Norman Powell changed the series by being able to dribble - The Step Back
And Powell isn’t driving only looking to score for himself. On one of Serge Ibaka’s two first quarter dunks, it was Powell that opened things up. Powell again beat Antetokounmpo’s closeout and attacked. The two dribbles he took did just enough to hold Thon Maker in the paint, causing him to have to fly out at Ibaka beyond the arc. Ibaka was then able to take advantage of the rookie and drive for a dunk.

Based on the last two games, it is hard to fathom why Powell wasn’t playing before Game 4. His athleticism and strength give the Raptors a perfect counter to the Bucks on both ends of the floor. And while Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have gotten plenty of credit for turning around the Raptors offense, Powell deserves just as much. All thanks to being able and willing to put the ball on the floor and attack the rim.
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4 hours ago
Toronto Raptors Take Control Of Series Against Milwaukee Bucks - Hoops Habit
The trade-off of shutting Middleton down in favor of allowing Snell to go off is a swap the Raptors would make every time. By limiting Middleton’s ability to get into the lane, it’s caused the Bucks offense to stall out.

With the Raptors getting more stops, it’s allowed the team to get out in transition and attack before the defense is set.

The other advantage created by sitting Valanciunas is it has helped Serge Ibaka be more dominant defensively. At center he can provide help defense that had been lacking in this series. He also adds shot blocking and an ability to snuff out the pick and roll.

With a safety net in the middle, it has transformed the Raptors’ defense.

With these changes, it appears as thought the Raptors have solved the Bucks’ offense. Whether Toronto sticks with this perimeter approach moving forward remains to be seen. Against the Cleveland Cavaliers, this lineup would likely surrender too many offensive rebounds.
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4 hours ago
Perennially overlooked Norman Powell has saved the Raptors season - The Step Back
Prior to this adjustment, the two biggest issues with the Raptors’ starting unit in the playoffs was their defense, and the over-reliance on iso ball. But once Valanciunas got swapped out for Powell, their net rating increased by roughly 40 points, according to NBA.com. The assist percentage also jumped from 59.1 to 72. It’s a small sample size, to be fair, but those two units have played close to the same amount of minutes together with drastically different results.

It’s a wonder why it took Casey this long to make the adjustment. But being overlooked is something that Powell is used to in his career. Ever since college, he’s had to change roles multiple times, from being a bench piece to a starter, then shifting from a ton of minutes to a lower-usage role. It took the Raptors struggling out of the gate for Powell to earn significant minutes in the playoffs, but now that he has, they’re on the brink of advancing to the second round.

You can tell he’s excited about the opportunity. Prior to Game 4, Powell played 20 combined minutes. In the regular season, he only made 18 starts, most of which came on back-to-backs where he would replace DeMarre Carroll. But when he’s given starting minutes, he usually makes the most of them. And for the second year in a row, he has practically saved Dwane Casey’s job.
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4 hours ago
Raptors trying to keep a lid on Antetokounmpo | Toronto Star
“We’re pretty confident. I think we just got to slow other guys down like (Malcolm) Brogdon, (Tony) Snell. He’s the head of the snake. It’s our job to try to stop him.”

The Raptors are fully aware that the way they’ve had even a modicum of success with Antetokounmpo is to keep him away from the paint and rim; as Tucker said the other day, it’s like he’s got Go-Go Gadget arms that allow him to finish dunks and layups from places on the court no one else dare try to.

“Everything’s in the paint, not too much outside of the paint,” Carroll said. “I think Game 3 when he was hitting a couple of threes and jumpers, that kind of surprised us, but we’d rather him do that than him just laying the ball in or dunking it every five seconds.”

One way to stop those dunks and layups — especially in transition — would be to hit Antetokounmpo with a couple of hard fouls, to wrap him up long before he gets anywhere near the rim.

A solid strategy to be sure — especially when Antetokounmpo’s 54.5 per cent free throw shooting in this series is taken into consideration — but one that’s much easier talked about than implemented. Numerous times in the first five games, the Raptors have tried to corral him but he just bulls his way through a set of arms to finish at the rim.
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4 hours ago
The Toronto Raptors Are the Best Sneaker Team in the League - Slam
Yeah, it is. No other team in the League has the sneakers to keep up with Toronto. No other team walks around with the quiet confidence of the Dino squad. With all the silhouettes around the team, they put on a fashion show every game.

DeRozan and Lowry are top tier members of Nike and adidas, respectively. Young fellas like Wright, Powell and Joseph make it a point to gear up in neck-breaking colorways each night. And PJ Tucker’s the League’s reigning sneaker king.

After the Raptors pick up an easy win over the Knicks, Tucker sits at his locker, checking his phone. Norm Powell, half joking, half not, yells over to Tucker, asking for his KAWS IVs.

“Ain’t that right, PJ? You gonna gimme those kicks?”

Tucker, the king, doesn’t even look up. Heavy is the head that wears the (sneaker) crown.
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4 hours ago
The Rotation: Raptors look scary and the Wizards do not - FanSided
Finally, and gloriously, the Toronto Raptors were able to wrestle the moment to the ground. Instead of the universe pinning them on their backs to dangle a loogey perilously close to their face, today, the Raptors are the loogey-danglers.

