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Stakes are high as Bucks, Raptors meet in Game 6

TORONTO: There’s no escaping the reality of what’s at stake when the Toronto Raptors host the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals on Saturday night (Sunday…READ The post Stakes are high as Bucks, Raptors meet in Game 6 appeared first on The Manila Times Online......»»

Source: Manilatimes_net Manilatimes_netCategory: News7 hr. 2 min. ago Related News

Raptors on brink of first Finals berth in franchise history

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com TORONTO -- Twenty-one would be a very cool number for the Toronto Raptors. Before they get it, though, they’ll need to get one. And one would be beyond cool. Off the charts, historic, potentially transformative and largely indescribable. Twenty-one: That’s how many teams in NBA playoff history will have overcome an 0-2 start to win a best-of-seven series, if the Raptors manage to close out the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals. Whether it happens in Game 6 Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time) at Scotiabank Arena or in Game 7 back in Milwaukee Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), Toronto would buck outlandish odds -- this is the 289th series to begin with the same team winning the first two games, so we’re talking a seven percent likelihood (20-of-288). [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] One: That’s all that stands between the Raptors and the first NBA Final appearance in Toronto franchise history. One more victory in the next three days would validate the risks and twists of this 2018-19 season for the Raptors, while exorcising nearly a quarter century’s worth of demons. One little win and Toronto finally will break through, capping a stellar six-year run of promising regular seasons and heartbreaking postseasons. They will have earned, in the face of so much uncertainty, their best shot yet at a championship, even if it means going through the mighty Golden State Warriors. When Raptors president Masai Ujiri traded for star forward Kawhi Leonard, he was gambling not just that Leonard could recover from the right quadriceps injury that scuttled his 2017-18. He was guessing that swapping in Leonard for former All-Star wing DeMar DeRozan could push Toronto to, well, right where they’re at. And he was hoping Leonard, a rent-a-player able to leave this summer in free agency, would enjoy the whole experience enough to let Ujiri pay him $220 million over the next five seasons. It’s impossible to know where things stand on that last front, owing to Leonard’s inscrutability and a decision that’s still six weeks away. But the Raptors never have gotten this far, so there is an opportunity here to be savored, with more potentially to come. “It would be a very, very long summer thinking about what could have been or what you could have done,” guard Fred VanVleet said, framing things a bit negatively after raining 7-of-9 three-pointers on Milwaukee in the 105-99 Game 5 victory. “So we've just got to go out there and have no regrets. … One win away from the Finals sounds pretty good to me.” Sounds a little easier, maybe, than it actually will be. The Raptors are at home for Game 6 and the crowd at Scotiabank crowd, already dialed high, will be able to let it rip without any fear -- immediate fear, anyway -- of failure. But Milwaukee will be desperate. Giannis Antetokounmpo has pledged that his team will not “fold.” And the Bucks have zero interest in a knock-knock year, believing all season that they were good enough to reach and win the championship. They wouldn’t be human if they weren’t shaken by the three consecutive defeats Toronto has dealt them. The Raptors have managed to surround and partially stifle Antetokounmpo, while still firing out enough to bother Milwaukee’s three-point shooters into repeated misfires. The Bucks’ defense has been probed and poked like a cut-rate steak. They resorted again to some uncharacteristic switching in Game 5 but had most of their success inside the arc. Late in the pivotal loss, they got beat for five offensive rebounds, when grabbing two or three might have swung the outcome. “It's win or lose,” coach Mike Budenholzer said Friday (Saturday, PHL time) in a conference call with reporters. “When you win, there are things that [still] are concerning and unsettling that you need to work on and improve. I think there's just enough possessions where there's a couple of rebounds that stand out. “Can we do a little bit better job in some of our activity in certain situations. Offensively, I think at times can our spacing be better and our ball movement be better? But I would say it's like a lot of games. We didn't get it done.” One area in which Budenholzer refuses to budge, dire circumstances be darned, is in his use vs. overuse of Antetokounmpo. The load the Greek Freak carries when he’s on the floor, the activity he generates, leads to fatigue and wear-and-tear that requires regular breathers. Extending his star’s minutes, Budenholzer believes, would lead to less “peak Giannis” rather than more, an inevitable tradeoff of quality over quantity. And the Bucks need every bit of Antetokounmpo’s best, or what’s left of it in their 97th game of the season. “Giannis, it's so impressive what he does and how important he is,” Budenholzer said. “I maintain that him getting appropriate rest, appropriate kind of just a chance to catch his breath, refuel… At the end of the day, you need to be able to produce and perform, including in the fourth quarter.” At the possible end of your season, though, you’ll have plenty of time to refuel if the opponent pounces while your star sits. Said Raptors coach Nick Nurse, in his own teleconference: “It's a ‘whatever it takes’ game. It's an unlimited-minutes night. This is just like any other critical must-win game.” Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: Sports7 hr. 23 min. ago Related News

