After a gut-wrenching, neck-and-neck Game 5 where the Raps had the prize on the line but fell one single point short, Toronto's best made good in Game 6. They defeated the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors 114–110 in Oakland.
Aside from the awkward closing seconds, the game was truly everything that you'd want from a trophy-clincher. It was tight and tense from beginning to end. No team ever opened up a large lead. No team ever felt in the clear. It was incredible to watch.
Tight. Tense. TEAM.
And speaking of the word 'team'? The Raptors played like one. If you're new to basketball, it is usual for a team to be led by one, maybe two, superstars who absolutely dominate their scoring. And yes, Kawhi Leonard IS Toronto's superstar. He was his team's leading scorer and he won his second-ever NBA Finals MVP award.
But in Game 6, the Raptors had four players — Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, and Leonard — who scored over 20 points. And they did that over and over again the finals. In Game 4, Serge Ibaka joined that list. Game 3, it was Danny Green who hit huge shots. Game 1? The mighty Marc Gasol.
The Raptors won this title — and finally slayed their playoff demons — because they never attacked their opponents the same way twice. There was always a new hero waiting to emerge on the team. And while we're on the subject of people pulling together...
Jurassic Park: it's in Canada's DNA
If you showed an alien the scores from this series, it would look like playing at home wasn't helpful. At all. The home team won only once, when the Raps took Game 1, 118–109. But there's no question that even when in Oakland, the Raptors carried a big advantage in their carry-on luggage.
The spirit of Jurassic Park.
Ever since the first time that fans gathered in this public square in Toronto in 2014 to watch playoff games, this tradition has grown and grown. In the finals, Jurassic Park was expanded way down the street to include multiple screens. Fans camped out for three days in the pouring rain just to gather in this one place.
Except it wasn't one place, was it? From coast to coast during the finals, dozens of Jurassic Parks sprang up all around Canada. Halifax. Edmonton. Even Montreal, a city whose hockey rivalry with Toronto is legendary, had hundreds of people outside cheering the Raptors. Amazing!
The celebrations are just getting started!
The NBA Finals ended just before midnight Toronto time. Within minutes, downtown streets were completely packed with celebrations that lasted deep into the night.
This is Toronto's first championship in one of the big four sports leagues — NBA, NHL, MLB, NFL — since the Toronto Blue Jays won their second title in 1993. Is it the start of something even bigger? After all, the Leafs have their best team in ages. And this Raptors team? It's awfully good...
But you know what? That's a question for another day. On Monday, Toronto will host a championship parade. It will be an explosion of joy, especially for the diehard Raptors fans who have waited 24 years for this moment to arrive.
Let's hear it for the champs!