Raptors close out Warriors in wild finish to win first NBA title
OAKLAND, Calif. — Kevin Durant went down Monday and the Warriors went down for good Thursday.
It did not come before another heroic — yet devastating — moment for another Golden State free-agent superstar, Klay Thompson, whose future next season also could be in doubt after he suffered a torn left ACL.
In one crazy-loud night in the Bay Area, the Raptors went from their slogan of “We The North” to “We The Champs.” Toronto toppled the depleted Warriors dynasty in a 114-110 thriller to win the NBA Finals, 4-2, for the franchise’s first league title.
Five years of great luck turned into four days of blinding bad luck for the Warriors.
This final night in Oracle Arena’s history saw the champion’s heart of Thompson, who suffered what his agent told ESPN was a torn ACL late in the third quarter. But Thompson bounded back from the locker room area onto the court to shoot his free throws to finish his night and season at a stirring 30 points.
The Warriors wanted to win this for their fallen superstar, Durant, and then they wanted to win it for the fallen Thompson, too, but ran out of ammunition despite playing it down to the final wild seconds.
“When Klay goes down and out of the game, it’s like ‘You got to be kidding me,’ ’’ Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “This has got to stop. It’s devastating. I don’t know if it’s related to five straight seasons of playing a hundred-plus games.’’
In their 24th year, the Raptors clinched a major title for a Canadian sports team for the first time since 1993, when the Blue Jays won the World Series and the Canadiens took the Stanley Cup.
Enlarge ImageKawhi Leonard (r.) tries to grab the ball while fighting off DeMarcus Cousins.
Kawhi Leonard (r.) tries to grab the ball while fighting off DeMarcus Cousins.EPA
Kawhi Leonard won his second Finals MVP award, finishing it off with 22 points, hitting the final two free throws with 0.9 seconds left and raising his arms in triumph. He’s a free agent and gave no assurances of returning to defend the crown.
First-year Raptors coach Nick Nurse bounded into the interview room with his black championship ballcap drenched.
“A lot of bottles of champagne in there,’’ Nurse said.
The bubbly almost didn’t spill, despite Thompson’s injury.
With the Raptors up 111-110, Danny Green got the pass at midcourt and threw it away with 9.8 seconds left. But Golden State couldn’t convert as Stephen Curry threw up a brick on a wide-open jumper.
A scramble for the ball at midcourt led to Draymond Green calling for time with 0.9 seconds left, but the Warriors didn’t have a timeout left, resulting in a technical and Toronto possession. And it was all but over.
“I just think everything he shoots is going to go in,’’ Kerr said of Curry’s miss.
Kerr confirmed Durant is “going to miss next season” with an Achilles tear — even if he returns to Golden State. Thompson’s return and health also are a mystery.
“It’s brutal,’’ Kerr said.
Curry, who shot just 6-of-17, put up a brave front.
“I wouldn’t bet against us being back on this stage next year,’’ he said. “I’ll shoot that shot every day of the week.’’
Raptors guard Fred VanVleet officially became a hero in Canada for eternity as he delivered big with 22 points off the bench, while also harassing Curry. Pascal Siakam, the leading candidate for NBA’s Most Improved Player, was terrific with 26 points. VanVleet, the undrafted guard out of Wichita State, and Siakam, the Cameroon sensation, epitomized a roster bereft of a single lottery pick.
Thompson was magnificent before he departed, shooting 8-of-12 — 4-of-6 from 3-point range and 10-of-10 from the free-throw line. But winning without Durant and Thompson ultimately proved too difficult.
On the heartbreaking moment for Thompson, with 2:22 left in the third, he roared in on a fastbreak and Long Island’s Green fouled him hard. Thompson landed awkwardly on his left knee, tumbled to the court in agony, holding his knee the way Durant had held his left calf three days earlier.
Thompson already was playing with a strained hamstring before tearing his left ACL. Curry slammed the ball off the ground in anger.
Thompson was helped back to the locker room, just three days after Durant made that path on Monday. Suddenly, however, he stopped in the hallway, hobbled out to the court to deafening roars and shot his two free throws.
Kerr said Thompson had been informed if he hadn’t taken the free-throw he couldn’t return.
“I hope he’s OK,” Leonard said. “I never want to see a good friend of mine go out like that. I hope he’s able to recover from it and it’s nothing serious. When he went down, I was thinking about him and not the game, but we had to flip our mind to beat the Warriors.’’
It looked like Thompson wanted to stay in, but the Warriors fouled immediately to drag him out of the game and he headed back to the locker room area for examinations. He was gone soon after the final buzzer.
The Warriors took an 88-86 lead into the fourth quarter, but couldn’t hold it. VanVleet’s 3-pointer with 3:44 left broke the tie for good, making it 104-101.
This Canadian championship was set up by Toronto winning all three games at Oracle to close the joint out.
During a first-quarter timeout, the fans chanted “KD’’ as the scoreboard showed players riffing about winning this one for the fallen Durant. The players wore T-shirts and towels were handed out that read “OaK LanD” across two lines — the K and D forming the tribute to player and city the team is departing.
But all the emotion couldn’t get them past the rugged Raptors.
“I ended up with the trophy,’’ Leonard said, “but everybody deserved it.’’