To know the high-water mark of Canadian basketball, one may have to go all the way back to the 19th century when Ontario man James Naismith invented the sport.
More than a century later, after the birth of hoops the country north of the US border is celebrating a milestone like no other — an NBA championship.
Kyle Lowry scored 26 points and Fred VanVleet contributed 22 and a number of clutch baskets late, as the Toronto Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors 114-110 on Thursday (Friday, Manila time) to dethrone the defending champions and raise the Larry O'Brien trophy for the first time.
It took a hot start by Lowry and some timely shot-making by VanVleet in the fourth quarter in Game 6 to put a heartbreaking end to Game 5 behind them.
And with it, 24 years of frustration was put to the backburner as Toronto, forever known as a hockey town, can call itself kings of basketball.
Lowry scored 15 in a hot-shooting first quarter, and VanVleet saved his best for last, tallying 12 points in the fourth, to survive Golden State, which lost Klay Thompson to a leg injury in the third quarter.
Kawhi Leonard added 22 points, his 2 free throws at the end sealing the title.
Thompson finished with 30 points to lead the Warriors.
Andre Iguodala contributed 22 points, and Steph Curry added 21 points but shot just 6 of 17 from the field.
Draymond Green recorded a second straight triple-double with 11 points, 19 rebounds and 13 assists.
The Warriors put up a valiant effort in their last game at Oracle Arena without Kevin Durant, who ruptured his right Achilles tendon in Game 5, and for the final 14:22 without Thompson.
The game was tied three times in the fourth quarter before VanVleet buried his fifth 3-pointer of the game for a 104-101 Raptors advantage.
Toronto went on to lead by as many as six before a 3-pointer by Draymond Green cut the deficit in half, and the Warriors rallied within 111-110 with 18.5 seconds left.
Golden State then forced a Toronto turnover on a bad pass from Danny Green with 9.6 seconds to go, but Curry misfired on a 3-point attempt. After a scramble for the ball, the Warriors were assessed a technical foul for calling a timeout with 0.9 seconds remaining when they had none left.
Leonard made it a two-point game by making the free throw, then added two more after getting fouled on the inbounds pass to secure Toronto's third road win in the series. No team had accomplished that feat since the Los Angeles Lakers in 2001.
Leonard, who was chosen the Finals MVP, heads into free agency this summer. He said postgame, "I'm going to enjoy this with my teammates and coaches, and I'll think about that later."
The last five games were won by the road team, the longest streak of road victories in a single Finals, according to the ABC broadcast.
Siakam had 10 rebounds and Lowry 10 assists to complete double-double performances for the Raptors, who outscored the Warriors 39-33 on 3-pointers.
Serge Ibaka was a fifth Raptor in double figures with 15.
The game formally closed Oracle Arena as an NBA home for the Warriors, who are moving to the Chase Center in San Francisco next season after playing in Oakland over a 47-year span.
The Warriors, two-time defending champions, managed to take an 88-86 lead into the final period despite losing Thompson with 2:22 remaining in the third on a dunk attempt on which he was bumped by Danny Green.
Thompson had his left knee buckle upon landing, and he immediately fell to the floor in serious pain.
After initially heading to the locker room, Thompson returned to the court to make two free throws, which put the Warriors up 85-80 before Golden State took an intentional foul so that he would leave the game.
He never returned.
A tightly contested first half featured 21 points by Lowry and 9-for-18 shooting on 3-pointers by the Raptors, but also 14 lead changes and just a 60-57 Toronto lead.
Thompson had 18 points in the half, during which neither team led by more than nine. — With a report from Dave Del Grande, Field Level Media
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