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2019 NBA Finals: Canada embraces their Raptors

TORONTO -- In May 12, 1994, the Canadian Senate and House of Commons passed a law that enacted hockey as the national winter sport of Canada. This is why America's wonderful neighbors north of the border is almost always associated with hockey.

This year though, the ice rink and the hockey puck have merrily given way to NBA basketball, thanks to the Toronto Raptors, who are making their first-ever NBA Finals appearance since joining the league as an expansion team in 1995.

According to an official NBA press release, Game 1, which the Raptors won by edging the heavily-favored Golden State Warriors 118-109, had 3.5 million viewers glued to Canada's sports television network TSN. The showdown between Kawhi Leonard and Toronto versus Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors was the most watched NBA games in Canadian history.

At the Scotiabank Arena, a capacity crowd of 19,8000 trooped to watch their home team crush the two-time defending champions in Game 1. Thousands more were at the viewing area near the arena famously dubbed as "Jurassic Park."

While hockey will always be the Canadian's first love, basketball is slowly but surely warming up their hearts. And that's not a surprise given the sport's roots in the country.

Though first played in Springfield, Massachusetts in the United States, basketball was invented by Dr. James Naismith, a Canadian. And the first NBA game, then known as the Basketball Association of America (BAA) was played at the Maple Leaf Garden in Toronto where the Toronto Huskies outlasted the New York Knickerbockers, 68-66.

Although the Raptors have had an impressive list of players who donned their jersey, Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Chris Bosh and DeMar DeRozan, to name a few, they have never been this close to winning the Larry O'Brien trophy. All they need to claim their sport's ultimate prize is three more wins against the vaunted Warriors.

It sure is a hard task to accomplish, but an entire nation is praying.

DURANT OUT FOR GAME 2. Kevin Durant who missed Game 1 as he continued to rehab from a calf strain he sustained in the Western Conference semifinals has been ruled out for Game 2. But Andre Iguodala, who played limited minutes in Game 1 due to a minor injury, is scheduled to play.

Splash Brother Steph Curry and Klay Thompson led the Warriors with a combined 55 points, but Golden State got little else elsewhere, a dearth of scoring that must be addressed if the Warriors want to even this best-of-seven series at 1-1.

The Raptors, meanwhile, got a giant effort from Pascal Siakam, who recorded 32 points on 14-of-17 shooting. Kawhi Leonard had 23 while Marc Gasol added 20. Fred VanVleet chipped in 15 off the bench. The sustain their success, the Raptors need the same united effort for Game 2.

Even with the prospect of falling 0-2, the Warriors are not panicking.

"At this stage, we have talked about this, but we have been through everything together. I think there's a really strong bond of faith and trust in one another. So the players trust the staff vice versa. The players trust each other. There's no finger-pointing. There's just, hey, let's get better and let's watch the tape and let's see where we can make improvements," Warriors head coach Steve Kerr told reporters prior to Game 2.

THREE-PEAT. The Warriors are seeking to accomplish a three-peat for the first time since 2000-02 when the Kobe-Shaq Los Angeles Lakers pulled the hat trick under the helm of head coach Phil Jackson.

Since winning in 2015, Golden State has annexed the Larry O'Brien trophy in three of the last four years.

Each of these championships runs are precious, but this one, of they pull it off,would be really special as the Warriors will depart from the Oracle Arena after these Finals and move to their new home at the Chase Center in downtown San Francisco.

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Andrew Schroeder.

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