The 2019 NBA Finals have come to a close, awarding the Toronto Raptors with their first title in franchise history. Kawhi Leanord is now a two-time Finals MVP, winning his first with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014 and his second Thursday night.
The Golden State Warriors were officially dethroned after their fifth straight NBA Finals appearance. The Warriors were shaping up to potentially take the series to 7 games but managed only 22 points in the final quarter after averaging 29.3 points over the first three frames.
"They're a fantastic basketball team - great defensively, share the ball, play a beautiful style, a lot of great two-way players, a lot of veteran players who have been in this league contributing for a long time," Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters. "... Winning a championship is the ultimate in this league, and they've got a lot of guys who have earned this."
Unfortunately for the reigning Golden State Warriors, the Raptors played like they were the best team throughout the entire series, outscoring the Warriors in 17 of the 24 quarters. The Warriors did, however, come up with the higher 3-point percentage, 37.8% to the Raptor’s 35%. In the deciding game, though, Toronto shot 39.4% from behind the arc, versus Golden State’s 35.5%.
It was a series could have resulted with a different champion had Golden State performed significantly better at the free-throw line. Toronto finished the series shooting 6.1% better than Golden State at the penalty line (86%-79.9%). In close games, free throws matter, and this might have made the difference as Toronto averaged 22.8 points at the line, as opposed to the Warrior’s 19.8.
Game 1: Toronto Raptors 118, Golden State Warriors 109
Entering the series, the thunder was on the Warriors side, but Toronto came to play. There was fear the Raptors might head into the game with a “just happy to be here” attitude, but Marc Gasol scoring 20 points on 10 attempts suggested otherwise.
The Warriors are known for going on runs -- blitzing their opponents for multiple scores in rapid succession. The Raptors, however, effectively played defense and answered Golden State on offense, never giving their opponent an opportunity for an extended run.
Pascal Siakam proved to be unstoppable for the Raptors, scoring a playoff career-high 32 points. Siakam shot 14-17 from the field, including 11 straight made field goals. Siakam became the seventh player in Finals history to score at least 30 points on 80% shooting or better, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Adrian Dantley, Michael Jordan, Toni Kukoc and Shaquille O'Neal.
Steph Curry managed to top Siakam, scoring 34 points, locking in his sixth-straight 30-point game in the playoffs and becoming the first player in NBA Finals history to hit 100 career 3-pointers.
While the Golden State Warriors didn’t go quietly, Toronto withstood everything the defending champions threw their way and persevered to their first ever NBA Finals game win -- but that wouldn’t be their last.
Game 2: Golden State Warriors 109, Toronto Raptors 104
The Raptors attempt to carry their momentum from Game 1 to Game 2 fell short. The Warriors’ 20-0 run to end the first half was a feat from which the Raptors could not recover. Those 20 unanswered points are the largest run in an NBA Finals game since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976-77, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
That was not the only record set during Game 2 - Leonard went 16 for 16 from the line, setting the NBA Finals record for most free-throws without a miss, topping opponent Curry, who was sitting at 14. Stealing the show once again, Leonard posted game-highs of 34 points and 14 rebounds in Game 2. It was his third game this postseason with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds.
Demarcus Cousins finally got his chance to shine in the Finals, after playing only 33 total minutes in the entire postseason. As Cousins returned to the starting line-up for the Golden State Warriors, he contributed 12 points, ten rebounds, six assists and two blocks in 28 minutes. Draymond Green finished just one point shy of hitting his fourth straight triple-double, posting 17 points, ten rebounds, nine assists, two steals and a block.
With contributions coming from many players from Golden State, the Warriors extended their own NBA Playoff record of winning a road game to 23 straight playoff series.
Game 3: Toronto Raptors 123, Golden State Warriors 109
The Warriors took a hit in Game 3 of the NBA Finals as Kevon Looney and Klay Thompson joined Kevin Durant on the inactive list. The Raptors showed no mercy, shooting 52.4% from the field, 44.7% from the three and 95.7% from the free-throw line, the third ever 50-40-90 game by a team in NBA Finals history.
