By RACHEL BRADY
Friday, June 14, 2019
OAKLAND -- For the first time in their 24-year history, the Toronto Raptors are NBA champions.
Kyle Lowry threw his arms around Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors bench emptied in one of the NBA's most storied arenas.
The Raps beat the Golden State Warriors 114-110 in a wild Game 6 on Thursday in a game that had 18 different lead changes. They denied the Warriors their third straight championship and spoiled the party in the team's last game inside Oracle Arena.
Kyle Lowry - the longest tenured Raptor - had 26 points, and so did Pascal Siakam. Leonard and Fred VanVleet had 22 apiece, while Serge Ibaka added 15.
They overcame a 30-point night from Klay Thompson, 22 from Andre Iguodala and 21 from Steph Curry.
They did it in a wild atmosphere. Gold-T-shirted fans had waved rally towels that read "For Oakland" during what would be the last Warriors game at their home of 47 seasons before the team moves to a new state-of-theart venue in San Francisco next season.
The Warriors were playing with heavy hearts, three days after their two-time NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant made his longawaited return from a calf injury in Game 5, only to suffer a ruptured Achilles tendon.
Lowry opened the game by scoring Toronto's first 11 points while also helping guard Curry and Thompson. Siakam, who had gone 0-for-12 from beyond the arc in the past four games, charged out of the gate with a pair of threes.
The Raps went up by as much as nine in the opening quarter, and Lowry had already amassed 15 points, including four threes.
The Warriors sliced away at that lead behind some hot shooting by Thompson. Toronto took a slim 34-32 lead into the second.
The teams went punch for punch in a crazy second quarter.
Back-to-back threes by Siakam and VanVleet vaulted Toronto ahead, then a Curry jumper and a couple of Warriors dunks had Golden State snatching the lead.
Leonard, who had just four points at that stage as the Warriors relentlessly trapped him, pumped in five more. Ibaka exploded for three dunks at one end, while Iguodala was drilling buckets at the other.
A wild seesaw half that had 14 lead-changes ended with Toronto ahead 60-57. The second half would be just as gripping.
There was a long chorus of boos from the Warriors faithful just inside the third quarter as Leonard got away with a blatant travel seconds before Curry was called for a foul. Then Lowry picked up his fourth personal foul and the fans sung the Toronto point guard off the floor for a break.
Leonard managed to score 10 in a tense third quarter. Iguodala, Curry and Thompson were all hot, and the fans hollered for a victorious farewell.
Then catastrophe had struck again for the Warriors. Thompson vaulted up for a layup, got fouled by Danny Green, and landed awkwardly on his knee. The sharpshooting Splash Brother rolled around on the ground for several minutes clenching the leg as fans went silent. He headed for the tunnel and then re-emerged to frenzied applause from the crowd. He took a quick jog, hit his two free throws, then left the game for good, his extraordinary 30-point night cut short.
The two foes went into the final quarter with the Warriors ahead by a hair, 88-86. Neither team could pull ahead by much in a white-knuckled fourth.
In the final four minutes, the Raps relied on Ibaka, VanVleet, Lowry, Leonard and Siakam.
Ibaka and VanVleet provided the scoring punch to inch Toronto ahead. Lowry picked up an uncomfortable fifth foul. The Raps held a three-point lead going into the final minute, and DeMarcus Cousins cut it to one. Siakam put them back up by three, but then put Curry on the free throw line and he cut it back to one.
The Warriors pressed so hard on the Raps final possession that they squandered it away, which resulted in a turnover with 9.6 seconds left.
A Curry shot bounced off the rim, and Leonard chased down a bouncing layup. Draymond Green nabbed the ball back, rolled around with it and tried to call a timeout with 0.9 seconds left that the Warriors no longer had available. An excruciating few final seconds went on forever as the Raps and their fans all across Canada waited to celebrate.
It slapped the Warriors with a technical foul and put Leonard on the free throw line to hit the closer. Then another few more free throws too.
The Raps finally got to leap into one another's arms and celebrate history.
Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry drives to the basket against Golden State Warriors guard Andre Iguodala during Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Lowry had 26 points in the Raptors win.
KYLE TERADA/USA TODAY SPORTS