit Golden State team that was already without two-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant, who returned in game five Monday after being sidelined for a month only to FROM PAGE 16
suffer a ruptured right Achilles tendon.

“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, Stephen Curry had 21 and 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 3-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 this the first NBA Finals where road teams won five consecutive games.

Lowry scored 21 points in the first half to give Toronto a 60-57 lead, hitting 7-of-10 shots from the floor and 4-of-5 from 3-point range. Thompson led the Warriors with 18 first-half points.

Iguodala scored six points in a 14-4 Warriors run, joining Curry and Thompson in hitting 3-pointers in the spurt to give Golden State an 80-76 advantage just before disaster struck again.

Thompson landed awkwardly on his left leg on a missed shot and went to the floor writhing in pain, being helped to the locker room with a knee injury as the Warriors called a timeout.

Walking to the locker room, Thompson turned back and returned to the court, a standing crowd screaming with delight to see him sink two free throws.