TORONTO — Pascal Siakam scored a playoff career-high 32 points and the Toronto Raptors won the first NBA Finals game played outside the U.S., beating the Golden State Warriors 118-109 on Thursday night.
The Raptors hardly looked like newcomers to the NBA’s biggest stage, controlling the action most of the way against a Golden State team beginning its fifth straight NBA Finals appearance.
Kawhi Leonard added 23 points and Marc Gasol had 20 for the Raptors.
Stephen Curry scored 34 points and Klay Thompson had 21 for the Warriors, who had won all four Game 1s in the last four years. All those had come at home, but this time Golden State doesn’t have home-court — or home country — advantage.
Game 2 is Sunday night in Toronto, which is hosting an NBA Finals game for the first time after the Raptors entered the league as an expansion team in 1995.
The Raptors were perhaps a little jittery at the start, with Kyle Lowry firing a pass well out of bounds on their first possession.
But they quickly settled in afterward, building a 10-point lead by halftime. surging to an 18-11 lead before the Warriors came right back with eight in a row. Siakam then went 6 for 6 in the third quarter to keep Golden State from gaining much ground, and the Raptors kept their lead around double digits for much of the final quarter, countering every attempt the Warriors made to catch up.
All four of the Warriors’ previous finals were against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, and they struggled to figure out a new opponent. Toronto shot 50.6 percent from the field and the Warriors never found an answer for Siakam, the finalist for Most Improved Player who has a nice start for an NBA Finals MVP resume.
The player nicknamed Spicy P was red hot, shooting 14 for 17 from the field — and he tipped in his own shot on the last of those misses with 54 seconds to play.
The party 24 years in the making started early, with fans arriving at Jurassic Park outside the arena in the morning. There were lengthy lines at the arena entrances hours before the game, with some of the few fans who weren’t wearing Raptors red sticking to their original purple uniform with the dinosaur logo.
The Raptors introduced some of their former players after the first quarter, a group that included perennial All-Stars such as Tracy McGrady and Chris Bosh.
But it wasn’t until they went out and got Leonard in a trade with San Antonio that Toronto was finally good enough to get to the NBA Finals.
He wasn’t the dominant force he was in the first three rounds, when he averaged 31.2 points. But he had eight rebounds and five assists in his first NBA Finals game since winning MVP of the 2014 championship with the Spurs.
DeMarcus Cousins made it back from a torn left quadriceps to come off the bench in his first NBA Finals game, but the Warriors remained without Kevin Durant, the MVP of the last two NBA Finals. He traveled to Toronto but it’s unclear if he’ll play before the series returns to the Bay Area, with coach Steve Kerr saying he would have to go through a practice first.