It was a team effort by Toronto with six players finishing in double digits and all five starters scoring at least 15 points. Leonard emerged once again as the stand-out, leading Toronto with 30 points. The Raptors starters outscored the Warriors starters 106-83 in Game 3.
Curry refused to hand the victory to the Raptors easily, scoring 47 points, the second most points ever to be scored in a single NBA Finals loss. Along with his game-high scoring, Curry also recorded 8 rebounds, 7 assists, and 6 threes and is the only player in NBA Finals history to record a stat line of 45+ points, 5+ rebounds, 5+ assists and 5+ 3-pointers made.
Game 4: Toronto Raptors 105, Golden State Warriors 92
Leonard led the way yet again for the Toronto Raptors in Game 4 finishing with a Finals career-high 36 points, joining the greats - Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James - as the only players in NBA history with at least fourteen 30-point games in a single postseason run.
Leonard received plenty of help from his teammates, though. Serge Ibaka combined with Leonard to shoot 20 of 34 from the field at 58.8%.
Thompson returned to the Warriors line-up after missing Game 3 with a hamstring injury, leading his team with 28 points. Thompson and Looney combined to shoot 16 of 26 (61.5%) from the field. Curry stepped back from his previous 47 points in Game 3 to score 27 in Game 4.
The Raptors won Game 4 by 13 points and held a nine-point edge at the free throw line, showing the importance of the single-point baskets at any point in the game. Through Game 4 of the Finals, Toronto won 13 of the 16 quarters. The only quarters the Warriors had won at that point of the series were the third quarters of Games 1 and 2 and the first quarter of Game 4.
Game 5: Golden State Warriors 106, Toronto Raptors 105
The Warriors barely avoided elimination with a 1-point win over the Raptors to send the series to a Game 6. The win came with a cost - a season-ending Achilles injury for Durant, as the Warriors had to once again survive against the raptors without him.
Before Durant’s injury, he was shaping up to have an impressive first game back, scoring 11 points in 12 minutes. The Warriors outscored the Raptors by six points in the 12 minutes Durant was on the court in the first 14:10 of the game. Curry (31) and Thompson (26) combined for 57 points in Game 5, shooting 47.7% from behind the arc. Game 5 was Curry's 40th 30-point game in his playoff career, with 10 of those coming in the Finals.
Perhaps the biggest feat of the Warriors were their 20 made 3-point attempts in Game 5, making it the most in franchise history in a Finals game. The Warriors 3-point percentage in Game 5 (47.6%) nearly doubled that of the Raptors (25%).
After zero fourth quarter lead changes in the first four games of the series, there were two in Game 5 with both teams going on runs down the stretch in several attempts to take control of the game. Following a timeout with 3:05 to play, the Warriors survived Game 5 on a 9-2 run with all nine points coming on 3s from Thompson (2) and Curry.
Game 6: Toronto Raptors 114, Golden State Warriors 110
The Raptors stole the NBA Title from the Golden State Warriors Thursday night, fighting to the last minute to end the series 4 games to 2. The Raptors scored efficiently on offense, clinching the series-ending game with four players - Kyle Lowry (26), Siakam (24), Leonard (22) and Fred VanVleet (22) - scoring 22 points or more.
Thompson didn’t go down easy, scoring 30 points and shooting 66.7% from the field, including behind the arc. That was all before his ACL injury took him out with 2:22 left in the third quarter of what would be the last game of the season. With Thompson’s shooting performance, the game might have ended with a different outcome had he not been injured. Thompson’s teammates' shooting performances just didn’t cut it in the end - Curry and Andre Iguodala ended the game with 22 and 21 points, respectively.
While Leonard was rightfully named the Finals MVP, VanVleet is getting the credit for pulling his team away in Game 6. VanVleet went 5-11 from behind the arc, three of those five landing in the fourth quarter. The first tied the game at 91. The second was contested by Curry, putting the Raptors up one with a little more than seven minutes to go. The third gave the Raptors the lead for good, with four minutes left to play - VanVleet came off a screen from Siakam and calmly stepped back to the top of the arc as the defenders rolled with the screen.
And with that, the Raptors brought home Canada's first major championship since 1993.