Fan Duel Toronto Raptors

Morning Coffee – Mon, May 27

Still tripping over the finals, and frankly, still hungover from game 6.

Still tripping over the finals, and frankly, still hungover from game 6.

Kawhi’s ‘Uncle Dennis’ opens up about the NBA superstar – Yahoo

The trade request was made in June 2018 and playing near home in Los Angeles was Leonard’s main preference.

But about a month later, Masai Ujiri, the Raptors’ president of basketball operations, made a bold move, trading star guard DeMar DeRozan — the most accomplished player in the franchise’s history — in exchange for Leonard in a three-player deal.

It was a risky maneuver, swapping a star who adored Toronto for a star who isn’t a fan of cold weather.

As reported at the time, Leonard originally wasn’t keen on relocating to Toronto, but Robertson explained Leonard’s thought process at the time.

“When you are initially traded somewhere you didn’t asked to be, you don’t want to accept it,” Robertson told Yahoo Sports. “But once you get through that period, the focus then turns to giving your all and performing at a high level. It never had anything to do with the city of Toronto. It wasn’t. Toronto is a beautiful city. Kawhi has often spoke highly of Toronto. It’s a beautiful place. That was just an initial reaction, which is normal. But we’re enjoying this run and looking forward to the Finals.”

Much of the NBA Finals chatter will be about what takes place after the series because the matchup features three of the top pending free agents in Leonard, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.

“I can’t get into other free agents and other teams, but for Kawhi, he’s going to take it one day and one game at a time,” Robertson told Yahoo Sports. “We have a championship opportunity in front of us. We’re not thinking about free agency; it’s the Warriors [right now]. Once we get through the season, we’ll turn our attention to free agency. But we’re just having fun right now. This has been a great year.”

Leonard started favoring his right leg in the conference finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, with speculation that it could be the lingering quad issue that sidelined him for most of last year. Robertson wouldn’t divulge the nature of the injury, but acknowledged he’s dealing with something.

Toronto is four wins from shocking the world. Ujiri let it be known after the Raptors were crowned the Eastern Conference champions that hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy is the primary objective.

In that same speech, he also called Leonard the best player in the game. Considering the road Leonard took to get back on the court, that’s some strong praise.

“I think if there was anybody capable of doing this, I would have said he could do it,” Robertson told Yahoo Sports. “And If there were any doubts that he wasn’t 100 percent last series, even though you could clearly see he was in pain because it was national TV, you might have thought he couldn’t get through this. But his basketball IQ is above most and he figured out a way to get through it and we feel good about where we’re at.”

Toronto Rapture: The Raptors Have Broken Through to the NBA Finals – The Ringer

The more we see of Kawhi operating at this all-time level, the more his entire on-court presence makes sense. Leonard loved math growing up. He reveled in geometry, a discipline that seeks the truth embedded in lines and angles, and articulates them through reasoning. What in textbooks is often a frustrating method of communicating logic becomes something closer to art when watching Leonard on the hardwood. The way he closes distances on defense and finds openings on offense without much of a first step suggests a sort of mystical precognition, but it’s really the result of Leonard’s real-time computational ability. Kawhi being able to defend Giannis Antetokounmpo better than anyone has all season wasn’t a glitch, but a function of the way Leonard sees the game. Basketball is seemingly expressed in logical terms that he can assess faster than any other player on the floor. It’s why, even when playing on one leg, he still seems ahead of the curve. And why, when everything else breaks down, Leonard always seems to meet the absurd standards he sets for himself.

“Most other sciences are in a state of constant flux,” Alice in Wonderland author (and mathematician) Lewis Carroll once wrote. “The precious truths of one generation being smiled at as paradoxes by the second generation, and contemptuously swept away as childish nonsense by the third. …But neither thirty years, nor thirty centuries, affect the clearness, or the charm, of geometric truths.”

Kawhi has been Atlas with combat boots and a pocket-protector, balancing the weight of the world on the back of a protractor. The sweat equity Leonard has put into the Raptors is almost immeasurable, and if it doesn’t quite show his commitment to the team in the long run, it at least shows his commitment to every possession in front of him. His willingness and ability to assume that level of responsibility is exactly why Toronto has made it out of the East. Leonard averaged more than 41 minutes per game against the Bucks, a threshold Antetkounmpo shockingly only managed to surpass once in the regular season and once in the playoffs (in the double-overtime Game 3). Nurse’s desperate, rotation-shortening tactics in an attempt to win every possession were compatible with Kawhi’s nearsighted perfectionism.

