As the Toronto Raptors clinched a 3-1 series lead in California against the Golden State Warriors, hundreds of Canadian fans brought impassioned messages of support and affection for their team directly to enemy territory.
Despite trailing in the first half of Game 4 at Oakland’s Oracle Arena, the Raptors pulled ahead and finished with a 105-92 win.
But in the closing minutes of the game, the mood inside the arena began to change: Cheers in support of the Warriors heard during that first half faded as the second went on. Chants of “We the North” and “MVP” for Kawhi Leonard could be heard in a television broadcast feed shared across the world.
In fact, in the last two minutes of the game Warriors fans began walking toward the exits and cameras began showing groups of Raptors fans donning jerseys and Canadian flags.
As the final buzzer rang out, jubilant Toronto supporters came together and a boisterous rendition of O Canada could be heard inside the arena.
“Amazing. This is unbelievable. It’s a dream that is coming true,” Raptors superfan Nav Bhatia told Global News as people yelled out, “Ole, Ole, Ole.”
Raptors head coach Nick Nurse was asked by reporters about the celebrations inside Oracle Arena. He said it’s something the team sees throughout the regular season.
Nurse called the Raptors “Canada’s team” and said he was “a little” surprised by all the fans present in Oakland.
“I don’t think it’s that easy to get tickets to these games, so our fans are working extra hard and being extra vocal — and we appreciate that,” Nurse said.
When asked what a NBA Finals win would mean for Canada, Kawhi Leonard told reporters Friday night “it’s (been) a long time waiting.”
“They’re already excited with us just being here for the first time. They were going crazy after the Eastern Conference finals,” he said.
Back at home, thousands of fans gathered at Jurassic Park in downtown Toronto and surrounding streets erupted in celebration after the win.
“Let’s go Raptors,” fans could be heard chanting while clapping as some shot off fireworks and jumped on top of vehicles.
At Mississauga’s Celebration Square, dubbed Jurassic Park West, Peel Regional Police said approximately 25,000 people came out to watch Game 4 at a viewing party.
Cities across Ontario and in other parts of Canada have been holding similar events for local residents who want a place to gather and cheer for the Raptors.
Game 5 is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET on Monday at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena.
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