After coming into this season with many questions and doubts after trading away their franchise player DeMar DeRozan, the Toronto Raptors are now the 2018-2019 NBA Champions.
Following their one-point loss to Golden State in Game 5, Toronto had no other choice but to win in Game 6. If the series ended up going to Game 7 with the Warriors on a two-game win streak, the Raptors would’ve been in trouble.
Toronto caught a break, as Klay Thompson went down late in the third quarter with what turned out to be a torn ACL. Thompson was fouled on the play and was able to make his free throws before exiting the game.
With Thompson and Kevin Durant out for the series, it was up to Steph Curry to lead the Warriors and force a seventh game. DeMarcus Cousins failed to get anything going essentially the whole series, so Curry’s main support was Andre Iguodala (22 points, .600 FG percentage) and Draymond Green (11 pts, 13 ast, 19 reb). Thompson had 30 points before going down.
This is something new, as Curry was tasked with leading the team himself when Thompson was ruled out prior to Game 3. But as viewers saw, Game 3 was one of the worst outings for the Warriors this series, so expecting Curry to wrap up Game 6 by himself was not realistic.
For the Raptors, their strategy remained consistent and successful throughout the whole series. On the offensive side, it really came down to spreading the ball for Toronto. There were six players on the Raptors who averaged double-digits in points in these Finals.
Players like Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam had breakthroughs and elevated their games to a level nobody had seen before. At the same time, Kyle Lowry finally pulled through in the playoffs and silenced the critics who had had nothing good to say about his postseason performances in years past.
The defensive strategy for head coach Nick Nurse and the Raptors heavily relied on a box-and-one defense during the series. With key players being out for Golden State, the box-and-one strategy proved to be effective and allowed Toronto to focus on Steph Curry as their man-to-man target in the defensive scheme.
It is unfortunate that Golden State suffered injuries that may have lost them the series, but there is no doubt that Toronto deserved this one. They came into the season with a positive mindset despite their leader being traded, and their hard work paid off.
Whether Kawhi Leonard leaves next year or not, him coming to Toronto is the best thing that has ever happened to this team.
In the event that Leonard does stick around, he will most likely sign a short-term deal for one or two years. Maybe a Finals victory is enough to convince the two-time Finals MVP to stick around for another championship run, but then again, maybe not.
One thing that seems to be assured is that both the Warriors and Raptors could be different teams next year. It will be interesting to see how the off-season plays out after everything that happened in the finals, but for now, Toronto celebrates their first NBA Championship.