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Basketball Championship timeline: Reliving the Raptors’ road to the NBA title

May 11, 2018: Coach Dwane Casey is fired after the team’s third consecutive playoff elimination at the hands of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

June 14: Former assistant Nick Nurse is named the new head coach.

July 1: News breaks that James will sign with the Los Angeles Lakers, taking him out of the Eastern Conference.

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July 18: Raptors president Masai Ujiri pulls of a blockbuster deal, sending star DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl to the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. Leonard, the key to the deal, had only one year left on his contract and played just nine games last season because of injury.

Oct. 19: In a game between two teams considered top contenders in the East, Leonard scores 31 in a 113-101 win over the Boston Celtics.

Oct. 20: Leonard sits out the first of 21 games during the season as the team attempts to keep him as healthy as possible for a playoff run. Later in the season, the term “load management” is introduced as the reason for whenever Leonard doesn’t play.

Dec. 12: Toronto, missing Leonard, sweeps the season series against Golden State with a 113-93 win in Oakland, Calif.

Feb. 7: Ujiri swings another huge deal, acquiring Marc Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies for Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright and C.J. Miles.

Feb. 13: Pascal Siakam, the surprise breakout star of the year, scores a career-high 44 points in a win over the visiting Washington Wizards.

April 9: The Raptors win in Minnesota to finish the season 58-24, good for second in the East, and second overall in the NBA.

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April 12: Round 1, Game 1 against Orlando Magic. The playoffs are on.

April 23: The Raptors take a big lead early and beat the Magic 115-96, finishing off Orlando in Game 5 with their fourth straight win.

May 12: Leonard’s buzzer-beater bounces off the rim four times before finding the net, giving Toronto a 92-90 win over visiting Philly in Game 7. Leonard finished with 41 points and the Raptors advance to the Eastern Conference finals.

May 19: After two losses in Milwaukee, the Raptors beat the Bucks 118-112 in double overtime in Game 3. Leonard scores eight points in the second overtime period and a big dunk by Leonard in punctuated the win

May 21: In Game 4, Leonard dunks on Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, an iconic moment in the playoff run. Drake massages Raptors head coach Nick Nurse on the sidelines in the fourth quarter

May 25: The Raptors rally from a 15-point second-half deficit to beat visiting Milwaukee 100-94 and win the series 4-2, sending them to the NBA Finals against the two-time defending champion Warriors.

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May 30: Toronto beats visiting Golden State 118-109 in Game 1 of the Finals. Siakam leads the way with 32 points.

June 5: Green breaks out of his slump with six three-pointers as the Raptors beat the Warriors 123-109 in Oakland. Lowry is shoved by Warriors minority owner Mark Stevens after flying out of bounds. Stevens is later banned for a year by the NBA.

June 7: The Raptors take a 3-1 series lead with another road win, prevailing 105-92. Leonard scores 17 of 36 points in a massive third quarter. “Kawhi Leonard came out and hit two big … shots to start the half,” said VanVleet, who lost part of a tooth and had seven stitches under his eye after taking a hard elbow in the fourth quarter. “There’s no defence for that. There are no schemes for that.” VanVleet returned to be a key factor in the series.

June 10: Toronto falls just short of winning its first NBA title. The Raptors can’t hold a late six-point lead and lose 106-105. Warriors star Kevin Durant, making his return from a calf injury, suffers a season-ending Achilles injury.

June 13: The visiting Raptors win the NBA title, beating Golden State 114-110 in Game 6. Leonard is named Finals MVP. Lowry catches the game ball at the end of a terrific game for the point guard. “Toronto, Canada, we brought it home baby!” Lowry said as the Raptors received the trophy.

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