Raptors head home with chance to make history – CBC Sports

Raptors head home with chance to make history - CBC Sports
This Toronto Raptors team is the best in franchise history
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It started off in dramatic fashion, with Masai Ujiri trading franchise hero and long-time Raptor, DeMar DeRozan, to the San Antonio Spurs for the taciturn and distant, Kawhi Leonard.

VanVleet continued his, um, rebirth in Game 5. He finished with 21 points and scored a career-high seven 3s on nine attempts, and all in all, the Raptors bench outscored the Bucks by 20 points, 35-15. Game 4 was the first time in a long time that Torontos reserves topped their counterparts, and repeating that on Thursday gave the Raptors a chance to close out this series at home in Game 6. This VanVleet showing up Saturday is imperative to clinch the series, especially if Marc Gasol and Danny Green—a combined 1-for-9 from the field and 1-for-7 behind the arc—carry their offensive performances over to another game. Kawhi Leonard needs another shooter to back him up; his right- and left-hand men, Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam, also struggled from deep (4-for-15). Dad-mode VanVleet is the man for the job, as he has, you know, recently been reacquainted with cleaning up other peoples shit.

Emotionally, it was a tough move. The Raptors had to give up one of the greatest players in franchise history for a potential rental. Your heart probably said no, for a brief moment anyway, but the head was always going to say yes.

They say having a child changes everything, and I imagine thats true. I just never thought everything included a shooting stroke. On Monday, Fred VanVleet welcomed his second child, Fred Jr., into the world. (I couldnt find a picture; I guess just put the Snapchat baby filter on VanVleet and pretend the chin strap is gone. I hope.) (On second thought, Fred Jr. being born with a beard would be iconic.) Then, on Tuesday, VanVleet scored 13 points in Game 4. Thirteen points may not sound extraordinary, but it was the most VanVleets contributed since the opening game of the playoffs against Orlando—14 games ago. Slump doesnt seem quite strong enough for the way hed been playing before having his son.

The ambition was clear: take this team as far as humanly possible. An NBA Finals trip, something that no Raptor team has ever done before.

So now imagine one man versus three grown men. Or, in the case of Giannis Antetokounmpo against the Raptors defense, sometimes four grown men. Nick Nurse decided after Game 2 that to stop Giannis, his men would have to form a wall. (I love this song.) That strategy has severely hindered Giannis: In Game 3, he was held to 12 points, in Game 4, 25 points (Giannis managed to break through more, but still went an entire quarter without a field goal), and in Game 5, he scored 24 points. Thats good by normal-NBA-player standards and fine by Giannis standards, but actually watching the sheer number of times he was stopped from entering the lane made it clear that Torontos defense is getting the presumptive MVP off his game.

The bar was set higher than any year prior heading into this season because the team was far more talented than any Raptors team. So, while a trip to the Finals was a big step up, it was the necessary step up.

As if Rodgerss 59-second I remember my first beer chug attempt wasnt bad enough, Packers lineman David Bakhtiari then followed Rodgerss sipping by chugging a third beer in five seconds. Bakhtiaris job when hes not swallowing Miller Lites whole is to protect Rodgers, his quarterback. I imagine respecting the man you put your body on the line for is kind of crucial. And while I wont say that Rodgerss performance led to the Bucks loss, I will say that one followed the other, and let you come to your own conclusion. Cheers.

Now, they are two wins away from their first-ever trip to the NBA Finals, with a talented Milwaukee Bucks standing in the way of their wildest dreams.

Some passes were so off that it was unimaginable from the moment the ball left Bledsoes hands that any Buck could receive it. On others, Bledsoe passed on an open route to the basket. The inverse was also true; Bledsoe pulled up when he shouldve moved the ball. Mastering the halfcourt requires mentally picking apart the defense in real time, and often, especially on drives to the basket, it seems like Bledsoe was thinking two seconds behind. Hes a fake-it-til-you-make-it kind of driver, with the caveat that he often does not make it.

