The Toronto Raptors are NBA champions and much of it was thanks to Kawhi Leonard.
Toronto closed out the Golden State Warriors with a 114-110 win at Oracle Arena on Thursday in Game 6 of the Finals to win their first title in franchise history.
Kyle Lowry scored 26 points to lead the Raptors to the victory while Pascal Siakam chipped in 26. Klay Thompson finished with 30 points in the losing effort, but left in the third quarter with a knee injury.
The Warriors were going for their third straight championship and fourth in the past five seasons. They came up just short.
Here are three reasons why the Raptors won the 2019 NBA Finals.
Warriors, Raptors health
The Raptors had a fantastic postseason run and no doubt earned the title. The Warriors' health, however, definitely played a factor in the final series.
Kevin Durant strained his calf in Golden State's second-round series against the Houston Rockets and did not play again until Game 5 against the Raptors. But, his return lasted less than a half as he unfortunately ruptured his Achilles after 12 minutes on the floor.
That was not all the injuries the Warriors dealt with in the Finals, though. Thompson was held out of Game 3 with a hamstring issue and left Thursday's matchup. DeMarcus Cousins was inconsistent as he continued to recover from a torn quad and Kevon Looney was banged up as well.
Toronto, on the other hand, had all of their players available and had significantly better depth than Golden State. That made a difference.
Leonard was the best player in the 2019 playoffs and it was not even that close.
The 27-year-old star almost single-handedly carried the Raptors to the first title in franchise history. The team went to him time and again for clutch buckets and he delivered. He even knocked down one of the biggest shots in franchise history – a crazy bouncing buzzer-beater in the fourth quarter of Game 7 against the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round.
The Raptors acquired Leonard – along with Danny Green – from the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for a package centred around DeMar DeRozan in a blockbuster trade last offseason. Leonard is expected to opt out of his contract and become a free agent later this month.
Regardless of what happens, that deal will go down as one of the best in the Raptors' history and Leonard will always be remembered in Toronto.
Raptors' defensive effort
The Raptors limited the Warriors' offense throughout the series.
Toronto held Golden State to 110 points or less in all six games. Even without Durant for almost the entire series and a hobbled Thompson, the Warriors still had star Stephen Curry. The Raptors, however, held him in check and shut down Golden State's role players for the most part.
The Raptors' defense kept them in every matchup against the Warriors, which is a big reason why the Larry O'Brien Trophy is heading to Toronto.