OAKLAND — The Toronto Raptors are NBA champions, defeating the Golden State Warriors 4-2 in The Finals. The Raptors finished the series off with a 114-110 victory in Game 6, their third win in nine days at Oracle Arena.
The Raptors had four players — Kyle Lowry (26), Pascal Siakam (26), Kawhi Leonard (22) and Fred VanVleet (22) — score 22 or more points in the clincher, another efficient offensive performance against the defending champs. After scoring 110 points per 100 possessions or more in only five of their first 15 playoff games, the Raptors scored 110 per 100 or better in eight of their last nine, with Game 2 of The Finals being the only exception.
One stat stood out from the rest as the Raptors brought home Canada’s first major championship since 1993.
53 percent: Fred VanVleet’s 3-point percentage over the Raptors’ last nine playoff games and since his son, Fred Jr. was born.
That’s 30 makes on 57 attempts, a remarkable turnaround for the undrafted VanVleet, who had shot 6-for-42 (including 3-for-24 from 3-point range) over his previous nine games. In Game 4 of the conference semifinals in Philadelphia, a game the Raptors needed to avoid a 3-1 deficit in the series, VanVleet played just seven minutes.
He continued to struggle with his shot through Game 3 of the conference finals. But the 6-footer gave the Raptors some important minutes in that double-overtime victory over Milwaukee after Kyle Lowry fouled out midway through the fourth quarter, and his one make (on 11 attempts) was a big 3-pointer late in regulation.
Then, on May 20, the day between Games 3 and 4, Fred Jr. was born. VanVleet returned home to Illinois for the birth and then got back to Toronto for Game 4, having barely slept.
In Game 4, VanVleet shot 5-for-6, draining all three of his 3-point attempts. Two nights later, VanVleet was 7-for-9 from beyond the arc in a huge Game 5 victory in Milwaukee, after which he offered the quote of the night when asked about his recent success:
“Zero sleep, have a lot of babies, and go out there and let loose.”
The hot streak, which included a plethora of big shots, continued through Game 6 of The Finals, when VanVleet scored 22 points (his high in 37 career playoff games). He was 6-for-14 from the field, including 5-for-11 from beyond the arc.
Three of those five 3s, along with a trio free throws after being fouled by Shaun Livingston on a 3-point attempt, came in the fourth quarter. The first two both came with just two seconds left on the shot clock. The first was a relatively clean pull-up from the left wing that tied the game at 91 with just over nine minutes to go. The second was a contested 3 (again from the left wing) over Stephen Curry that put the Raptors up one with a little more than seven minutes to go.
The last of VanVleet’s 22 points came on the shot that gave the Raptors the lead for good. With a little less than four minutes to go, he got a high screen from Siakam. And when the Warriors’ defenders — Quinn Cook and Draymond Green — each went with Siakam’s roll to the rim, VanVleet calmly stepped back into a 3 from the top of the arc.
Kawhi Leonard was named Finals MVP. But the Raptors don’t win this championship if not for the remarkable turnaround from Fred VanVleet. The biggest shots in Game 6, along with some other huge buckets over the last nine games, came from the smallest man on the floor.
|OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
eFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA
TO% = Turnovers per 100 possessions
OREB% = % of available offensive rebounds obtained
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