Raptors, dinaig ang Bucks sa Game 5

United States – Pinangunahan ni Kawhi Leonard sa 35 points ang Toronto Raptors para talunin ang Milwaukee Bucks, 105-99, sa Game 5 nitong Huwebes (Biyernes, Manila time) upang manguna sa 3-2 sa Eastern Conference finals. […].....»»

Source: Remate RemateCategory: NewsMay 25th, 2019Related News

Kawhi Leonard s improved playmaking has Raptors on cusp of Finals

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com MILWAUKEE -- At some point in the regular season, Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse had a feeling that his team's best player would be even better in the playoffs. "He seemed to cruise to 30 points a lot of nights," Nurse said of Kawhi Leonard. "Thirty is a lot in this league, and that's why I kept saying, 'Geez, it just feels like there's another gear here with this guy that we're going to see.'" [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Leonard acknowledged as much in early March. "There's 82 games and for me, these are just practices," he said, "and playoffs is when it's time to lace them up." Nurse's reaction when he heard that? "Now we're talking." Indeed, Leonard has taken things to another level in this postseason, playing big minutes, making huge shots, and defending at an elite level. But Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals brought something new. Leonard scored 35 points in the biggest win in Toronto Raptors franchise history, a 105-99 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks that gave the two-seed a 3-2 series lead with Game 6 in Toronto on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). Fifteen of those 35 points, including two huge step-back three-pointers over the seven-foot-tall Brook Lopez, came in the fourth quarter. That wasn't the new part. This was Leonard's seventh game of 35 or more points in this postseason. And you might recall a couple of big fourth-quarter shots over a seven-footer in the last series. Leonard also played smothering defense on Giannis Antetokounmpo. That wasn't new either. Since Game 3, Leonard, with plenty of help from his teammates, has made the presumed MVP look somewhat mortal. The new part was the number "9" in the assists column. In 570 career games (regular season and playoffs combined) prior to Thursday, Leonard had never recorded as many as nine assists. That he did it in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals on the road and against the league's No. 1 defense says a lot about Leonard as a big-game star. That, given his star status, he had never had nine assists before just as much about his history as a playmaker. Leonard may be the most complete player in the game right now, but his passing can still get better. It doesn't come naturally to him. In regard to making his teammates better, Leonard is certainly not LeBron James. And you can even say that Antetokounmpo, still emerging as a superstar himself, has been better at reading the defense and finding open shooters. In the regular season, Leonard recorded assists on just 12.2 percent of his possessions, the fifth lowest rate among 35 players with a usage rate of 25 percent or higher. And his assist rate has actually been lower (11.7 percent) in the playoffs. But over the last two series, Leonard has been the focus of the Philadelphia and Milwaukee defenses. At times, he has tried to score through multiple defenders. And often, because his teammates weren't willing or able to do much offensively themselves and because he was scoring so efficiently, he was probably right to force things. Leonard forced little on Thursday (Friday, PHL time). He drove into the teeth of the Bucks' defense, saw where the help was coming from, and made the right play. "We keep stressing that in this series and in the last series, too," Nurse said. "When you've drawn two, you've done your job. You've got to find the guy who's open." And on the 22 possessions in which he drove, the Raptors scored 29 points, 10 from Leonard himself and 19 from his teammates. "Pretty much try to stay with a consistent mindset throughout the whole game," Leonard said of his performance. "Just trying to read the defense throughout the entire game, see what's working." It was all working, whether it was Leonard calling his own number or making plays for others. And it certainly helps that the others have seemingly found their mojo. Fred VanVleet, who shot 6-for-42 over a nine-game stretch from Game 2 of the conference semis through Game 3 of this series, is a 63 percent shooter (10-for-12 from three-point range) when he has more than one child. All of Leonard's nine assists in Game 5 were on three-pointers - so he accounted for 62 (59 percent) of the Raptors' 105 points via his own points and assists - and four of them were to the dad who hasn't slept much since Fred Jr. was born on Monday. "Any time he chooses to get the rest of us involved," VanVleet said of Leonard, "it's going to bode well for our offense. The rest of us just got to be ready to step up and knock them down." VanVleet had both the biggest shot of the night - a three from the right wing off a Leonard kick-out that broke a 93-93 tie with 2:19 to go - and the quote of the night when asked about his formula for success: "Zero sleep, have a lot of babies, and go out there and let loose." The Raptors' offense has been the biggest key to this series, because Toronto's defense, when it has been set, has been tremendous. They've kept Antetokounmpo from getting all the way to the basket, and they've been able to recover out to and contest the Bucks' shooters. While the Raptors scored 1.32 points per possession when Leonard drove in Game 5, the Bucks scored at a rate less than half of that (0.57, 12 points on 21 possessions) when Antetokounmpo drove. "We've got to play good offense," Nurse said, "not turn it over and score the basketball, because if you don't, they're getting what they want, which is downhill basketball in a hurry. If we can score it, if we can take care of it, we can get our defense set up, for the most part we get down and guard them and make the shots a lot tougher." Just six days ago, the Raptors were a possession away from falling into an 0-3 hole, one that no team in NBA history has ever come back from. Now, they've won three straight games against the team that hadn't lost three straight all season. After scoring less than a point per possession over the first two games of this series, the Raptors have scored 110.3 per 100 over the last three. The defense feeds off of the offense. And the offense feeds off of the star that keeps taking things to a new level. "I'm not afraid of the moment," Leonard said. "I enjoy it." The Kawhi Leonard that we saw in Games 1-4 against Philadelphia (when he averaged 38.0 points on 62 percent shooting) was a preposterously efficient scorer, good enough to keep his team even in the second round. The Kawhi Leonard that we saw on Thursday (Friday, PHL time) has his team playing even better ... and just one win from the NBA Finals. John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsMay 24th, 2019Related News

