TORONTO [PeterPaul.ca] — The Toronto Raptors will make history Thursday when they host Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors for a shot at their first-ever championship.
The Raptors are flying high after defeating the Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers to reach the finals on the back of Kawhi “The Claw” Leonard. The Warriors meanwhile have won three NBA Championships since 2015 and are led by an All-Star cast of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green to name a few.
The rival, the Golden State Warriors, have some links to Toronto including the fact that there superstar, Steph Curry, lived and went to school here back in the day. “I look forward to coming back here every regular season and now to be in the Finals, something I’ve honestly been looking forward to, if they ever made it. So it’s here and I’m gonna enjoy it,” he said.
After struggling for a few years as most expansion teams do, a draft-day trade would bring our Vince Carter to the Raptors, marking the beginning of the “Air Canada” era. He is best known for winning the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest and leading the Raptors to their first-ever playoff appearance in the same year. He was originally drafted by the Warriors in the 1998 NBA draft.
Skip to 2004, Carter was gone and Chris Bosh, Carter’s distant cousin, became the new team leader and three years later, the Raptors would return to the playoffs again for the first time in five years.
After Masai Ujiri replaced General Manager Bryan Colangelo in 2013, a new era of success began with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan leading the Raptors to becoming a consistent playoff team.
In 2018, they achieved their best-ever season under head coach Dwayne Casey with a franchise record 59 wins to finish first in the Eastern Conference. After being defeated yet again by NBA icon LeBron James, Casey was fired and his assistant Nick Nurse assumed the role.
With the heartbreaking trade of DeRozan in exchange for Leonard and Danny Green last year, another era of Raptors basketball began. The Raptors were 16-4 to begin the season, their best start through 20 games in franchise history after a blazing hot start of 6 wins in a row.
The 2019 NBA Finals tipoff at 9 p.m. in Toronto and is being broadcast on ABC. Game 2 goes Sunday with tipoff scheduled for 8 p.m.
Key Facts about the Raptors:
- Leonard has scored 561 points this post-season, the sixth-highest total before finals.
- Jeremy Lin appeared in 28 games for the Warriors in the 2010-2011 season.
- Have won at least 50 games in the past five seasons.
- For the first time in 17 years, the Raptors swept the season series this year.
Key Facts about the Warriors:
- Kevin Durant NBA Finals average is 31.7 points per game.
- Steph Curry has hit a record 98 three-pointers in the NBA Finals.
- Seeking third NBA Championship in a row.
- Made NBA Finals three-years in a row.