Of course, we’ve seen plenty of one-man shows in NBA history that have fallen way short of the promised land, but the other Raptors, for the most part, held up their end of the bargain. Kyle Lowry had a fantastic series, collapsing the Bucks defense with dribble penetration, scoring when other non-Kawhi teammates were too afraid to, and winning 50-50 balls. Fred VanVleet, who had struggled for more than three-fourths of the postseason, transformed himself into one of the NBA’s most accurate shooters in the final three games of the series, hitting 14-of-17 from 3. And Toronto got just enough out of Gasol and Pascal Siakam in each of the past four games to make up for their passivity on offense.

It will be much more difficult to maintain against the Warriors, but as long as Toronto gets just enough from the supporting cast, the Raptors will have a lifeline, not only into the Finals, but into the unknowable offseason. However, to skip that far ahead would be to leave the mindspace that Leonard has carved out for Toronto. And no one involved in the franchise, be it professionally or emotionally, is in any position not to follow Kawhi’s lead. The only thing that matters is the next possession, and then the one after that. He’d be the best therapist Raptors fans could ever ask for, if he weren’t also their biggest source of anxiety.

The next possession isn’t until Thursday, so we might as well revisit their last. Kawhi sealed Game 6 and the series, and in the process systematically dismantled the franchise’s past half-decade of mounting self-doubt, because of course he did. But did you see how he did it? The game’s final result wasn’t in question by that point, but after Siakam missed the second of his two free throw attempts with seven seconds remaining in Game 6, Leonard sought to erase all remaining doubt. And he’d do it how he’s done it all postseason long: by adding more weight on his shoulders. With the 7-foot Brook Lopez hanging from his right shoulder and the 6-foot-11 Antetokounmpo pressing up on his left, Leonard splayed his arms out wide, all 7-foot-3 of his tremendous wingspan, barricading both Bucks bigs from the loose rebound—his 17th of the game. The ball was his. Kawhi is the ultimate difference between the 23 years of managing inferiority complexes prior to this season, and hosting Game 1 of the NBA Finals later this week. On Saturday night, Kawhi changed the perception of a city forever. The Eastern Conference, the future of the Raptors, the claim to being the best player left standing—he seized all of it. And they will be in his possession until further notice.

Lowry and the Raptors have come a long way together –

Although Leonard will get plenty of credit for the Raptors’ first-ever Finals berth, and rightly so, they wouldn’t be there without the play and leadership of their point guard, particularly in that Bucks series. Playing through an injury to his left thumb, one that will likely require surgery after the season, Lowry was brilliant.

“I think that the things he always does, his natural instincts are to be a leader out there, and he shows it,” head coach Nick Nurse of Lowry, who scored 17 points and recorded eight assists in Saturday’s big win. “He does it with his IQ and his great knowledge of the game. He shows it with tremendous toughness as well. That’s his other natural characteristic. He’s blocking out guys twice his size. He’s taking charges every game. He’s just going to fight to win. He’s a hell of a competitor, and that rubs off on guys. I think to me, he kept very level-headed. I think he kept very confident at all times as well, and I think that helped our team.”

It’s been a strange, unorthodox basketball marriage from the start. The Raptors have tried to trade Lowry on multiple occasions, which is their right. Lowry tried to leave as a free agent, which is his right. But through it all something kept them together and now here they are. They’ve already done something special, beating the odds and making history, player and team. But, as Lowry predictably pointed out, with the sell-out Scotiabank Arena crowd chanting his name during the team’s on-court celebration Saturday, they’re not finished yet. He still has that gold ball to win.

“It means a lot,” Lowry said. “It’s taken a long time to get here in my career, 13 years, seven years here. I’ve run into one guy (James) for a while. We were given the opportunity – he left – and we beat a really good team in Milwaukee. For me, I’m going to savour the moment, but I’m not satisfied. Our goal is to win the NBA championship. We’re just going to keep getting better and plugging away.”

