Unsung heroes and balanced play powered the Toronto Raptors and the country of Canada to its first ever NBA title.
24 years after their inception, the Toronto Raptors became the first Canadian team to capture the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Kawhi Leonard capped off a historic 24-game postseason with two final free throws with 0.9 seconds remaining, putting Toronto up four points in game six, and immediately turned around with his arms raised in triumph.
The 27-year-old averaged over 30 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and almost 2 steals in Toronto’s wild run past Orlando, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Golden State.
Leonard became the first player to win Finals MVP for teams in both the Eastern and Western Conference, and had the most impressive individual playoff run since Michael Jordan in 1993. The Thursday night victory marked Leonard’s second time preventing an opposing team from capturing three-straight championships in five years, the last being over LeBron James and the Miami Heat in 2014.
Leonard carried the load for this team, but the collective team play, fueled by Toronto’s unsung heroes allowed the team to exercise its postseason demons, and bring a championship to Toronto.
Pascal Siakam (26 points), Kyle Lowry (26 points) Fred VanVleet (22 points), all maximized their talents in the clincher and throughout the finals. They capped off a historic run for Toronto that saw the team score 110 points or more per 100 possessions in eight of their final nine games in the playoffs.
Whether it was VanVleet mauling Steph Curry on the defensive end throughout the finals, Siakam living up to his impending Most Improved Player Award, Toronto’s big men combination of Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol playing efficient and aggressive basketball, or the steady play from the matriarch of the roster, Kyle Lowry, this team was able to support an unconscious Kawhi Leonard and deliver an improbable championship to Toronto.
Toronto’s entire roster is compiled of incredible stories. Undrafted out of Wichita State, VanVleet held his own against two-time MVP Steph Curry. Siakam, the 27th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft performed as if it was his third or fourth NBA Finals, and the entire team proved that the absence of a single lottery pick player doesn’t determine success, just ask rookie head coach Nick Nurse.
The city and its loyal fans will celebrate the title Monday in downtown Toronto during their championship parade. With an estimated 1.5-2 million people in attendance, this parade will finally show the world that the Toronto Raptors extend beyond just city limits. They are celebrated by an entire country.