The Raptors came back from a two-game deficit in the best-of-seven basketball series to win the Eastern Conference 4-2 for the first time in franchise history on Saturday night.
They will open the NBA final at home on Thursday night against six-time champions Golden State Warriors.
American Kawhi Leonard scored 27 points, seven in the fourth quarter and finished with a career-best 17 rebounds and seven assists to lead the home side to victory.
“It’s still surreal to me right now,” Leonard said. “But this is what we’ve been striving for all season. It’s not over yet.”
There were jubilant scenes at Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square on Saturday night as fans gathered to celebrate.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) May 26, 2019
Pascal Siakam added 18 points, Kyle Lowry had 17 and Fred VanVleet scored 14 for the Raptors.
“Kawhi stays level-headed all the time,” Lowry said. “He brought that pedigree with him.”
“He inspired us tonight with monster rebounds,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse added. “It wasn’t going well for us, it was kind of a frustrating night. … But we kept playing.”
Lowry has been through many playoff failures in seven years with the Raptors.
“It means a lot to me,” Lowry said. “We beat a really good team in Milwaukee. But I’m not satisfied yet. Our goal is to win the NBA championship.”
Most Valuable Player candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 21 points and had 11 rebounds for the Bucks, who had the NBA’s best record (60-22) during the regular season.
Brook Lopez added 18 points with nine rebounds and three blocks, Khris Middleton had 14 points, Ersan Ilyasova 13, and Malcolm Brogdon and George Hill 10 each.
“This hurts,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “But what they did in the playoffs tonight against a really good Toronto Raptors team, and to get to the Eastern Conference finals, the regular season, a special season for us. We feel like we’re just getting started.”
The Warriors had swept the Portland Trail Blazers 4-0 in the Western Conference to reach their fifth consecutive NBA final.
Al Jazeera and news agencies
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