Maybe it’s time we start listening to Masai Ujiri | Toronto Sun

Given the chance, after Saturday’s win, to gloat on the national stage by TNT’s Ernie Johnson, who asked how that Kawhi Leonard trade was working out for him, Ujiri first chuckled and then replied: “He’s the best player in the league, and we’re happy he’s in Toronto.”

But that wasn’t the end of Ujiri’s message.

As usual, he played the crowd, perfectly building to what he really wanted to say and using Johnson to get there.
Ernie wanted to talk about the successes in the draft and the trades it took to get the Raptors to this point. Ujiri acknowledged the compliment, but then flipped the script.

“We’re not satisfied because we want to win the championship,” Ujiri said, his voice rising to stay above the cheers.
Johnson wasn’t done. He wanted to know Ujiri’s feelings about his Finals opponent, the Golden State Warriors.

The last time Ujiri was asked this publicly about a playoff opponent, he got into a little trouble for his choice of words, telling everyone what he really thought of Brooklyn. That was five years ago in a first-round matchup.

Ujiri kept it clean this time, but the message was no less of a mic drop: “We came all this way to compete and we want to win in Toronto and we WILL win in Toronto,” he said.

He was right last September. Why shouldn’t you believe him now?

With Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors Find Success That Endures – The New York Times

On Saturday, eight months after their partnership officially started, Ujiri stood next to Leonard as they accepted the Eastern Conference championship trophy in front of their home fans.

“Kawhi is the best player in the world, and we are happy that he is in Toronto,” Ujiri said.

Shortly after the trophy presentation, Leonard said: “I don’t care about being the best player. I want to be the best team.”

After years of trying to break through, the Raptors can now call themselves the best team in the Eastern Conference. They are four wins away from a championship, and on Thursday the N.B.A. finals will start in Canada for the first time in league history.

Saturday’s win was an unburdening of two and a half decades of frustration for a fan base that has continued to grow as the popularity of basketball in Canada has risen. Two other major sports franchises in the city are in the midst of championship droughts. The Toronto Blue Jays haven’t won the World Series since 1993. The Toronto Maple Leafs last won the Stanley Cup in 1967.

The Raptors have a chance to make history for not just the franchise, but for the city of Toronto. For the first time, the fan base doesn’t have to wallow in the past or wonder about the uncertain future of Leonard’s free agency decision. It can live in the present, rooting for a team that has shown what can be.

Leonard’s postseason run will be talked about in Toronto for decades to come. Perhaps there’s still one more chapter left to be written, starting Thursday at home against the Golden State Warriors.

Best player in the NBA? Kawhi Leonard rewards Masai Ujiri for his bold gamble – The Athletic

“Beast” is the word tossed around by Raptors teammates and coaches to describe Leonard, a ruthless competitor who never made a spectacle of the injury that hampered him throughout the improbable four-game steamroll of the Bucks after the team fell behind 0-2. Though he was definitely laboring, limping and picking his spots, Leonard was still able to outplay the likely league’s most valuable player Giannis Antetokounmpo on one good leg.

“It’s great,” Leonard said. “I worked hard to get to this point, with the season I had last year, just always betting on myself and knowing what I feel and what’s right for me. I ended up coming here with a great group of guys, a lot of talent. And I just strived with them every day. I just bought into their system. All that hard work just put together; now we’re here and it’s exciting.”

The right quadriceps tendinopathy that basically cost Leonard his last season in San Antonio was never an issue, but a season spent overcompensating for that injury eventually manifested in the form of tendinitis that flared up in his left knee in Game 3. Leonard’s reputation for being no-maintenance before an unusually drama-filled exit from the Spurs is being restored with how he’s handled this ailment and most everything else in Toronto. By keeping whatever pain he felt to himself and still putting up monster games that legitimately invoked the game’s legends, Leonard added to his heroic folktale. The fun guy, failing to disappoint.

“He’s a warrior. He’s never going to say anything to anyone,” Webster told The Athletic about Leonard playing through injury. “This is when greatness and that championship mettle is shown.”

