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Game 6 Turning Point: Kawhi won Finals MVP, but he needed Fred VanVleet to help

Fred VanVleet was a major factor in the Raptors securing the 2019 NBA Championship in Game 6, both with his timely shot making and his lock-down defensive effort on Steph Curry in the final quarter.

NBA: Finals-Toronto Raptors at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

They did it. Against all odds, the Toronto Raptors are NBA Champions today, tomorrow and throughout the rest of league history. Their names will be etched onto the ledgers — and nothing will take it away.

I want to start somewhere unorthodox with this final Turning Point piece — with a little reflection. We’ve grown to know this group of players from all over the world, not personally, but through screens or from the stands. We know them, and they know us as a collective. When nobody else was watching in November, or through the rough patch in December — we were, and we never stopped.

We saw the looks of disappointment and bewilderment after tough losses, but we were also there for the seasons best moments. When Pascal Siakam hit his first game-winner over DeAndre Ayton — we saw everyone’s unbridled joy spread across their face.

But last night, with everyone in the world who loves basketball watching the game, it felt like it was just the fan collective and the players once again, alone with each other. It was our moment to share.

Before that stage was brought out though, we were treated to a vintage Fred VanVleet performance — one full of big shots, feisty defense and an unstoppable will to win. The third year point guard scored 12 points in the fourth quarter (three 3s, three free-throws), but none seemed bigger than his final shot — with the score tied 101 with under four minutes remaining.

VanVleet brought the ball over the timeline and began to settle near the top of the arc. Pascal Siakam would set a quick screen, only to dart back toward the basket and in the process, drag both Draymond Green (his original defender) and Quinn Cook (VanVleet’s defender) with him. Cook thought Green was staying with VanVleet; he wasn’t.

VanVleet was left wide open in what seems to be his favorite spot on the floor. He drilled it. After the three, Golden State began making some head-scratching plays, and the Raptors, against all odds, kept capitalizing. Quickly the lead grew to six points, and though the Raptors still found time to have their classic moments, tonight wasn’t the one they’d fold.

In a lot of ways, it felt like Game 5. Except this time, Steph Curry wasn’t a chef. VanVleet was there yet again; masterful in both denying the two-time MVP attempts, and forcing the miss when he did get them off. Curry shot 1-for-5 in the fourth quarter, and didn’t take a single shot between the four minute mark and his final shot of regulation with 16 seconds left. That’s quite remarkable.

So while Kawhi Leonard may have raised the Bill Russell Award, he has a lot to thank Freddy for. The whole team does, and so do we.