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NBA Finals 2019: 3 reasons why Toronto Raptors will win their maiden NBA Championship

Jason Mills
29 May 2019, 09:42 IST

Milwaukee Bucks v Toronto Raptors - Game Six
Milwaukee Bucks v Toronto Raptors - Game Six

The Toronto Raptors have finally made it to the NBA Finals for the first time in their 24-year history. It hasn’t been easy but they have taken incremental steps in the past 6 seasons culminating in what will be a historic moment for the franchise and their fans starting Thursday night in Toronto. 

It took trading away one of the teams best players in DeMar DeRozan for one of the games current greats, in Kawhi Leonard. It was a risky deal that may only last until these 2019 NBA playoffs are done. It also meant sacrificing some team depth when Raptors management swapped three players for Marc Gasol’s experience and passing game. 

Now, after 3 years of repeated rejection by the LeBron led Cleveland Cavaliers, the Toronto Raptors are the Eastern Conference Champions in the NBA and hold home court advantage against the reigning champions Golden State Warriors. Here are three reasons the Raptors will win their first ever NBA Championship:

Intense Defensive Identity

Milwaukee Bucks v Toronto Raptors - Game Four
Milwaukee Bucks v Toronto Raptors - Game Four

If nothing else, the 2019 NBA playoff run by the Toronto Raptors is remarkable due to their defensive play. They are tough to play against, intense and stingy when defending. It starts with Kawhi Leonard their superstar who is not only the teams best offensive star but also is their best defender. Leonard is averaging 1.6 steals in 18 playoff games, so far and 8.8 rebounds per game. 

He also spent most of the Eastern Conference Finals as the primary defender on Giannis Antetokounmpo that denied the Greek Freak many opportunities to get all the way to the basket. 

In fact, from game 4 of the ECF, Leonard clamped down defensively on Antetokounmpo. On 141 possession in which Antetokounmpo was defended by Leonard, he held Milwaukee to 0.87 points per possession. When any other Raptor guarded Antetokounmpo in 172 other possessions the Bucks scored 1.19 points per possession. Leonard is a lockdown defender.

It’s not just Leonard alone. The Raptors are tied for 4th in these playoffs averaging 8 steals per game. Furthermore, they have 102.4drtg per 100 possessions. This includes series victories over Orlando, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee. In those three series wins, the Raptors have allowed their opponents to score 100 points only 7 times in 18 games. 

Against the Milwaukee Bucks in game 3 of the ECF, Toronto won by 6 points, for a 2-1 series lead. In that contest, they shot just 39.2% from the field but held Milwaukee to 37.3%. Championships are won on defence and the Raptors are a great defensive team.

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