Raptors ambassador, rapper and superfan/troll Drake trailed Leonard and Kyle Lowry as they headed to the podium to discuss the biggest win in franchise history. Wearing a Finals cap and a sweatshirt that read on the back, “Kawhi Me A River,” Drake paused at looked up to see the duo sit down and was heard saying, “You can’t be a baby. You’ve got to be a man.” It’s not clear if it was a reference to anyone in particular but it could easily be applied to how Leonard approached the comeback in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Leonard’s bum wheel led to one of the more memorable plays of the clinching game and this series, as Lowry dribbled into the paint, paused and flipped an underhand pass to a trailing freight train. Hopping off that right leg that caused him so much grief last season, Leonard rose up high above Antetokounmpo and hammered a left-handed dunk that had the entire building shaking.

“Why not feed the big dog,” Lowry asked. “Let the big dog eat.”

What we know and don’t know about this Warriors-Raptors Finals – ESPN

5. Will this be the Warriors’ toughest playoff opponent since they got KD?

Yes. This probably will be a controversial opinion, so bear with me for a moment. Though Leonard would come in second behind LeBron James on the list of toughest players the Warriors have faced in a playoff series since Durant arrived in the Bay (yes, he’d be ahead of James Harden), the Raptors have surrounded him with a far deeper team than the ones James had in his past two Finals runs.

Toronto’s starting lineup features five all-defense-level players (Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol), and the bench pieces finally rounded into form against the Bucks. This is a deep, versatile roster that can play any style it needs. Leonard is the kind of cold-blooded star required to take on a team as talented as Golden State.

The Warriors have lost one game combined in their past two Finals trips. They will lose at least two this time around.

2019 NBA Playoffs: That’s A Rap #33 Post-Game 6 vs. Bucks Reaction – Raptors HQ

On the Latest Episode:

The Raptors started off with a slow start, conserving energy against a Bucks team that fought every second as if it was its last. Down 15 in the third quarter, things were looking like old Toronto: Game 7 loomed in a daunting series. Instead, we were quickly reminded of the new Toronto. The squad put the Bucks into a defensive shutdown and then the comeback started on the way to securing a tight win (on the back of a 26-3 run in the fourth).

With the win — the fourth loss in a row for a Bucks team that hadn’t lost even three in a row all season — the Toronto Raptors have reached the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. Wow.

Toronto’s victory came on the back of a colossal team effort, including a 27-point, 17-rebound monster game from Kawhi Leonard. Kyle Lowry led the assists column with eight dimes. Both Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet were successful offensively, with 18 and 14 points respectively; VanVleet’s three point shooting, once again, helped bring the Raptors back during the more dire moments of the game. Nick Nurse joins a small class of coaches that have made the NBA Finals in their first year as a head coach. And the Raptors are one of six teams in NBA history to win a Conference Finals series after being down 2-0.

The latest edition of That’s A Rap focusses on more than Game 6, though. We broke the usual playoff format to just soak in the glory that this brings to Toronto NBA fans of all walks of life. We also have a slight preview of the Raptors’ matchup against the Golden State Warriors in the Finals. (We’ll go more in depth in a future episode). For now, this is another monumental moment in Toronto sports, and we are going to enjoy it until the next (and final) step.

Report: Kawhi Leonard speaks ‘highly of Toronto,’ says Uncle Dennis –

At the time of his trade to Toronto last summer, Leonard potentially staying north of the border felt like a pipe dream, as he reportedly wasn’t thrilled at the idea of playing for the Raptors. But according to recent comments from Leonard’s uncle, Dennis Robertson (widely regarded as Uncle Dennis), those feelings had nothing to do with the city itself.

“When you are initially traded somewhere you didn’t [ask] to be, you don’t want to accept it,” Robertson told Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes. “But once you get through that period, the focus then turns to giving your all and performing at a high level. It never had anything to do with the city of Toronto. It wasn’t. Toronto is a beautiful city. Kawhi has often spoke highly of Toronto. It’s a beautiful place. That was just an initial reaction, which is normal. But we’re enjoying this run and looking forward to the Finals.”

Robertson added that the all-NBA forward and his camp aren’t focused on free agency, especially with the chance for Leonard to capture a second career Larry O’Brien Trophy just four wins away.

“We have a championship opportunity in front of us. We’re not thinking about free agency; it’s the Warriors [right now],” said Robertson. “Once we get through the season, we’ll turn our attention to free agency. But we’re just having fun right now. This has been a great year.”

