After digging themselves into an 11 point hole early in the first quarter, the Kawhi Leonard led Raptors were able to keep chipping away at that deficit. It seemed as though every time they had it cut to 4 points, the Warriors would come down the other end and hit a heavily contested shot, which would be demoralizing for most defenses, but not the Raptors. That was until early in the second half when Kawhi showed just how much of a force he can be, hitting back to back threes with one off his own steal to go up 2. His dominance didn’t stop there, as he went on to end the quarter with 17. As Fred VanVleet said, “There’s no defense for that… that’s two big boy shots.”
Following Kawhi’s lead, the whole team began to catch fire after a shotty 2/17 start from behind the arc. In the second half, they improved tremendously, shooting 8/15 from deep in the final 24 minutes. Aside from Kawhi’s brilliance, Serge Ibaka deserves a ton of credit, having one of his best performances all year in what was probably the biggest game of his career. He made great decisions on both ends of the floor and finished the game with 20 points in 22 minutes on 9/12 shooting, including a monumental play in which he swatted Alfonzo McKinnie, then came back the other way to hit a big three. From that moment onward, the Raptors never gave up their lead. Solid defense, and ball movement were what allowed them to stay on top until the buzzer sounded.
Yes, it’s a freaking 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals for the Toronto Raptors, but we can’t get ahead of ourselves. As put by Kawhi, “If you’re 2 wins away, or 4 wins away, it doesn’t matter until you get that 4th win.” If guys like Lowry, Gasol, Ibaka, and Nick Nurse, who have all worked their whole life to reach this point, can contain their composure, then we can too. Golden State fans know the nightmare too well of blowing a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals, and now they will try to come up on the other end of the stick.
With Game 5 set to be played in the Scotiabank Arena Monday night, the world will be on notice. It’ll be the first time in 26 years that a major sports championship might head North of the border. The first time in our 24 year history that we will have something to show for it. If we close out the series on Monday, it won’t matter what happens this summer. We will have achieved greatness. “Toronto Raptors, 2019” will be held in the record books until the world is no more. Whether he stays, or he goes, we will have accomplished the ultimate goal. The country will be on a wave, and you better be out to witness it. Times like this aren’t just given, they’re earned. Live in the moment. Go crazy if we win, because we deserve it. Us Torontonians, Canadians, Raptors fans, have waited and suffered a long, long time for this. But remember, as Kyle Lowry said, “we haven’t done anything yet.”