);
NBA Finals

NBA Finals 2019: Toronto Raptors add their name to the list of NBA Finals debutants of the 2000s

NBA Finals debuts
Getty Images

It wasn't easy, but the Toronto Raptors have achieved something they have never done before - after eliminating the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, they've punched a ticket to their first NBA Finals in franchise history.

The Raptors have now added their name to a list of teams that have made their first ever Finals appearance in the 2000s. They now face the challenge of taking down the reigning champion Golden State Warriors in a battle for the title.

Who are some other teams that have made their Finals debuts recently?

Indiana Pacers - 2000

After years of fighting, the Pacers reached the NBA Finals for the first time at the beginning of the milennium. They bounced back from falling in the Eastern Conference Finals in 1994, 1995, 1998 and 1999 but the team coached by Larry Bird finally overcame that hump after defeating the New York Knicks 4-2 to win the East.

Reggie Miller was the team's leading scorer that postseason, averaging 24.0 points while shooting 39.5% from 3-point land. Help was given by Jalen Rose (20.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists) but while they battled, they would end up falling to Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal's Los Angeles Lakers 4-2.

New Jersey Nets - 2002

Until 2002, the Nets had never even reached a Conference Finals. But Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin and co. had other plans. Defeating the Boston Celtics 4-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals put them on a stage they've never been before - the NBA Finals.

That first memory of The Finals would not be pleasant for Nets fans: Shaq and Kobe added their third NBA Championship to their trophy case after sweeping New Jersey 4-0. The following year, coached by Byron Scott, the Nets woul reach The Finals again. And again, they fell - this time to the San Antonio Spurs big three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks - 2006

Something that has never happened in the 2000s since this moment: the two teams to reach the NBA Finals were both debutants.

For the Heat, they finally reached the stage after falling twice in the Eastern Conference Finals. They arrived after defeating the Detroit Pistons, 4-2. For the Mavericks, it was also their first appearance after falling twice in the Western Conference Finals. They eliminated the Phoenix Suns, 4-2, to reach the game's brightest stage.

It was a series that NBA fans will never forget, with Dirk Nowitzki shining (22.8 points and 10.8 rebounds) and Jason Terry (22.0 points) supporting his cause to take a 2-0 series lead. However, the Heat rattled off four consecutive wins after dropping the first two games and Dwyane Wade, who in his third season in the NBA, established himself as a star. He earned Finals MVP honours after posting 34.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. Shaquille O'Neal, after his departure from the Lakers, complimented Wade perfectly with 13.7 points and 10.2 rebounds per game.

These teams would meet in The Finals again in 2011, where the Mavericks would earn the win behind a massive series from Nowitzki to top the Heat's Big 3 of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Wade.

Cleveland Cavaliers - 2007

In his second appearance in the Playoffs, LeBron began to fulfill his promise to the city of Cleveland, taking the Cavaliers to their first Finals. James had an insane workload, as the Cavaliers weren't exactly the most talented roster aside from their young star. Zydrunas Ilgauskas was their second leading scorer that postseason, averaging just 12.6 points per game.

After sweeping the Washington Wizards, and defeating both the Nets and the Pistons 4-2, the Cavs were set to take on an insurmountable challenge in The Finals. Faced off against Duncan, Ginobili and Parker, the Spurs swept the Cavaliers to give them their third championship in four seasons.

Cleveland had to wait until 2016 to lift the Larry O'Brien Trophy, with an epic 3-1 comeback led by LeBron and Kyrie Irving to defeat the Golden State Warriors.

More from NBA.com

jimmy-butler-sixers-011519-ftr-nba-getty
Rockets to pursue Butler in free agency
Benyam Kidane
Free Agency 2019
Commonly used Free Agency terms
NBA.com staff
klay-green-062519-ftr-getty.jpg
Ranking best shooting guards in free agency
Scott Rafferty
#RJB
History of Canadians in the NBA Draft
Gilbert McGregor
kemba-walker-ftr.jpg
Where should Kemba Walker sign?
Micah Adams and Kyle Irving
Masai Ujiri, Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam
Which Raptors received votes at NBA Awards?
Micah Adams
More News