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It’s not over time for Raptors after Game 3 gut-check win, Reports

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It’s not over time for Raptors after Game 3 gut-check win | The Star


Kawhi Leonard found another gear in overtime and wound up with a game-high 36 points in the Raptors’ double-OT win in Game 3.

After everything, with the season on the line, the Toronto Raptors had a question to answer. Under the greatest pressure, what do you have? Who are you? They had found a four-bounce answer in Game 7 against Philadelphia, but this was different. The Milwaukee Bucks presented so many problems. It was so hard to solve them all.

And in double overtime, Toronto found out what was left. Pascal Siakam, re-energized, drove at the great Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Giannis fouled out. Marc Gasol, reborn, hit a three. Danny Green, lost, dug out a steal. Kawhi Leonard, hobbling, dunked. He stole a ball and dunked again. With a minute left, Toronto led by two.

And Siakam, in his 51st minute, flew to block Brook Lopez at the rim; Kawhi, in his 52nd, bulled to the rim for a four-point lead, and finished a Bucks shot-clock violation. Toronto couldn’t put Milwaukee away in Game 1, and ran out of either gas or steering fluid, whichever one applied. This time, the Raptors outlasted Milwaukee 118-112. They now trail the series two games to one. They’re alive.

They had a chance to put it away in regulation. Toronto was up 96-94 with 38.7 seconds left, and the ball, when Fred VanVleet missed his eighth shot of the game. Siakam then missed two free throws, and Milwaukee tied the game with 2.2 seconds left when Khris Middleton put in his own rebound on a drive.

They had a chance to seal it in the first OT, too. But Kawhi missed a long three, and a pullup jumper at the buzzer. Toronto trailed 2-0 in the series. Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final was the season.

And by double overtime, they had so little left. Kyle Lowry had fouled out. Green was only in the game because Norm Powell, one-game hero, had fouled out, too. At least Green had hit his first shot of the game in OT. Similarly, VanVleet had hit his only shot down the stretch. Serge Ibaka wasn’t hitting; Gasol had five fouls. What was left?

They found out. Giannis was held to 12 points on 5-of-16 shooting and 20 rebounds; Kawhi guarded him plenty, and had 36 on 11-of-25 shooting, nine rebounds and five assists. Siakam had 25 and 11 rebounds, and Gasol finished with 16 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. After his talk of changes, coach Nick Nurse went with the starting unit that was created in the final quarter of the season, and carried them here. Gasol had been 3-for-20 in the series and played one of the worst games of his career in Game 2, to the point where his finely calibrated game sense went haywire.

But at least he only played 19 minutes, and got some rest, and he was back in the starting lineup. Green was the other question mark — he had made six shots in his previous four games — and despite some early defensive digging, he couldn’t make a shot. So he gave way, after some early misses, to Powell, who would score 19.

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Otherwise, it was about the Raptors being the Raptors, and not being afraid to be the Raptors. Gasol hit his first two threes, and hit some cutters for layups, and his mere existence as a threat opened up the lane some for Siakam. Siakam was therefore back to being what he has blossomed into this season: a spinning, driving, leaping electric eel, rather than a stationary three-point shooter, marooned in the corner.

“I think, again, we’ve got to be more aggressive,” Nurse before the game. “I think we’ve limited our chances at (Giannis). Obviously, he’s a great defender, shot blocker and he’s long, but it’s not like he’s impossible to score on. Even with (Brook) Lopez, we’ve got to take it in there with a little more physicality, courage — did I say physicality yet?

“We’ve got to play our style, aggressive … We need some of the other guys to do it as well.”

We’ve got to play our style, aggressive — words to live by when your season’s effectively on the line. Having Norm go off in approximately one playoff game per year with preposterous, admirable confidence is also a Raptors identity, or a near-annual tradition. (Game 7 against Indiana, 2016, Game 5 against Milwaukee 2017, and this game.) This is Norm. The lesson: Be who you are.

For the Raptors, that was the question. After a season of mixing and matching, of figuring out how to beat different teams different ways, of experimentation, the Raptors finally were confronted with the simplest thing: one team, one game, and what are you? Asked about this before the game, Nurse pointed to one indicator.

“Physicality, defence and great communication,” he said. “Our coverages get executed. There’s just no slippage. We’re just on point, we’re into bodies, we’re moving our feet, it’s a great team defence. That’s what I see.”

