The 2019 NBA Finals were memorable in a number of ways, from highly influential injuries to stellar basketball played at the highest levels of the sport. In the end, the Toronto Raptors prevailed in Game 6 by a 114-110 margin, a victory which propelled the franchise to its first NBA title.
The evening began in explosive fashion for the Raptors, with Kyle Lowry at the helm of it all. The veteran point guard scored the first 11 (!) points for Toronto to key the visiting team in an 11-2 start.
While that was quite a haymaker for the Raptors, the Warriors were not deterred, and Klay Thompson led the way in the opening minutes. Thompson responded to Lowry’s binge with 10 quick points of his own, capped by a step-back three to cut the lead to 22-20.
Later in the period, Golden State put together a 7-0 run to take a 27-26 lead and, while the Raptors responded, the back-and-forth quarter ended with only a 33-32 lead for Toronto. Considering the Raptors buried seven three-pointers in the first 12 minutes, the lead seemed potentially tenuous. But, in the same breath, Toronto weathered the Thompson-led storm effectively.
After a tightly contested start to the second quarter, the Raptors struck first with a mini-run from Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet to reassert control.
Immediately, the Warriors countered with six straight points of their own, with Draymond Green finding Andre Iguodala for a dunk to prompt a timeout from the Raptors.
Things settled from there, however, with the two teams trading punches for the remainder of the first half. The Raptors took a 60-57 lead into the break and, on one hand, that felt fortunate considering the production of players like Thompson (18 points) and Green (four points, nine rebounds, eight assists) prior to halftime.
On the flip side, Toronto shot the lights out (54 percent from the floor and 9-for-18 from three) and Golden State’s 10 turnovers loomed large in the halftime margin. Overall, the story of the first half was Lowry, who was dominant from start to finish. He produced 21 points (on 7-for-10 shooting), six rebounds and six assists in 22 minutes, acting as the best player on the floor in a series filled with high-end players.
The early moments of the third quarter were (relatively) quiet but, in short order, the fireworks began. Toronto used an 8-2 run, punctuated by Kawhi Leonard, to take a six-point advantage.
Then, the Warriors responded in kind, zooming to a 14-4 run to take a 80-76 lead behind more heroics from Thompson and some help from Curry.
Unfortunately, a magical night from Thompson was cut short in brutal fashion, when he landed awkwardly and immediately grabbed for his knee.
To his immense credit, Thompson remained in the game to shoot free throws but, immediately following two makes, he was removed from the game and clearly hampered.
Thompson’s free throws gave the Warriors an 85-80 lead with 2:22 remaining in the third quarter, but the Raptors would recover to some extent, pushing things to the fourth quarter with only a two-point deficit. From there, Toronto kept coming, with Fred VanVleet converting a three-pointer with 9:06 remaining to tie things at 91-91.
VanVleet connected on another three-pointer moments later and, after the Warriors strung together four quick points to grab a 97-94 lead and force a timeout, VanVleet buried a trio of free throws to tie it at 99-99. The game was again knotted, this time at 101-101, with less than four four minutes remaining and it was VanVleet who again broke things toward Toronto with another triple.
After Serge Ibaka put back an offensive rebound, the Raptors led 106-101 with less than three minutes remaining and appeared to be in full control. DeMarcus Cousins then split a pair of free throws to bring the Warriors within four but, on the other end, Lowry enjoyed a friendly bounce on a mid-range jumper to give Toronto a six-point cushion.
Not to be outdone, Green converted a badly needed three-pointer for the Warriors, slashing the margin to 108-105 with 1:55 to play. Siakam and Cousins then traded 1-for-2 showings at the free throw line, leaving Toronto in front and the Warriors generated a stop on a missed three from Leonard. On cue, Cousins got to the rim for a crucial bucket with 47 seconds remaining, bringing the Warriors within one.
After a timeout, Siakam was able to get to the rim and score, providing the Raptors with a three-point lead with 27 seconds left, and Curry was then fouled at the 18-second mark. He converted both free throws and, despite a situation predisposed to a foul, the Warriors were able to play attacking defense, eventually forcing a turnover with 9.6 seconds remaining.
Golden State then took over with only a one-point deficit and the season on the line, and while the door was open for a memorable game-winner, Curry’s shot went begging and an all-out scramble for the ball led to an unfavorable result for the Warriors. Green called a timeout the Warriors didn’t have and, while that was inconsequential, it spelled the end of the line for Golden State and created the first NBA title for the Raptors franchise.
Toronto became the first champion since the 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers to win three road games in the NBA Finals and it was a wildly memorable evening for the Raptors. Lowry finished with 26 points and 10 assists to lead the way, and he was flanked by stellar showings from VanVleet (22 points), Siakam (26 points, 10 rebounds) and Leonard (22 points, six rebounds).
While plenty of attention will be paid to the injury woes of the Warriors, the Raptors performed at an obscenely high level over the six-game series and made plays when prompted in the final seconds of the clincher. Toronto will be in party mode for the foreseeable future and, for the first time in quite a while, the Warriors will not enter the off-season as the reigning NBA champions.