The 2019 Toronto Raptors Championship Season

Well, its been a long time coming.

The teams of my youth and adulthood is any team from Boston. The Raptors were always #2. Growing up in Canada, I was playing basketball when the Raptors and Grizzlies were brought in as expansion team. I followed both teams but Toronto was closer to Halifax than Vancouver, so I mostly got to see highlights from the Raptors.

When Vince Carter exploded onto the scene I was in high school, playing ball and enamored with VC. I had the first 3 editions of his basketball shoe when Nike Shox first arrived. I even had the VC 3's in 2 different colours (perks of working at Foot Locker).At this time the Raps were tied for #1 in my heart. Morris Petersen is one of the players I modeled my game after.

I have watched all the different iterations of this team.  Damon Stoudamire's team in the beginning. Which moved to the Vince Carter, JYD teams that were adored but came up short. Then they moved into the Chris Bosh era and hope was restored. After a ton of average season with Bosh carrying the team on his back, he bolted in free agency and joined his friends Lebron and Dwayne Wade on the Miami Heat. Smart choice Chris!

After Chris was gone the team struggled for a few seasons which allowed them to draft Demar Derozen who was the only showing of draft success the Raps had in a long time. They proceeded to draft players in the 1st round that were solid but never great or exceptional players. A team of B-Level players allowed for B level results. Making the playoffs with a high seed in the weak Eastern Conference for several years but then getting throttled by Lebron almost every year. This had perpetuated the feeling all Toronto fans had of coming close and then failing hard in all sports.

On May 11, 2018, the Raptors fired Dwane Casey after the team was swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers for the second consecutive time in the postseason. On June 14, 2018, the Raptors promoted assistant coach Nick Nurse as their head coach. For the first time since 2008–09, DeMar DeRozan (who spent his first nine seasons in the NBA with the Raptors) didn't play for the Raptors as he was traded, along with Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round draft pick, to the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. Later, on February 7, 2019, during the trade deadline, the Memphis Grizzlies traded Marc Gasol to the Raptors for Jonas Valančiūnas, Delon Wright and C. J. Miles. Despite parting with DeRozan and head coach Dwane Casey, they finished the regular season with a 58–24 record, one less win than their franchise best last season, second best in the league for the second consecutive season, and second seed in the Eastern Conference.

In the playoffs, the Raptors defeated the Orlando Magic in five games in the first round. They defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in seven games in the semifinals to make their first Eastern Conference Finals appearance since 2016 with Kawhi Leonard's buzzer beater over Joel Embiid in Game 7, which gave the Raptors a 92–90 series-clinching victory. The series was a rematch of the 2001 Eastern Conference Semifinals, where the Allen Iverson-led 76ers defeated the Vince Carter-led Raptors in seven games. The Raptors defeated the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals 4–2, winning the last four games of the series after being down 0–2. They won the Finals against the two-time defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors, also the first NBA Finals series that was played outside the United States. They beat the Warriors 4–2, becoming the first team based in Canada to win the NBA title.

Though I would have loved to have seen both teams 100% healthy in the Finals, the truth is most championship teams get a little lucky with injuries during the playoffs. Golden State has benefited from injuries to key players on teams they face in the playoffs during their incredible run. Nick Nurse coached his ass off and made it difficult to score for whatever Warriors lineup was on the court.

The Golden State Warriors did not lose the NBA Final, the Toronto Raptors won it!




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