That was missing in Game 2, the same way it was missing in Game 1 against Orlando, and Game 3 and 6 against Philadelphia, and every time this team had enough collective purpose and trust and pride to respond like the next game was all that mattered. They did. And still, the Bucks wouldn’t go away. The game got ragged in the third, and the offence stalled, and every possession started to feel heavy. The lead was 77-75 entering the fourth.

The last time they were down to their season on the line, in Game 7 against Philadelphia, the Raptors relied on three things: that D, five great minutes from Lowry, and Kawhi with the ball, over and over, right until the last four bounces, and the end. The Bucks make Kawhi taking 39 shots a near-impossible kamikaze mission. They needed every bit of everyone.

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They got enough of them, just. Game 4 is Tuesday, and the season will more or less be on the line again.

Bruce Arthur is a Toronto-based sports columnist. Follow him on Twitter: @bruce_arthur

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And by double overtime, they had so little left. Kyle Lowry had fouled out. Green was only in the game because Norm Powell, one-game hero, had fouled out, too. At least Green had hit his first shot of the game in OT. Similarly, VanVleet had hit his only shot down the stretch. Serge Ibaka wasn’t hitting; Gasol had five fouls. What was left?

They found out. Giannis was held to 12 points on 5-of-16 shooting and 20 rebounds; Kawhi guarded him plenty, and had 36 on 11-of-25 shooting, nine rebounds and five assists. Siakam had 25 and 11 rebounds, and Gasol finished with 16 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. After his talk of changes, coach Nick Nurse went with the starting unit that was created in the final quarter of the season, and carried them here. Gasol had been 3-for-20 in the series and played one of the worst games of his career in Game 2, to the point where his finely calibrated game sense went haywire.

But at least he only played 19 minutes, and got some rest, and he was back in the starting lineup. Green was the other question mark — he had made six shots in his previous four games — and despite some early defensive digging, he couldn’t make a shot. So he gave way, after some early misses, to Powell, who would score 19.

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Otherwise, it was about the Raptors being the Raptors, and not being afraid to be the Raptors. Gasol hit his first two threes, and hit some cutters for layups, and his mere existence as a threat opened up the lane some for Siakam. Siakam was therefore back to being what he has blossomed into this season: a spinning, driving, leaping electric eel, rather than a stationary three-point shooter, marooned in the corner.

“I think, again, we’ve got to be more aggressive,” Nurse before the game. “I think we’ve limited our chances at (Giannis). Obviously, he’s a great defender, shot blocker and he’s long, but it’s not like he’s impossible to score on. Even with (Brook) Lopez, we’ve got to take it in there with a little more physicality, courage — did I say physicality yet?

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“We’ve got to play our style, aggressive … We need some of the other guys to do it as well.”

We’ve got to play our style, aggressive — words to live by when your season’s effectively on the line. Having Norm go off in approximately one playoff game per year with preposterous, admirable confidence is also a Raptors identity, or a near-annual tradition. (Game 7 against Indiana, 2016, Game 5 against Milwaukee 2017, and this game.) This is Norm. The lesson: Be who you are.

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For the Raptors, that was the question. After a season of mixing and matching, of figuring out how to beat different teams different ways, of experimentation, the Raptors finally were confronted with the simplest thing: one team, one game, and what are you? Asked about this before the game, Nurse pointed to one indicator.

“Physicality, defence and great communication,” he said. “Our coverages get executed. There’s just no slippage. We’re just on point, we’re into bodies, we’re moving our feet, it’s a great team defence. That’s what I see.”

That was missing in Game 2, the same way it was missing in Game 1 against Orlando, and Game 3 and 6 against Philadelphia, and every time this team had enough collective purpose and trust and pride to respond like the next game was all that mattered. They did. And still, the Bucks wouldn’t go away. The game got ragged in the third, and the offence stalled, and every possession started to feel heavy. The lead was 77-75 entering the fourth.

The last time they were down to their season on the line, in Game 7 against Philadelphia, the Raptors relied on three things: that D, five great minutes from Lowry, and Kawhi with the ball, over and over, right until the last four bounces, and the end. The Bucks make Kawhi taking 39 shots a near-impossible kamikaze mission. They needed every bit of everyone.

They got enough of them, just. Game 4 is Tuesday, and the season will more or less be on the line again.

Bruce Arthur is a Toronto-based sports columnist. Follow him on Twitter: @bruce_arthur

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https://www.thestar.com/sports/raptors/opinion/2019/05/19/its-not-over-time-for-raptors-after-game-3-gut-check-win.html

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