Whatever happens to this team, whether they lose the next two games and bow out in six, take the Bucks to seven games or even put the sword into the team with the best record in the NBA this year, make no mistake: this Raptors team is the greatest team ever assembled north of the border.

The regular season might not have been a record-setting season, but even with Kawhi Leonard missing 22 games along with the Raptors dealing with an overabundance of injuries, including long lay-offs for Fred VanVleet, Jonas Valanciunas, and Norman Powell, the Raptors still managed to cruise to 58 wins — one win shy of their franchise record set last year.

Though hes by far Milwaukees best player, Giannis isnt Mike Budenholzers designated closer. Thats Khris Middleton, who has a far better chance leveling a three-point deficit simply by being a better shooter. Still, Giannis getting to the rim is the highest-percentage shot the Bucks can get. (He scored on 63.3 percent of his field-goal attempts off drives in the regular season.) That weapon being stripped from its holster changes Giannis completely.

Midway through the season, the Raptors rolled the dice one more time, in an attempt to get even better. That signaled the arrival of one-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and one of the best passing big men of all-time in Marc Gasol.

But Bledsoes game-high four turnovers tell another story, one of impulse and forced passes and 3s. His hasty decision-making makes it seem like Bledsoe would be one of those says exactly what hes thinking and regrets it later-type hangs, which, yeah. And to add to that predisposition, Bledsoe always dials up his personal speed from intense to positively twitchy in close games, which Game 5 was throughout.

Gasol raised the ceiling of the team exponentially and his arrival saw the team jump to the top of the standings in three-point percentage and fourth in assist percentage.

Lets stick to parents, because they dont get enough love. (PSA: Fathers Day is in less than a month. Youre welcome.) If youve ever been around multiple kids or even toddlers, youll know that they can take you down with sheer numbers. Its math, as Daryl Morey would say. One man is no match for three kids play attacking—folks, kids are strong.

His addition only added to the notion that this team was one of the premier teams in the NBA. They were ready to challenge for a title this year, the window was open for a potentially limited time.

With 1:36 left in the game, for example, and the Bucks down 98-95, Giannis took off on a drive to the left. The penetration effort was blocked just shy of the paint by three swarming Raptors, and Giannis was forced to pass the ball back out to the perimeter to, well, Bledsoe. Did he miss the 27-footer? You bet he missed the 27-footer.

The Raptors have technically been here before, in 2016. But let’s not compare this team to that team. That year felt like a “happy to be here moment” and nothing more. That was the beginning of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavalier clowning the Toronto Raptors for three straight years.

Those days are over now, and it’s a new chapter for the Toronto Raptors. Kawhi Leonard is leading the team, with the ever-present Kyle Lowry, and the budding star, Pascal Siakam by his side.

A lesson I learned long ago is to never partake in a beer-chugging contest with an NFL offensive lineman. (Weve all been there.) Aaron Rodgers made that mistake courtside in Game 5. To be clear, Im not sure he consented to a beer-drinking contest. From the looks of it, he doesnt even really like beer:

Whatever happens against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, just know, we’re in rarified air for Canadian basketball as a whole. This team has taken the biggest step of all, exorcising its demons along the way.

It turns out that making it up as you go isnt as easy as Steph Curry makes it look, and that no-look passes are only cool when there is a teammate waiting to receive them. Im not sure what Bledsoe will bring to Game 6, but I am apprehensive. Can he … can he have a baby by Thursday?

And with a few big moments stuck in there, we’re watching the greatest Toronto Raptors team of all-time.

Eighty days have passed since Milwaukee re-signed Bledsoe to his four-year, $70 million extension. Only eight days have passed since the Eastern Conference finals began. Yet its been more than long enough to begin [watches a compilation of Bledsoes bricks] rethinking that contract.

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It gives you a little perspective, I guess, on life, VanVleet said Tuesday. Had to sit at the hospital all day, had a lot of time to think, obviously a plane ride back. It just changes the way youre looking at things. You are not so down on yourself about everything.

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