Toronto Raptors: What if Kyle Lowry’s championship-winning shot had gone in?

Toronto Raptors - Kyle Lowry (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Kyle Lowry (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors – Kyle Lowry (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

With seconds remaining in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, Kyle Lowry caught the ball with a chance to win the championship for the Toronto Raptors. What if his shot would have gone in?

On June 13, 2019, the Toronto Raptors won their first-ever NBA championship. But, before that, three days earlier, the Raptors had their first chance to clinch a title.

After back-to-back wins in Oakland, the Raptors came home with a 3-1 lead and the perfect opportunity: A closeout game at home, with the Golden State Warriors in the toughest position they’d been in since acquiring Kevin Durant.

You know the rest. Durant returned from injury. He and the Warriors came out firing on all cylinders early on, but the game remained competitive. Durant got hurt, and part of the Toronto crowd briefly cheered the injury (before quieting down and then chanting his initials), putting a damper on the entire night.

The game went on and the Warriors led for most of it. Then, Kawhi Leonard went on a monster 10-0 run all on his own in the fourth quarter, riling up the crowd and giving the Raptors a seemingly insurmountable edge with minutes to go. But Golden State flipped it around with a flurry of three-pointers, and Toronto found itself down by two points with just seconds to go.

On the final possession, Leonard was double-teamed. He swung it to Fred VanVleet late in the clock, and VanVleet, perhaps not realizing the time, made the extra pass to Kyle Lowry, who was forced to fire a three-pointer for the win.

Draymond Green’s finger grazed the ball, causing it to veer off and hit the side of the backboard, and the Raptors saw their series lead cut to 3-2 as it shifted back to Oakland – where they won Game 6 and clinched that elusive title.

Pause and rewind for a second there. What if Green had closed out just a bit later and didn’t tip the ball, and Lowry made the shot to win Game 5? The Raptors won the championship, yes, but how they did it still matters. What were the ripple effects of the way that critical moment played out?