In their first NBA Finals appearance, the Toronto Raptors knocked off the Golden State Warriors to claim the 2019 title. Before Oracle Arena closed its doors for the last time, the fans saw a tremendous amount of fight from a wounded defending champion.
The Raptors and Warriors battled through a tight contest from start to finish Thursday. Kyle Lowry came out hot in the first quarter, but Klay Thompson had answers to his sharpshooting with several deep buckets as well.
Late in the third quarter, however, the Golden State star went down with a torn ACL, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski:
To put Thompson's night into perspective, he missed the final 14 minutes of the game and still led all players in points (30) for Game 6.
In the end, though, the Warriors didn't have enough firepower to keep pace with the Raptors, who raced toward their first NBA championship. Five of Toronto's players scored 15 points or more—two coming off the bench in Serge Ibaka (15) and Fred VanVleet (22).
Down the stretch, Kawhi Leonard iced the game with three free throws—one from a technical foul because Draymond Green called a timeout with none remaining for the Warriors.
Before we delve into the postgame commentary, let's take a look at how the series unfolded and a thrilling end to Game 6.
2019 NBA Finals Results
Game 1: Raptors 118, Warriors 109
Game 2: Warriors 109, Raptors 104
Game 3: Raptors 123, Warriors 109
Game 4: Raptors 105, Warriors 92
Game 5: Warriors 106, Raptors 105
Game 6: Raptors 114, Warriors 110
Game 6 Highlights
Green tipped Lowry's final shot in Game 5, which resulted in a Warriors victory. The Raptors guard opened Thursday's contest with a scorching hand:
Lowry's quick start gave the Raptors early confidence in front of a hostile crowd, and he didn't allow a shortcoming from the last outing diminish his aggressive offensive approach.
He put together his best performance of the series, registering 26 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds in a closeout game.
With two minutes and 22 seconds left in the third quarter, Thompson landed awkwardly after a fast-break dunk attempt. Down in significant pain, he clutched his knee and needed assistance en route to the locker room.
Moments later, the Warriors guard returned to the floor, hearing a loud roar from the crowd:
Thompson came back to shoot (and make) a pair of free throws, which gave him the chance to return to the game at some point. However, the team ruled him out for the contest after team doctors checked his injury.
With Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant leading the charge throughout the season, Thompson didn't garner much press, but he showed tremendous strength in the NBA Finals, which drew widespread praise across social media.
The 29-year-old battled a hamstring injury, which kept him on the sideline for Game 3 and averaged 28 points per contest over the last three outings. The five-time All-Star raised the bar for toughness in the NBA.
VanVleet showcased his range in crucial moments Thursday. He knocked down 5-of-11 shots from three-point territory, which included a big-time bucket late in the fourth quarter to put the Raptors up 104-101 with three minutes and 46 seconds left in the game:
The point guard made three 26-foot triples in the final quarter. Oftentimes, his scores answered a big bucket from Golden State or put Toronto in the lead.
Leonard won his second NBA Finals MVP, but VanVleet may have been the most valuable player in Game 6.
According to Curry, the Warriors' dynasty isn't dead. The team will move into a new building next season, but the superstar sharpshooter doesn't see this club falling off the mountaintop:
Golden State will have a difficult road ahead with Durant (torn Achilles) and Thompson (torn ACL) suffering significant injuries during the NBA Finals.
According to head coach Steve Kerr, Durant will miss the entire 2019-20 campaign, via The Athletic's Anthony Slater:
If Wojnarowski's report is accurate concerning the nature of Thompson's injury, he could sit out for most of the next season. Curry, Green and a few solid role players should keep Golden State in contention for a playoff spot. However, a run at a sixth consecutive NBA Finals seems like a tough task without two elite shooters, whether they're on the mend or suiting up for new teams.
Durant can opt out of the last year of his deal to test the market, and Thompson will become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
The Raptors had the opportunity to reflect on what led to their successful title run. Leonard shared a personal moment he experienced after the San Antonio Spurs traded him (per his request)—a move that broke up a Lowry-DeMar DeRozan tandem:
Lowry and DeRozan played together for seven seasons in Toronto. They took five consecutive trips to the playoffs but failed to advance past the Eastern Conference Final. Team executive Masai Ujiri rolled the dice on Leonard, who only had one year left on his deal, and the gamble paid off.
Regardless of Leonard's looming decision for free agency, we'll likely see more teams take chances with star players who have one year left on their contracts, especially if that acquisition leads to a legitimate shot at a title.
Finally, critics must give Lowry his due credit. After some poor outings in previous playoff series, he put together strong outings throughout the 2019 NBA Finals. Head coach Nick Nurse talked about his maturation process to this point:
Nurse touched on the team's overall composure and specifically Lowry's confidence, which he put on full display in Game 6. Leonard didn't just strap the Raptors on his back through Thursday's contest. Forward Pascal Siakam, Ibaka, VanVleet and Lowry all chipped in with major contributions.
Nonetheless, Lowry had experienced several disappointing playoff losses with this franchise. In some of those defeats, many would argue he disappeared in the biggest moments. The 33-year-old flipped the script this year, tying Siakam for a team-leading 26 points to beat a resilient Warriors team in an elimination game.