The Toronto Raptors have beaten the Milwaukee Bucks in a stunning come-from-behind win to advance to the NBA Finals.
The Raptors conquered the Eastern Conference finals after a Game 6 100-94 victory at Scotiabank Arena in downtown Toronto Saturday night. This is the first time in Raptors franchise history that the team will play in the NBA Finals.
“It means a lot. It’s taken a long time to get here,” Kyle Lowry, a seven-year veteran with the Raptors, told reporters after the game late Saturday.
“I’m not satisfied. Our goal is to win the NBA Championships.”
Kawhi Leonard reflected on his time with the Raptors. Throughout the 2018-2019 regular season, the team load-managed his games after recovering from an injury.
“I worked so hard to get to this point with the season I had last year,” he said.
“I think we just went out there and did our job.”
Thousands of fans gathered in Jurassic Park, on Bremner Boulevard and in the surrounding area during the game. Afterward, the celebrations extended to other parts of downtown Toronto, including Yonge-Dundas Square.
The first game against the Golden State Warriors will be in Toronto on Thursday at 9 p.m. ET. The California team defeated the Portland Trail Blazers after four games straight.
The win comes as the Raptors trailed most of the game. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the team pulled ahead of the Bucks. At one point, Milwaukee had a 15-point lead over Toronto.
“It wasn’t going that well. It seemed like a bit of a frustrating night … we kind of regrouped at half-time,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse told reporters early Sunday.
Leonard poured in 27 points and hauled down a game-high 17 rebounds. Lowry had 17 points and eight assists, and grabbed the game ball after the final buzzer sounded on what was Toronto’s biggest comeback of this post-season. Pascal Siakam had 18 points, while Fred VanVleet finished with 14.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, favoured to win the league MVP after leading the Bucks to a league-best 60-win season – two better than Toronto – had 21 points and 11 boards, while Brook Lopez had 18.
Daniel Reynolds, editor-in-chief of Raptors HQ, has been closely following the team. He said the mental toughness and wherewithal exhibited by the Raptors has been nothing short of “remarkable.”
“This season what we’ve seen most of all is that the Raptors haven’t folded under pressure. Never mind the increase in talent that they’ve got with Kawhi Leonard, and even veterans like Danny Green and Marc Gasol, (and) the fact (that) in the face of some adversity, they bounced back,” Reynolds told Global News before Game 6.
He said the wins during the 2019 NBA Playoffs have strengthened and broadened the team’s fan base, adding long-term fans have gone through “some pretty dark days in terms of the franchise pretty much being ignored by everyone and obviously operating in the shadow of the Maple Leafs for many years.”
— With files from The Canadian Press