Kawhi Leonard NBA Playoff highlights show nobody impacts a game like him –

Consider what Kawhi just did through three rounds of the Eastern Conference playoffs. He was the Raptors’ best offensive player in every series, and the Raptors’ best defender in every series. He stopped likely 2019 MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo for four straight games to win a trip to the NBA Finals. He hit an absurd number of big shots, made a ridiculous number of big stops, grabbed critical rebounds — he did it all. He impacted every facet of the game in a positive way for the Raptors.

Durant is an incredible defender when engaged and healthy. LeBron James has moments of defensive excellence, but those are coming less frequently over time. (It’s nice that his most famous moment of all is a defensive play to remind us of what he was capable of at his peak.) Kawhi, though, is the best defender in the world when healthy. If we’re talking about the best players in the world, that superlative level is worth extra consideration.

Personally, I’d put Durant as the best player in the world, with Kawhi No. 2, LeBron No. 3, Stephen Curry No. 4, and either Giannis or James Harden next, with Anthony Davis following at No. 7. But these rankings are fluid: we could have been talking about Giannis in the way we’re talking about Kawhi had that series turned differently and it had been Antetokounmpo putting the cuffs on Leonard instead of vice versa.

Wob & Moore: Kawhi Leonard Has Ascended to the LeBron, Durant Tier of NBA Royalty | The Action Network

Wob: Kawhi Leonard Absolutely Dominated the Eastern Conference Finals
I feel weird being surprised by what we just witnessed.

Leonard is an NBA Champion, Finals MVP, three-time All-Star and two-time Defensive Player of the Year. Those accolades alone should warrant a sentiment of respect and level of aspirations only few players can ever contest.

But what he just did Giannis Antetokounmpo in the Eastern Conference Finals is something I know we’ll be talking about for years to come.

Giannis is the closest thing I have ever seen to a basketball nuclear weapon. In terms of skill, athleticism, physicality, natural talent and just sheer dominance, he is already in the category of Lakers-era Shaquille O’Neal and Heat-era LeBron — two players in recent memory for whom the only defensive strategy was sitting cross-legged on the floor, putting your head in your lap, counting to 10 and praying to whoever your god is that he goes by without killing you.

Giannis doesn’t have a feared jump shot or ability to punish opponents at the foul line, and he’s still this scary. He’s more than likely going to win MVP at the NBA Awards Show in June, but after what we just witnessed in Toronto, it’s hard to believe the moment won’t taste a little sour for him.

Leonard just evicted him from the playoffs. Not eliminated. Not outplayed. He threw Giannis’ s**t into garbage bags and tomahawked it out the window. Giannis’ career arc doesn’t change — he’s only 24 years old and will have his time in the sun — but this is about Leonard.

Per, he guarded Giannis on 160 total possessions throughout the series. On those possessions, Giannis scored 30 points, shot 35% from the floor, made 1-of-7 three-pointers and turned it over five times.

Kyle Lowry took his chip and went all in with the Raptors | The Star

Post-game, Lowry was hugging everyone. There were times this season where he didn’t seem quite comfortable, not himself. Shooting guard Danny Green said, “Hopefully he’s changed his mind about (the trade) a little bit today, and is happy with how things have turned out.”

When he embraced Ujiri, Lowry said, “Wow,” and, “We ain’t finished.” He was a long way from Memphis. He was home.

“(It wasn’t), ‘I’m gonna trade you if you don’t want to be that,’ but more, ‘You are this guy,’” Lowry said of that mid-season talk. “I always feel like I’m always all in. Honestly. But … it was a conversation of, ‘Listen, we want you to be this. Can you be this for us or not? Be who you are. Be the player that we want you to be.’ ”

Be Kyle Lowry?


He plays his best when he puts his whole heart in, and he did, and when the series was over and it was his turn to speak, the Toronto crowd cheered him with all of theirs. When Ujiri asked Lowry at the deadline whether he wanted to stay, Lowry said yes. Asked after the game if this was what he envisioned, the 33-year-old nodded.

“Yes,” he said. “Yes. Yes. Yes.”

The chip on his shoulder might never go away. But he should hear that sound forever, too.

High-risk, high-reward trade for Leonard looks golden as Raptors ride him to Finals |

Why it made sense then

Ujiri wasn’t happy in the immediate aftermath of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Cavaliers. He was quite irate, in fact, and this is likely the precise point where the quest for a superstar took root.