Raptors a win away from finals

Raptors a win away from finals.....»»

Source: Thestandard ThestandardCategory: SportsMay 24th, 2019Related News

Fan Wars: Drake s developing beef with the Milwaukee Bucks

The rapper is almost a constant presence for the Toronto Raptors in the playoffs and he's been more than noticeable from the sidelines......»»

Source: Philstar PhilstarCategory: NewsMay 24th, 2019Related News

Leonard scores 35, Raptors beat Bucks 105-99 for 3-2 lead

By Andrew Seligman, Associated Press MILWAUKEE (AP) — Kawhi Leonard scored 35 points and the Toronto Raptors beat the Milwaukee Bucks 105-99 on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) to take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference finals. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Leonard showed no obvious signs of the leg soreness that bothered him in Toronto's victories in the previous two games, hitting the 30-point mark for the fourth time in the series. He made five three-pointers and had seven rebounds and nine assists. Fred VanVleet scored 21 points, hitting seven three's. Kyle Lowry added 17 as the Raptors put themselves in position to advance to the NBA Finals for the first time. A victory at home Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) would set up a matchup with two-time defending champion Golden State. The Raptors battled out of an early 14-point hole, then got 15 points from Leonard in the fourth quarter to send the top-seeded Bucks to their first three-game losing streak of the season. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 24 points for Milwaukee hours after being announced as a unanimous first-team, All-NBA selection. Eric Bledsoe scored 20 and Malcolm Brogdon added 18 points and 11 rebounds in his return to the starting lineup. The Raptors were clinging to a two-point lead in the closing minute after Khris Middleton drove around Leonard on the baseline for a layup. Toronto was initially called for a shot-clock violation when Leonard missed a fadeaway jumper with 35 seconds left. That got overturned by a replay review, and Brook Lopez was called for a foul, instead, for bumping Marc Gasol after he retrieved the loose ball. Gasol hit both free throws to make it 100-97. Another replay review went in Toronto's favor when officials determined a ball went out of bounds off Brogdon with 26.8 seconds left. Brogdon pulled his hand away, thinking his dribble had gone off Pascal Siakam's foot. Siakam then drove for a dunk, making it 102-97, and the Raptors hung on from there. Milwaukee was leading 81-79 with about 8.5 minutes left when Leonard nailed back-to-back three-pointers. He hit two free throws before Siakam threw down a put-back dunk to make it 89-81. The Bucks tied it at 93-all with 2:44 left on a three-pointer by Lopez. VanVleet answered with one of his own before Antetokounmpo threw down an alley-oop dunk to cut it to 96-95 with just over two minutes remaining. The Bucks set a fast pace early on and led by 10 after the first quarter, delighting the towel-waving fans chanting "Fear The Deer! Fear the Deer!" They