TORONTO — Kyle Lowry stole the ball and pushed it ahead, then waited for Kawhi Leonard to arrive before feeding him for a thunderous one-handed slam over Giannis Antetokounmpo. “The building exploded after that dunk,” Leonard said.
It sure did. Now imagine how it will sound when the NBA Finals come to Toronto for the first time in league history.
Leonard had 27 points and 17 rebounds as the Raptors reached the Finals with a 100-94 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals on Saturday night. His big dunk with 6:46 to go in the fourth quarter was the final basket in a game-changing 26-3 run that began late in the third.
“It was kind of a momentum-capper,” said Lowry, whose team overcame a 15-point deficit. “We were on a run, and why not feed the big dog? Let the big dog eat.”
Toronto will host the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night. It will be the two-time defending champions against a team that entered the league in 1995 and finally will bring the NBA Finals outside the United States.
“They’re one of the greatest teams in history,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said of the Warriors. “It will be a tall task, but we’ll try to figure it out.”
Said Lowry, “It’s taken a long time to get here in my career. I’ve run into one guy for a while.”
Toronto was eliminated by LeBron James’ Cavaliers in three straight postseasons before shaking things up last summer with the acquisition of Leonard.
“He’s the best player in the league and we’re happy he’s in Toronto,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri said.
Asked about Ujiri’s compliment, Leonard said he’s focused on different goals. “I just want to win,” he said. “I don’t care about being the best player. I want to be the best team.”
Pascal Siakam had 18 points, Lowry 17 and Fred VanVleet 14 for the Raptors. Antetokounmpo had 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Bucks, but the NBA’s top team in the regular season saw its bid for a first NBA Finals berth in 45 years come to a disappointing end.
Said Nurse, “Beating this team four times in a row is almost mind-boggling.”