Toronto Raptors is NBA champion and much of it was thanks to Kawhi Leonard.
Toronto closed out the Golden State Warriors with a 114-110 win at Oracle Arena on Thursday in Game Six of the NBA Finals to win its first title in franchise history.
Kyle Lowry scored 26 points to lead the Raptors to the victory while Pascal Siakam chipped in 26. Klay Thompson finished with 30 points in the losing effort, but left in the third quarter with a knee injury. The Warriors were going for their third straight championship and fourth in the past five seasons. They came up just short.
Here are three reasons why the Raptors won the 2019 NBA Finals.
The Warriors sharpshooter was effectively contained by the Raptors throughout the series, who tried to trap, double-team and harass him at every step of the way.
Defenders Fred Van Vleet, Kyle Lowry, Danny Green and sometimes Pascal Siakam and Leonard always kept at his hip, giving him less time and space to shoot. The Raptors also tried unconventional defensive tactics such as the "box-and-one" -- a ploy generally used in high school basketball in the U.S -- where an active defender played man-to-man against Curry even as other players formed a zone within the arc.
The box-and-one dared other Warriors players to shoot and was most effective when Curry's Splash Brother Klay Thompson was not on court.
Kevin Durant's calf tear and later, a devastating Achilles heel injury took him out of the reckoning, reducing the Warriors' super team into a more manageable machine for the Raptors to handle.
Klay Thompson missed a game with a hamstring injury but was brilliant in Game 6 of the NBA finals as he scored 30 points in 32 minutes and kept the Warriors in the fray. An untimely ACL tear took him off the game and that proved to be the final straw for the short-handed Warriors. Curry became more of a non-factor without Thompson to relieve him of scoring responsibilities.
Kawhi Leonard has been the Raptors' leading scorer in this postseason, and his record this year ranks among the best ever.
The Warriors tried to limit his effectiveness in offence by double-teaming and trapping him early at the top of the arc and limiting his forays into the paint. The Raptors managed to circumvent this by using Leonard as a secondary option on offence and routing the plays through two point guards on the floor - Kyle Lowry and Fred Van Vleet, who both rose to the occasion in vital moments in Game 6 and other games.
The plural nature of the offence and Kawhi's ability to spot up or score off second chance points allowed the Raptors to keep the strong Warriors defence at bay. At the other end, Leonard played stellar defence, grabbing contested rebounds, stifling passing lanes along with Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol.
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