withstood a 16-2 run by Toronto to start the second, with Antetokounmpo nailing a triple to stop it. The Bucks also went on a 14-2 run early in the third, with the Greek Freak throwing down a hard dunk off a feed by Middleton for a 63-51 lead. But the Raptors got right back into it. TIP-INS Raptors: Lowry now has 1,126 points in 66 playoff games for Toronto, surpassing DeMar DeRozan (1,117) as the franchise's postseason scoring leader. Bucks: Brogdon started all 64 games he played in during the regular season, before missing basically all of the first two rounds because of a heel injury. With Brogdon back in the lineup, Nikola Mirotic came off the bench. UP NEXT Game 6 is at Toronto on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time)......»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsMay 24th, 2019Related News

Raptors clobber Bucks, level East series at 2-2

Raptors clobber Bucks, level East series at 2-2.....»»

Source: Thestandard ThestandardCategory: SportsMay 23rd, 2019Related News

Raptors, dinomina ang Bucks; tabla sa 2-2

United States – Pinangunahan ni Kyle Lowry at Kawhi Leonard ang Toronto Raptors upang talunin ang Milwaukee Bucks, 120-102, nitong Martes (Miyerkules, Manila time) upang tumabla sa 2-2 ang rekord sa Eastern Conference finals. Nakapagtala […].....»»

Source: Remate RemateCategory: NewsMay 22nd, 2019Related News

Toronto ties Eastern Final series at 2-2

TORONTO— Kyle Lowry scored 25 points, Kawhi Leonard had 19 and the Toronto Raptors beat the Milwaukee Bucks 120-102 on Tuesday night (Wednesday morning, Philippine time) to even the Eastern Conference finals at two games apiece. Serge Ibaka had 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Raptors, who improved to 7-2 at home this postseason. […] The post Toronto ties Eastern Final series at 2-2 appeared first on Cebu Daily News......»»

Source: Inquirer InquirerCategory: NewsMay 22nd, 2019Related News

Raptors thump Bucks to level NBA East finals at 2-2

The Toronto Raptors closed ranks around hurting star Kawhi Leonard, turning in a total team effort in a 120-102 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks to tie the NBA Eastern Conference finals......»»

Source: Philstar PhilstarCategory: NewsMay 22nd, 2019Related News

Lowry has 25, Raptors rout Bucks 120-102 to even East finals

Lowry has 25, Raptors rout Bucks 120-102 to even East finals.....»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsMay 22nd, 2019Related News

Jurong Bird Park to house 2 rare Philippine eagles, SE Asia News & Top Stories

Jurong Bird Park to house 2 rare Philippine eagles The Straits Times MANILA - The Philippines is sending to Singapore in June two of the world's rarest raptors in a move to protect the species fr.....»»

Source: Manilanews ManilanewsCategory: NewsMay 22nd, 2019Related News

Manila loans Singapore a pair of rare Philippine eagles, SE Asia News & Top Stories

Manila loans Singapore a pair of rare Philippine eagles The Straits Times The Philippines is sending to Singapore next month two of the world's rarest raptors in a move to protect the species fro.....»»