LeBron beat the Raptors at the buzzer with a running, fading, floater after running unchecked for nearly the length of the floor to put the Cavs up 3-0 in the series. Ujiri had harsh words for coach Dwane Casey, according to those who stood outside the closed doors, and the topic of conversation likely had to do with strategy on the play. Ultimately, it cost Casey his job when the Raptors were a no-show in Game 4 and the Cleveland sweep complete. The most successful coach in team history was gone.

But something else: Ujiri surely noticed the Raptors lacked anyone good and dependable enough to take over a game, similar to what LeBron and maybe a dozen other players do. It’s nearly impossible to win a title without at least one. And the trick was finding one. Unless you’re bad enough to be in position to draft one (and even then you have to wait until they develop), or can convince one to sign through free agency, the odds dwindle.

There is one other method: Find a distressed one.

This happened three decades ago when a domestic violence incident greased Jason Kidd’s path out of Phoenix and he subsequently led the Nets to a pair of trips to the Finals. Rasheed Wallace, though not a franchise player, was acquired by the Pistons from the Hawks and Detroit poured champagne that same year. You could go back to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar asking out of Milwaukee and landing in Los Angeles to help launch Showtime.

Kawhi fit that description last summer. After playing just nine games due to a quad injury and the bad vibes between him and the Spurs that developed from it, the 2014 Finals MVP was on the market. And Ujiri pounced at the chance to get his missing piece.

Truthfully, the only gamble was this: With LeBron gone, Toronto’s chances of moving into June were instantly enhanced; LeBron had closed out the Raptors three straight years. Ujiri could’ve stayed put, but he went with his instincts and pulled the trigger, even without assurances that Kawhi would sign a contract extension the following summer, essentially making him a one-year rental.

But Ujiri planned to shake up the team anyway, suspecting the Raptors had gone as far as they could with DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. Again, other GMs would’ve played it safe. He didn’t. High risk, potentially high reward

The Warriors might be the NBA’s current dynasty but, yes, we’re saying there’s a chance, Raptors fans | The Star

A case can be made, after all, that Toronto will boast the best player in the series. So let’s take a moment to put Kawhi Leonard’s greatness in perspective. Through 18 playoff contests this spring, Toronto’s big-play machine is averaging 31 points a game. There are only three players who’ve scored more prolifically through a playoff run of 18 games or fewer, according to Their names are LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Jerry West, the logo himself. So Leonard is keeping incredible company.

It’s James, of course, who can make the rare claim of knocking off the Warriors in an NBA final, leading the Cavaliers from down 3-1 in 2016 to deliver Cleveland its long-sought banner. And it was Leonard who threatened the Warriors dynasty a year later. Alas, after shredding Golden State’s defence for 26 points in 24 minutes of playing time during Game 1 of the 2017 Western Conference final, ill fortune interrupted Leonard’s roll. Leonard’s Spurs led the Warriors by 23 points when he reinjured a tender ankle by landing atop the foot of Warriors forward Zaza Pachulia. He was done for the playoffs, and so were the Spurs, who watched the Warriors win in a sweep en route to another title.

If the best player in a series often wins: advantage Raptors. If regular-season results matter: advantage Raptors, the only team the Warriors didn’t beat this season. (Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, mind you, didn’t play in one of those outings. Leonard didn’t play in the other).

But if the best shooters are the best players in an era dominated by the three-pointer — well, even if Durant doesn’t re-enter the picture it’s difficult to go against a team led by Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, two of the great marksmen of all time. Not that the Raptors don’t have some hot shooters of their own at the moment. Fred VanVleet’s 14-for-17 shooting from three-point range in Games 4 through 6 of the Bucks series — an 82% clip! — is the highest percentage over a three-game span in NBA post-season history among players with at least 15 attempts, this according to Justin Kubatko at Statmuse.

What Can The Raptors Possibly Do To Make People Believe The Lie? – Deadspin

In other words, the issues that the Raptors are concerned with pale in comparison to what the Warriors have to deal with. Toronto also carries a heavier realistic hypothetical threat with it than Golden State does. Imagine Leonard becoming healthy enough defend Curry from full court. If he’s able to be even 80 percent as good against Steph as he was against Giannis, that forces someone else to take the scoring load for the Warriors. But no one really qualifies for that role on that team—consistently, at least. Klay Thompson could maybe have one breakout game against Lowry before the amount of times he’s forced to dribble catches up to him, Draymond isn’t dropping 45 on Pascal Siakim and if Marc Gasol was able to frustrate Brook Lopez, I can’t imagine Kevon Looney having more success. The only counter Golden State has to that is hoping their old guys can be mildly more successful on offense or that Curry, who has yet to have a standout performance in a finals series, breaks some personal postseason records.

