• Kaunda Chama

Raptors win first NBA championship

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Capping off one of the most storied NBA Finals series in recent history, the Toronto Raptors have won their first title after defeating the defending champions Golden State Warriors 114-110 in what was the last NBA game played at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.

After finishing with the second-best record for the season, the raptors were without a loss at Oracle as they won all five of their appearances at the arena during the 2018-2019 season.

The win also marks the most wins by African players in an NBA final as Congolese forward Serge Ibaka, Cameroonian forward Pascal Siakam and Nigerian-British forward OG Anunoby will now all have championship rings.

In addition, Nigerian-born president of basketball operations at the Raptors becomes the first African to head up a franchise and lead it to lifting the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

The game started off at a very fast pace with Raptors guard Kyle Lowry doing all the scoring and putting Toronto up 8-0 early on, before Warriors big man Kevon Looney answered for Golden State.

Lowry, who finished with a 26-point, 10-assist double-double, maintained his sensational performance and finished the first quarter with 15 points.

The Raptors led 33-32 at the end of the first period.

Another raptor who had a great game was Siakam, who made his presence felt during the series, and also finished with a double-double with 26 points and 10 rebounds.

He was among five Toronto players that had double digits including Lowry, Ibaka (15 points), Fred VanVleet (22 points) and Kawhi Leonard, who won his second finals MVP and finished with 22 points and six rebounds.

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The first half of the game was exhilarating with great defense by the Warriors who made sure that the Raptors worked for every basket they got. The period saw 14 lead changes with Toronto leading by three at the break – 60-57.

Notable performances from the Warriors came by way of Klay Thompson, who scored 30 points, but had to leave the game with 2:22 left in the third quarter, after being fouled by Danny Green and hurting his knee because of an awkward landing on an attempted layup.

Draymond Green had a triple double with 11 points, 19 rebounds and 13 assists, veteran Nigerian-American forward Andre Iguodala had a huge impact with 22 points, DeMarcus Cousins scored 12 points and grabbed five rebounds, while Stephen Curry had a slow night by his standards with 21 points and seven assists.

The fourth quarter started off very tightly contested with the score at 88-86 after a last second tip at the end of the third by Kawhi was waived.

The raptors were determined to leave it all on the Oracle Arena floor as they continued to push the pace, albeit scrappy at times, and with the score at 109-108 with just over 30 seconds to go, a great move in the paint by Siakam made it a three-point game.

After being tripped on a fastbreak, Curry converted two free throws and it was a one-point game with 18 seconds left. The Warriors did not score for the rest of the game and three more points by Leonard sealed the win.

With the finals accolade, Leonard joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Lebron James as one of only three players in NBA history to win a finals MVP with two different teams.

On the coaching end Nick Nurse joined Steve Kerr (2015), and Tyronn Lue (2016) and became the third NBA rookie coach to win a championship.

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