Source: Manilanews ManilanewsCategory: NewsMay 22nd, 2019Related News

Singapore to welcome rare Philippine eagles, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Singapore to welcome rare Philippine eagles, Latest Singapore News The New Paper The Philippines is sending two of the world's rarest raptors to Singapore next month in a move to protect the spec.....»»

Source: Philippinetimes PhilippinetimesCategory: NewsMay 21st, 2019Related News

Raptors defense

In crucial moments the other day, the Raptors appeared to be finding ways not to win. Down zero to two and with their backs against the wall in the Eastern Conference Finals, they came up with a crucial adjustment that allowed them to battle the otherwise-superior Bucks to a standstill until crunchtime of Game Three: They solved the problem that was Giannis Antetokounmpo by slotting top defender Kawhi Leonard on the presumptive Most Valuable Player along with a consistent blitz, and it worked. Unfortunately, their own offense continued to sputter, and especially with the outcome of the match on the line in regulation......»»

Source: Bworldonline BworldonlineCategory: NewsMay 21st, 2019Related News

Leonard lifts Raptors to Game 3 triumph

Leonard lifts Raptors to Game 3 triumph.....»»

Source: Thestandard ThestandardCategory: SportsMay 20th, 2019Related News

Kawhi Leonard scores 36, Raptors beat Bucks in 2 OTs - Inquirer Sports

TORONTO Kawhi Leonard scored 36 points, including eight in the second overtime, and the Toronto Raptors beat Milwaukee 118-112 on Sunday night to cut the Bucks lead to 2-1 in the Eastern Conference f.....»»