All of that obviously isn’t as easy as I’m making it sound, but that’s part of the point of trying to convince yourself to believe a lie like this. There are so many unknowns that won’t begin to make themselves clear until Thursday that almost anything could be possible right at this moment. And the more you think about it, the more likely you’ll be able to actually think of ways that a team best known for being LeBron’s pre-finals meal could take out the goddamn Warriors

‘We ain’t finished’: 24 years in the making, here are 24 thoughts from the Raptors making the NBA Finals – The Athletic

By making the NBA Finals, Lowry receives a $500,000 “unlikely incentive” in his contract. That will cost the Raptors an extra $1.25 million in luxury tax payment as well, and it will also change that incentive to “likely” in his contract for next year, meaning his cap number will be larger. I … do not think MLSE or the Raptors will care one iota. Lowry’s incentives and the team’s tax structure around them were always built such that any additional payments would be deemed worth it. (Lowry previously earned bonuses for making the All-Star team while appearing in 65 games and for the team reaching the Eastern Conference finals.)

Toronto Rapture: Raptors going to NBA Finals for 1st time ever –

The Raptors won another close game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday to finish off a 4-2 series (after losing the first two games!) and stamp a trip to the NBA Finals. If they gave out awards for MVPs of conference finals series, Kawhi Leonard would get it: he was extraordinary again both on offense and in defending Giannis Antetokounmpo. Nick Nurse switching Kawhi onto primary Giannis duty a few games ago has made all the difference in the world in this series.

That risky trade for Kawhi sure did pay off for Masai Ujiri and the Raptors.

It’s a massively disappointing finish to the season for the Bucks, who won 60 games and were 10-1 in the playoffs before Toronto ripped off four straight to take this series. At least they have Giannis for the foreseeable future. On that note, ESPN’s Malika Andrews published a piece basically at the buzzer citing a source saying that Giannis is more likely to sign a super-max extension next summer if the Bucks make the Finals in 2020. She then asked an unrelated question in the press conference. Giannis looked furious as she asked, and then dipped out after Khris Middleton (who seemed completely unaware of the situation) signaled it was Giannis’ question to answer. Middleton’s reaction was incredible.

Anyway, the Bucks’ summer is going to be stressful.

The Raptors will get there, too. But first: THE NBA FINALS. Game 1 tips off on Thursday.

NBA playoffs: Raptors make NBA Finals – Yahoo

There was a time when Lowry was the pudgy point guard who was supposed to come off the bench and get traded to New York before falling into a 9-2 swing that sparked a six-year playoff run that culminated in this Finals berth. In time, his attitude (and his diet) shifted and evolved, and so did the team around him: Greivis Vasquez became Powell and OG Anunoby. Patrick Patterson and Amir Johnson walked. Jonas Valanciunas became Gasol. Lowry’s best friend, DeRozan, was traded for this shot at a championship. Through it all, Lowry kept hitting the deck, nicking elbows and spraining ankles, watching his efforts turn into indignities, his reputation constantly toggling back and forth between disappointing and resilient, as though one could ever be the latter without experiencing the former. The last time he was this close, back in 2016, when LeBron James and the Cavaliers bounced the Raptors out of the playoffs for the first time, he was distraught. “It was a waste of a year,” he recalled Saturday night. “It was a bad feeling. But that feeling is over.”

Now that he is the floor general of a team going to the NBA Finals, does that excise everything that came before? Well, not exactly. Asked what he would tell the version of himself who three years ago was “sick” and shell-shocked, he paused and answered, “Everything happens for a reason.” That might provide some solace to the Bucks: You usually have to lose before you win.

The Bucks — coming off a charmed season, losing back-to-back games just once before this series, never having come so close before only to have victory escape their clutches — could not know how it felt, the feeling in the pit of your stomach, when you didn’t fail after giving it your all but because you know you didn’t.

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