I was going to write more stuff about my trip today, but the Toronto Raptors did it last night. They won the NBA title. They beat Golden State, for the third time I might add, in Oracle to win in 6 games. I'm going to try my best to make this piece just about the Raptors also. I have a lot of thoughts about Golden State's future roster, but that will have to wait for next week as well.
As I was saying, the Raptors won their first title in franchise history last night, and they looked pretty damn good doing it. The team really came together in the last 4 games of the Milwaukee series, and that continued in the Finals. Whatever kind of "slump" that Fred Vanvleet was in, he busted out of it in a big way. Every time he took a shot last night, especially a three, I thought it was going in. He just couldn't miss. They needed him to step up last night, and this whole series, and boy did he ever. He also played some hellacious defense. He stopped and poked and prodded and annoyed Steph all series. Serge Ibaka seemed to regain his mid range shot in the last 2 games. He was also good at attacking the rim, grabbing big time offensive rebounds and blocking pretty much every shot that Boogie tried to put up at the rim. Marc Gasol, while almost non existent except for game one on offense, was great on the boards, passing the ball and with his help defense. He closed so fast and clean on the screens that were being set. It was great to see an old fashioned big man play that type of defense, especially because the Raptors needed him to do it. Kyle Lowry was tremendous in this series. I know he gets knocked a lot for his playoff play, but he was awesome in the Finals. He did all the little stuff in the first 5 games, be it taking charges, making the right pass, running the Warriors shooters off the three point line and getting to the rim and foul line. Then last night he came out on fire. He had 17 points in the first quarter. He was an absolute joy to watch. His play in this series, for me, erases all the choking and bad play in prior playoffs. Pascal Siakim was excellent as well. He made Draymond, the self appointed greatest defensive player ever, look silly at times. He constantly attacked him. He got to the rim with ease and he finished more times than not. Game one for Siakim was a clinic. He made 14 of 17 shots for 30 plus points. Last night, he was almost as good, and he was hitting threes. If he keeps this up, he is on his way to stardom. Even guys like Danny Green and Norman Powell made a huge difference. Powell was the instant offense they needed him to be off the bench, and he was also harassing every Warriors guard that he guarded. Green was shooting so poorly all playoffs, until the Finals. He hit some big time shots in this series. I know he had one flub that could have been costly, but outside of that, he looked like the Danny Green of old. Nick Nurse did one hell of a coaching job in the Finals. He outcoached Steve Kerr in every single facet of the series. He was outstanding. If this was a report card, he got straight A's. Masai Ujuri's gamble paid off, and then some. The 2 trades he made this year won him a title. People, Raptor fans, may have hated them at the time, but they love him now for doing that. He took a huge risk, and it totally paid off.
The final piece of this title, Kawhi Leonard was masterful throughout the playoffs. He did every single thing that was asked of him. When he needed to lock guys like Giannis or Ben Simmons or Aaron Gordon or Klay Thompson down, he did. When he needed to score, he scored plenty. When they needed a final shot, he took it with gusto and made it. When he was double and tripled teamed, he found the open shooter. When he got hurt, he came out and played like the injury didn't even bother him. When he needed to grab a big board, he got it. He was, dare I say, Jordanesque in these playoffs. I have not seen one player dominate as much as Kawhi did in the playoffs this year. At least not since Jordan. He is not Michael Jordan, but he evoked his play in the 2019 playoffs. He was absolutely amazing to watch. He did it all at such a high level, and he did it better than everyone else. He totally deserved the Finals MVP. I mean, who else could it have been. I hope he decides to stay with the Raptors because I think they can be a special team. But, I don't think anyone would blame him if he left. He won a title for that city. He was awesome.
I was very happy to see a new team win the title. I'm in no way a Warriors hater, but I do like to see different teams win sometimes. And the Raptors earned and beat the Warriors. Don't get that twisted. Don't throw the injuries in my face. The Warriors first title was against a Cavs team almost as depleted as this Warriors team. The Raptors outplayed and outcoached the Warriors at every position. I'm so stoked for the Raptors and the fans of Toronto. Congrats Raptors, you guys earned this title.
Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing, the other host of the X Millennial Man Podcast, and the greatest basketball writer on the internet.
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