Source: Philippinetimes PhilippinetimesCategory: NewsMay 20th, 2019Related News

Leonard stars in Raptors Game 3 adjustments

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com TORONTO -- Kawhi Leonard has grown into one of the best offensive players in the world, a machine that ranks second in this postseason in scoring (32.0 points per game), with an ultra-efficient true shooting percentage of 65.5 percent (third-best among players with at least 50 postseason field goal attempts). But what makes Leonard truly special is how good he can be on both ends of the floor ... in the playoffs ... having played more than 50 minutes ... while hobbled by a leg injury ... and with his team's season on the line. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] The Toronto Raptors are still alive in the Eastern Conference finals, having escaped with a 118-112, double-overtime victory in Game 3 on Sunday (Monday, PHL time). They're still alive because Marc Gasol finally made the shots the Milwaukee Bucks have been daring him to shoot all along, because Pascal Siakam had his best game of the series, and because Fred VanVleet and Danny Green picked timely moments for their only buckets on a night in which they combined to shoot 2-for-20. But mostly, the Raptors have a chance to even this series in Game 4 because Leonard was the better of the two superstars on the floor. And he was just that, in part, because he was defending the other one. Through the first two games of the series, Pascal Siakam has been the primary defender on Giannis Antetokounmpo, with Leonard defending Khris Middleton. Antetokounmpo hadn't exactly gone wild in the first two games (totaling 54 points and 11 assists), but the Raptors needed to change something. And the primary adjustments in Game 3 were in the matchups. On the first possession, Leonard was guarding Antetokounmpo, Siakam had shifted over to Eric Bledsoe, and Kyle Lowry had taken the Middleton assignment. Things didn't stay that way all game long. The Raptors switched often and couldn't worry about matchups when defending the Bucks in transition. And no matter who the initial defender is, guarding Antetokounmpo is always a five-man job, with the other four needing to be ready to help on Antetokounmpo's relentless attacks of the basket. "One man can't guard him," Leonard acknowledged. "It takes the whole team." But in regard to 1-on-1 defense, Leonard is the best that the Raptors have. And the adjustment worked. The Bucks scored just seven points on their first 13 possessions of Game 3 and only three of their 26 first-quarter shots came in the restricted area. "We wanted to take a look at it early to see how it looked," Nurse said of the Antetokounmpo-Leonard matchup. "It looked pretty good, so we stuck with it." Leonard played Antetokounmpo tighter than the MVP favorite had been defended in the first two games. "He was up and not giving him quite as much runway to get flying off of," Nurse said. "But so were the other guys that ended up on him in a switch or in different parts of the game. They were all a little bit more locked in. We took steps forward to get physical. The other night we were backing away from everything." The Bucks punished the Raptors with a few transition three's and eventually got to the basket. But their 112 points on 120 possessions was their second-worst offensive output of the postseason. Antetokounmpo, who entered Game 3 averaging a postseason-best 15.1 points in the paint per game, finished with just 10 points in the paint on Sunday (Monday, PHL time). It wasn't his lowest total of the postseason, but it was a low mark considering the season-high 45 minutes that he played before fouling out on the Raptors' first possession of the second overtime. The 8.1 points in the paint per 36 minutes were Antetokounmpo's third-lowest output in his 84 games this season. Leonard, meanwhile, scored a game-high 36 points despite suffering an apparent left leg injury less than three minutes in, either on the take-off or the landing of a fast-break bucket after one of Milwaukee's 20 turnovers. He looked hobbled for the rest of the night, but a hobbled Kawhi Leonard is still the best that the Raptors have. "Obviously, he wasn't moving very fast," VanVleet said. "But if he's out there, he's good enough." And he was, seemingly, all the Raptors had offensively late in the game. When they couldn't get him the ball in the post against Malcolm Brogdon, he had to go out to the perimeter to get it. Most of the iso-ball stuff didn't work, but all the work the Raptors' did defensively eventually allowed them to break through in the second overtime. With the Raptors up one and a little more than three minutes to go, Bledsoe got a switch onto Gasol and attacked. Danny Green came from the weak side to help, leaving Brogdon wide-open in the corner. That's where Bledsoe was looking to go with it, but Green got his hand on the pass, Leonard picked up the loose ball, and raced down the floor for a lefty dunk over Nikola Mirotic. Three possessions later, Toronto's lead was back to one point when Middleton got a switch onto VanVleet. Leonard came over to double and deflected the pass. Brogdon was the first to get to the loose ball, but Leonard snatched it away from him and took it the other way for another dunk. "His defense was probably the biggest key of the game," Nurse said of Leonard. "Offense was hard to come by there for both teams for a while, and any time you can get a steal and a breakout, it's a huge momentum play." In 568 career games prior to Sunday (Monday, PHL time), Leonard had never played more than 46 minutes. He played 52 minutes and eight seconds in Game 3, and the Raptors needed every last bit of it. They'll need more in Game 4 on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time), and they'll have to hope that Leonard can recover in the next 48 hours. "Fifty-two minutes and it's in the playoffs," Leonard said, "so you definitely feel it. When you play 30 minutes, you feel it still. You just got to not worry about it, get my treatment and move on to the next one." There was always going to be a next one. But Leonard and the Raptors have made sure that Game 4 won't be the last one. John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsMay 20th, 2019Related News

