Keep it here for all the reaction, analysis, news and more after a thrilling six-game series.
Toronto Raptors defeat Golden State Warriors, 4-2
This season has been a war of attrition and attention for the Warriors. At times, the team seemed to be dragging itself along -- too talented and proud to surrender, but too tired and injured to mount the kind of fight it has become known for.
Five straight years of breathing the same air with the same group of human beings can wear on the most gentle soul. Five years of doing that under the spotlight that accompanies being the best team in the NBA is when pipes start bursting.
But the way things finally ended, with Durant and Thompson going down with catastrophic injuries that will keep each of them out a significant portion of next year, makes every other issue around the Warriors feel less important.
For NBA teams, trafficking in superstars is a two-part process -- acquisition, then retention -- and it's that latter stage that presents the greatest challenge. Any front office with the requisite assets can trade for a superstar, but only one skilled at the art of persuasion can keep him. Upon winning the NBA championship Thursday night, the Raptors will soon shift their attention to the retention project they've been planning for nearly a year -- signing Leonard to a long-term contract in free agency to remain in Toronto.
How do you sell someone not easily sold? How do you sculpt a pitch about external factors when the target of that pitch is someone so internally focused? What can you really offer that other leading NBA organizations can't? How can the Raptors compensate for their geographic disadvantage to a team like the LA Clippers in recruiting a Southern Californian whose preference for temperate climes is well known?
Hutson, now the head coach at Fresno State, would regularly get in his car and drive the roughly 100 miles north from San Diego to Martin Luther King High School in Riverside, California, to see Leonard practice and play.
Eventually, as Leonard's star began to rise -- he was named California's Mr. Basketball after his senior season -- major conference schools began calling.
"I think he thought we were sincere in what we were saying and how we were behaving," Hutson said.
"It's very simple. He wants to win basketball games, and work hard. He's a loyal guy, and I think that was important to him that we were sincere."
"When I first got traded here I didn't really know what to expect," Lowry said Saturday. "I thought I would be here a couple years, and be out of here."
Instead, he came and never left. Now Toronto finds itself three wins away from its first championship in franchise history. And while much of the praise has gone to former Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and breakout star Pascal Siakam, it has been Lowry who, behind the scenes, has been driving Toronto to heights it has never reached before.
Most championship teams have clear through lines that trace their journey to the top: They draft a foundational player that defines everything that comes next, or acquire one who agrees before stepping in the door to stay for a long time.
The Raptors have neither. There is no apparent modern precedent for a team trading for its only top-five player in a walk year -- without free agency matching rights, without signing said player to an extension as part of the trade -- and having that player lead the team to a title that same year. Toronto may be the most unconventionally constructed championship team in basketball history, and its six-game win over Golden State has insiders across the league asking: Is there anything we can learn? Can we replicate what Toronto just did?
More from Game 6:
Bill Russell was in the hallway. The trophy was polished. The stage was ready to roll out. The cameramen had plastic over their gear. The champagne was on ice.
The team doctors' faces were ashen. The general manager was sobbing. The heroes, the guys who hit the big shots and the man who saved the season with a block, had knots in their stomachs not smiles on their faces.
It was a most terrible win.
There were no victors in Game 5 of the Finals Monday night. Yes, the Golden State Warriors had 106 points to the Toronto Raptors' 105. But Kevin Durant's Achilles injury and the circumstances around it, both in the present and future, thudded down on everyone's chest.
More from Game 5:
It's been a balky and theme-less series, but in Game 4 something happened that would have seemed unfathomable two weeks ago. The Warriors, up by four at halftime, were outscored by 16 points in the third quarter. The Raptors pressured them on defense, double-teamed Stephen Curry, and attacked on offense, getting open shots and easy pick-and-roll baskets. In short, the Raptors out-Warriored the Warriors.
It's a daunting thing, that championship DNA. If you're not careful, you can suffocate under the weight of the possibility of that dominance. Many playoff opponents have fallen victim to a franchise loaded with stars who, when they are rolling, are seemingly invincible.
Yet one thing was abundantly clear at Oracle Arena on Wednesday night: Toronto had no intention of wilting under the pressure of the championship pedigree of their undermanned opponents.
More from Game 3:
The Golden State Warriors implemented the theft of these NBA Finals under the bright lights of the Scotiabank Arena in front of 19,800 incredulous witnesses wearing blood-red shirts and the stupefied daze of a crowd that just had their wallets swiped. This is what coach Steve Kerr's team does when it discovers its collective rhythm, feeding off a savage defense that clamps down with impunity, extracts turnovers and then transforms them into transition artistry that douses the spirit of even the most resilient opponents.
Golden State returns to the Bay Area having stolen home-court advantage with a 109-104 Game 2 victory. The soul-crushing 18-0 run to begin the third quarter highlighted every weapon in the Warriors' arsenal: the aforementioned crippling defense, devastating three-point shooting, and the kind of deft passing that keeps the ball moving and the defense guessing. It transformed a 59-54 halftime deficit into a commanding 72-59 lead that has altered the tenor of this series.
More from Game 2:
On Detail, Kobe Bryant breaks down Steph Curry's performance in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. For the full episode, sign up for ESPN+ today.
The blueprint against the Toronto Raptors was to reduce Kawhi Leonard's basketball life to misery, or at the very least considerable discomfort. Blitz him, double him, triple him if necessary, force him to give up the ball and dare the others to beat you.
It was a sound strategy on paper -- except the "others" were not only expecting it, they were aiming to exploit it. So, it was a collection of "complementary" Raptors who vaulted Toronto to win Game 1 of the NBA Finals 118-109 in a raucous Scotiabank Arena, delivering a roundhouse right to a team that so often has seemed invincible.
More from Game 1:
It's February, and Bob McKillop is about to complete his 30th season as the basketball coach at Davidson College. I have come to speak with him because Curry has said McKillop is a reason he did play Division I basketball and a reason he has been able to revolutionize the sport.
Although a stickler for discipline and a guardian of tradition, McKillop decided to let Curry shoot at Davidson with an abandon that he has never relinquished and that an emerging generation has taken as its birthright.
But he doesn't want to talk about Steph's shot. "He had the shot when he came here," McKillop says. "I had nothing to do with it." He talks instead about something that happened 45 years ago.
In a big moment, with the Warriors needing a big play to get back into the game -- and the Finals -- with Drake in his face and the guy he'd called out in his sights, Draymond Green did not combust.
"It's all about, 'Is [the fire] working for me or is it working against me?'" Green says. "When I'm channeling it to work for me, I think I'm one of the baddest motherf---ers on the planet. When it gets the best of me, I'm not so good."