We’re running it back because they can’t.
With the National Basketball Association on hold for the foreseeable future, TSN and Sportsnet are airing the entirety of the Toronto Raptors’ playoff run to the 2019 NBA title. You can watch Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night on Sportsnet at 8pm ET/5pm PT.
Over these 24 games, fans can relive the highs and lows – there were lows, but you just might not remember them – of that magical run to the franchise’s first-ever championship, capping a remarkable turnaround from NBA laughingstock to the league’s very best.
From Kawhi Leonard calling the series against the Philadelphia 76ers, to the team improbably overturning a 2-0 series deficit against the Milwaukee Bucks, to that famous June night in Oakland when the Raptors got their hands on the Larry OB, you can relive all 24 games that made the Toronto Raptors NBA champions.
Questions about Kawhi Leonard’s health were answered for the Toronto Raptors, and Fred VanVleet’s impressive run after the birth of his son continued as the Raptors beat the Milwaukee Bucks 105-99 in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals to pull within one win of the NBA Finals.
Leonard responded to questions about his possible leg injury, and a less than stellar performance in Game 4, with 35 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds in the Raps’ third straight victory, giving Toronto a 3-2 series lead after dropping the first two games.
"He has been unbelievable in the playoffs with the (San Antonio) Spurs as well," Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said after the win. "I can only say that he's been really good. He gets stronger as the fourth wears on. He wants the ball and he wants to make the plays and he seems to be making the right plays. You're almost shocked when he pulls up at 15 feet and it doesn't go in. He's playing at both ends."
The story earlier in the Eastern Conference Finals was Leonard and the Raps not getting enough help from the bench. That changed in Toronto’s Game 4 win when VanVleet and company took command with Leonard clearly hobbled. The Raptors enjoyed the benefit of having both Leonard and the bench having big games in their series lead-taking win.
VanVleet followed up his solid Game 4 with a career-high 21 points off seven three-pointers in Milwaukee.
"It's been a frantic week, but that's what makes all this stuff worth it," VanVleet said after the game and just three days after his second child – son Fred Jr. – was born.
"Obviously it's turned around for me a little bit these last two games," he continued. "I'm getting better looks, more open looks, and as you make them, your teammates start to look for you more and more and the game kind of opens up all at once.”
With the win the Raptors were given a chance to do something they’ve never done before: advance to the NBA Finals. While it was uncharted territory for most of the Raptors’ roster, and all of Toronto’s basketball fans, it was old hat for Leonard.
"Experience helps a lot," Leonard said after the Raptors’ Game 5 win.
"Just from my input, I've been here before. I've been to the Finals, and it's pretty much nothing new that I'm seeing out there. You've just got to have fun with it and enjoy it.”
And that’s a big reason why the Raptors went out and acquired Leonard, sending away fan favourite DeMar DeRozan in the process. The team had been to the Eastern Conference Finals before, losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers 4-2 in 2016. Heading into Game 6 in Toronto, Leonard and the Raps were on the doorstep of taking that next step and earning a trip to the NBA Finals.