Antetokounmpo learning how to deal with playoff disappointment

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com TORONTO – Whenever LeBron James struggled through the sort of playoff performance Giannis Antetokounmpo had Sunday (Monday, PHL time), he seemed to want to put it behind him as swiftly as he could. His routine – assuming it wasn’t The Finals, where he got summoned to the podium, win or lose – typically went like this: the door to the Cleveland or Miami dressing room would swing open and there James would be, ready to face the questions, antsy to move on ASAP. Once he ‘fessed up to the shots he’d missed or the plays he’d botched, that was it. Oh, you knew he’d be looking plenty at video of that game in the hours before he played again, as a way to find and fix the flaws. But for public consumption at least, he shed it fast, like an ill-fitting suit. Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks’ young star, is still learning this face-of-the-franchise and cutthroat competitor stuff. He took his time afterward in the spartan visitors’ room at Scotiabank Arena. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] There he sat, with his knees wrapped and his feet plunged into an ice bath. The Kia MVP candidate stared at the score sheet that had been handed to him, the one bearing all sorts of dreary news from the double-overtime setback that cut Milwaukee’s lead in the best-of-seven series to 2-1. Antetokounmpo barely looked up as the semicircle of cameras, microphones and reporters around him grew with media people tip-toeing that fine line between giving him some space and blocking out for position whenever he’d finally take their questions. (“Talk,” as we say in the trade). Heck, Antetokounmpo barely looked up when Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer strode through the dressing room and tapped him on his left knee, a little atta-boy bonding near the end of a long, disappointing night. While teammates poked habitually at their phones in the aftermath of Milwaukee’s 118-112 loss, Antetokounmpo mostly let his lie there on the seat next to him. By the standards he set this year as an MVP favorite, he knew he’d had a lousy night. The reporters standing there, like fans everywhere, knew he’d struggled, of course, in ways rarely seen since his first taste of the postseason four years ago. And he knew that they knew, so… “Obviously it wasn’t my best game,” Antetokounmpo said eventually. “I’ve got to be more aggressive… I’ve got to make the right play.” Defensively, Antetokounmpo was pretty much his usual self, grabbing 23 rebounds for the Bucks, challenging Toronto’s players out on the floor and close to the rim, and blocking four shots. Offensively, though, Antetokounmpo was a mess. He scored only 12 points, his fewest in a playoff game since he was first dipping his toe into postseason waters as a 20-year-old back in 2015. Through three quarters, Antetokounmpo had only six points on 3-for-8 shooting. Seven Milwaukee players and five Raptors had outscored him to that point, and he hadn’t earned his way to the foul line even once. What made it all worse was that the game was sitting there, aching to be taken by someone, anyone. Antetokounmpo got himself going a bit in the fourth quarter, making a couple of shots and earning five free throws. But he missed three. Then he went scoreless while playing the entire first overtime. And then he fouled out just 36 seconds into the second OT. He didn’t object, either, when that sixth foul for stepping in front of Toronto’s Pascal Siakam sent him to the side. Antetokounmpo just took it and exited, sealing it as one of those “not your night, kid” hard lessons. Asked about the frustration that Antetokounmpo might have shown to teammates, if not the public, Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe said: “If you don’t feel bad when you play bad, you don’t need to be playing this game. That’s the feeling that drives you to success. I’m happy he’s feeling like that.” Antetokounmpo’s game didn’t just spin sideways on its own. Raptors coach Nick Nurse switched some defensive duties around and assigned Kawhi Leonard – a two-time Defensive Player of the Year with the wingspan, instincts and reflexes to confound any open-court player – as the tip of Toronto’s spear against the Greek Freak. Then, as expected, Toronto sent second defenders at him, the surest way to get the ball out of Antetokounmpo’s hands or force him into difficult shots. So he tried to make the right basketball plays, as they say, and sometimes he did – he dished a team-high seven assists. Sometimes, though, he did not, turning over the ball eight times. For the record, Antetokounmpo has played 31 postseason games in his young career. In the games in which he has scored fewer than 19 points, his team’s record is 3-6. When he scores 19 or more, the Bucks are 14-8. Not to lay it all at Antetokounmpo’s feet. Fellow All-Star Khris Middleton was way off his usual offensive form, missing 13 of his 16 shots. And Bledsoe matched that. Together, those three starters were a combined 11-of-48. The rest of the team shot 50 percent (27 of 54). “We have the utmost respect and belief that the next game is not going to be as bad as [this] was,” said guard George Hill, who scored 24 points off the bench. “But I know it's sitting in their head that they go for a combined 11-of-48 or something like that. We're not worried about it.” Right. Who’s even counting? Budenholzer and his staff are going to have to figure out ways to get scoring opportunities without being stymied by all the defensive traffic. Teammates are going to have to shoot better, to keep those diggers honest in their matchups. And Antetokounmpo is going to need to play more aggressively and take what happened in Game 3 very personally. He wasn’t quite there yet, Sunday night (Monday, PHL time). “Obviously I want to stay aggressive. But we stick to our game plan,” Antetokounmpo said. “Some days I’m going to have a bad night. But my team has to focus on doing their job and I’ll do mine.” Said Brook Lopez, after watching the throng swallow Antetokounmpo on the opposite side of the room: “We know he’s not going to quit or stop playing. He’s going to continue to be him.” As he talked, Lopez’s phone began vibrating next to him. He said it was Bucks GM Jon Horst calling and, in a bit of gallows humor after a stinging loss, joked that maybe he shouldn’t answer. “I don’t know if I should pick up or not,” the Milwaukee center said, “’cause I want to be here tomorrow.” Antetokounmpo has a call to answer now, too. In Game 4, Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. 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Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsMay 20th, 2019Related News