By Cole Parkinson
It took 23 years of my life to finally see one of my teams make it to a championship final.
While the Blues Jays were close in 2015 and 2016, the Toronto Raptors have finally broken through to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.
The Raptors and I are basically the same age, I was born in September of 95 and the Raps first game was November of 95 so I’ve been alive the entire time they’ve been a franchise.
I’ve seen the good, I’ve seen the bad and now I’ve seen the best team in franchise history.
The wait to see it was worth it.
The Raps have been really good for the past few years, making the playoffs consecutively since the 2013-2014 season but they could never get past LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
LeBron left last offseason to head to sunny L.A. and the Toronto Raptors acquired arguably a top five player in the league.
With the NBA being a league where you need a superstar to really drive your team, the addition of Kawhi Leonard was massive.
They lost, in my opinion, the best Raptors player the team had ever seen in DeMar DeRozan to do so, but I’d say it has worked out.
Kawhi came off only playing nine games the previous season and DeMar had been quite vocal in wanting to stay so my initial reaction wasn’t one of great joy.
Sure, Kawhi had been one of the best players in the Association but could he do it again after such a short season?
And then, of course, the contract expiring at the end of 2019-2020 season was another huger factor.
It’s continued to be a massive talking point throughout the playoffs but really, didn’t he deliver exactly what this fanbase needed?
He got them past a great 76ers team with a dying-second bucket in Game 7, he toppled the Greek Freak and the Bucks to get to the Finals and now he is in the midst of a battle against the dynasty Golden State Warriors.
So while the contract talk won’t die down until he actually makes a decision, right now let’s focus on the last games of this season, both of which will be close out games for the Raptors.
Game 1, and the second half of Game 4, were masterclass performances from both the starting five and the bench as they delivered great defence and held the Warriors at bay.
Game 3 saw Klay Thompson injured and even though Steph Curry dropped 47 on the Raps, they were still able to win.
Game 2 was a dud and the Raps couldn’t find their shot for the majority of the game.
Heading into Monday night’s game, I was fairly confident, even with Kevin Durant stepping back in.
The simple fact is Game 5 was winnable but the Raps just couldn’t get it done.
Three-point shooting was abysmal all around but a hot start to the fourth quarter put the Raps right in the thick of things but they still couldn’t match Klay and Steph’s clutch threes late in the quarter.
The final play won’t be on any highlight reels and with 15 seconds left, Kawhi was double teamed which lead to the final shot being Kyle Lowry in the corner.
The ball went nowhere near to going in and now Game 6 is on the horizon.
While the Raptors can basically shove this one in the back and forget about it, Golden State will be feeling the effects when they head back home.
Durant was rushed back and is more than likely done for the series after once again injuring his leg.
No way about it, it is bad news for Golden State to lose their best player but a win in Game 5 and heading back to the Oracle has to be a massive boost to their confidence.
The good news for the Raptors is they are heading back to Oakland where they have already won two games.
Two chances to close out the Finals and win the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy is all a Raptor fan can ask for.
The way this team has played all playoffs including these Finals, I still truly believe the Raptors have a great opportunity to topple Golden State.
I’ll be honest though, I want this thing closed out on Thursday night in Oakland.
I don’t know how I would handle Golden State rolling into Toronto for Game 7 after winning two in a row.
But that’s a discussion for further down the road once Game 6 is in the books.
Championship time is fun and it’s especially fun when it’s your team so for now, I’m just enjoying every second of my first time ever experiencing it.