Raptors wrote themselves into NBA history books with title win

Arash Madani takes a look back at the Toronto Raptors memorable run to their first NBA championship.

It took 8,623 days, 2,026 games, and 200,560 points for the Toronto Raptors to rise to the top of the NBA.

The way this team ignited the nation, it feels like the celebration might run just as long.

When the Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of the NBA Finals Thursday night, they wrote the franchise’s name into the league’s history books and ushered in a new era of basketball up north, bringing the championship to Canada for the first time in history.

Here’s a collection of notable stats to capture just how historic the Raptors’ 2019 playoff run really was:

1. Kawhi Leonard was a force every time he stepped onto the court this spring, right down to the final championship-clinching game. In 24 playoff games, the 27-year-old registered a total of 732 points, which gave him the league lead in the category by a margin of more than 100 points. (Steph Curry had the second-most playoff points this year, with 620). Leonard’s performance ranks him third on the all-time list for most points in a single post-season behind just Michael Jordan (759 in 1992) and LeBron James (748 2018).

Leonard also led the league in field goals made (243), free throws made (191), and steals (40) this spring.

2. Leonard averaged 30.5 points per game this post-season, tallying at least 30 points in 14 games. That ties him for third place on the list of most 30-point games in NBA playoff history behind Michael Jordan (16, 1992), Hakeem Olajuwon (16, 1995) and Kobe Bryant (15, 2009).

3. With a performance like that, it wasn’t a surprise to hear NBA commissioner Adam Silver call on Kawhi when announcing Finals MVP. This was his second MVP nod — his first came in 2014 with the San Antonio Spurs — putting him in elite territory with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Bucks, Lakers) and LeBron James (Heat, Cavaliers) as just the third player to win the award with two different teams.

4. Whether he’s in the East or the West, The King of the North is a winner — and he stands alone as the first player in NBA history to win Finals MVP in both conferences.

5. Pascal Siakam certainly brought the heat this post-season, going from G-League title winner in 2017 to the top of the NBA just two years later. Pair him with Leonard, and you’ve got an all-time duo worthy of MJ/Pippen-type hype.

6. Fred VanVleet was part of that 2017 G-League victory with Siakam, too — and just like Spicy P, he captured the hearts of basketball fans across Canada and around the league. His tough-as-nails performance all post-season is the stuff of legends, as was his three-point shooting.

7. VanVleet’s best effort came during a remarkable fourth quarter to close out Game 6, which saw him become the fifth player since 2007 to tally 12 or more points in the final frame of a series-clinching game. (Manu Ginobili, Ray Allen, Tony Parker, and Steph Curry are the others.)

8. Speaking of fan favourites… In the past 30 years, three different players have scored 25 points and 10 assists in an NBA Finals clinching victory. Steph Curry did it 2017, LeBron James did it twice (first with the Heat in 2012 and then with the Cavaliers in 2016) and Michael Jordan accomplished the feat in 1991. The fourth? That would be Kyle Lowry. His 26 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and four three-pointers propelled the Raptors to the top Thursday night.

Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry share a cool moment with the MVP trophy. #WeTheNorth (: @rachel_nichols)

21.6k Likes, 222 Comments – Sportsnet (@sportsnet) on Instagram: “Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry share a cool moment with the MVP trophy. #WeTheNorth (:…”

9. It certainly wasn’t an easy journey to the Finals — the Raptors were down, but never out. In fact, Toronto is the the first team in league history to win the title after trailing in each series leading up to the Finals.

They started down 1-0 to the Magic in Round 1 before winning four straight, were down 2-1 to the 76ers in the second round before taking it to seven games, and dug themselves out of a 2-0 hole with four straight wins to beat the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Final.

They also conquered both No. 1 seeds (Milwaukee and Golden State) enroute to the title, making them the sixth team to in NBA history to do so.

10. The Raptors’ home crowd is unparalleled — just look at the record-breaking merchandise sales — but their best success against the Warriors came on the road:

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