They haven’t quite closed out the Bucks but, after a 25-point Game 5 win, Toronto has found a rhythm. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan played solid, albeit muted, basketball. Serge Ibaka hit shots. Norman Powell dribbled, and hit shots. Jonas Valanciunas provided a few minutes of beast mode and the Raptors bigs helped hold Milwaukee to just two offensive rebounds. Just what the dino-doctor ordered.

It wasn’t a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination but something like this is what the Raptors envisioned when they acquired Ibaka and P.J. Tucker at the trade deadline — a team that’s versatile and deep and can beat you at both ends of the floor, in a variety of ways. A team that can feel out an opponent’s pressure points on defense, and squeeze, while relentlessly scaling walls on offense.
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5 hours ago
Game 6 Preview: Toronto Raptors vs Milwaukee Bucks | Basketball Insiders
It’s already been said, but it could bear some repeating: no matter how much the other guys step up, the Raptors will only go as far as their All-Star backcourt takes them. For the second game in a row, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have been in sync and firing on all cylinders. In Game 4, it was DeRozan who came out hot, and Lowry who took over in the second half. On Monday night, it was Lowry who got going first, then DeRozan who helped blow open the lead. That’s a welcoming sign for the Raptors and a trend that needs to continue. They’re tough to beat when Lowry and DeRozan are in step like this.

For Milwaukee, they can take solace in the fact that Giannis Antetokounmpo has been downright unstoppable. Whenever it looks like the Raptors might have him figured out a bit, he comes right back and unleashes havoc on them. He was out of sorts in Game 4 due to P.J. Tucker’s suffocating defense, but he dropped a game-high 30 points on 12-19 shooting in Game 5. He’s a legit franchise player and one who probably will lead the Bucks to many playoff wins in the near future. It’s just probably not this year.

The Bucks’ rookies have also done a tremendous job this series. While inconsistent at times, both Malcolm Brogdon and Thon Maker are not in awe of the big stage. They’ve both shown remarkable poise and confidence against a veteran team that was favored to win the series from the get-go. It’s a credit to the two of them that the Bucks put themselves in a position to pull off an upset. Brogdon’s had his hands full with Lowry and Maker with the Raptors frontcourt, but they haven’t backed down one bit. They both have very bright futures in the league.
BR 
5 hours ago
Why Bob Myers is the NBA Executive of the Year - The Sports Post
4. Masai Ujiri: Toronto gave up virtually nothing to seriously upgrade their roster in service of a one-year championship push. Short-term winning at minimal cost has enormous benefits. It creates credibility with fans and ownership that comes in handy during rebuilds. And if the Raptors fail to win the championship, or at least the Eastern Conference this season, they might be ready to pull the plug on this group. Few GMs can play both sides so deftly. But, Ujiri is in position to either win a title this year or hit the reset button and try to win one next year. That’s a nice place to be.
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5 hours ago
10 things I saw from Raptors-Bucks (Game 5) – The Defeated
Breakout sensation: Norman Powell has saved the Raptors for a second-straight playoff run. Powell followed up his rock solid effort in Game 4 with a career performance in Game 5. His activity on defense limited Khris Middleton to 8 points, his corner 3-point shot remains wet, and the dunks. Holy shit the dunks. Powell had two flushes at the end where he dunked over two 7-footers, then showed off his insane 40-inch vertical as he took off like a rocket.
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21 hours ago
Unselfishness leads to Raptors' Game 5 win over Bucks | Toronto Sun
The Raptors handed out 28 assists, a franchise playoff high. They passed to each other and they fought for each other. When Valanciunas got into a bit of a tussle, his teammates rallied around him.

All in all, there was a united front. Banished from the starting lineup, Valanciunas didn’t whine and sulk — he produced, again. But stats have never mattered to him.

“The most important thing is the win. Doesn’t matter how many points you score, how many rebounds you got, it matters, win. We got it, so I’m feeling great today,” said the big man.

DeMarre Carroll was another redemption story, scoring 12 points, along with six rebounds and a couple of steals.

“I told myself I needed to be more aggressive. I always just come out and set up for threes, but I should be trying to get some easy layups,” Carroll said.

“I felt like the best way for us collectively … (was) just being aggressive.”

Collectively — that was the key.

“The guys that got you here, you may make changes, but a guy may have a bad stretch, but you still have to roll with him,” Casey said.

“Just because Norm (Powell) is starting in front of (Valanciunas) doesn’t mean he’s not a very, very important part of our team. It takes 15 guys, that’s why you have 15 under contract. There’s going to be a night or a game or a series that somebody, it’s gonna be their turn. It’s up to us to try to find that matchup or that guy who’s gonna make that difference.”
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21 hours ago
Lowry shows his toughness playing through pain | Toronto Sun
It was confusing night for Casey on a game where the coach did just about everything right. His move of Powell to the starting lineup and Jonas Valanciunas to the bench may have tipped the series in the Raptors favour. The Raptors starting lineup were all in double figures. Combined, the five of them outscored Milwaukee’s starting lineup 90-72.

And all the while Casey had to keep talking to Lowry. Asking. Prodding. Trying to determine how much he could push, how far he could push. Lowry still led the Raptors with time on the floor. But it was less time than usual for him.

“It’s very difficult because I kept checking with him during the game,” Casey said. “How you feeling? How you feeling? How you feeling? If you leave him out too long, his back stiffens up even more. So that’s what we had to watch. We were going on feel.” Lowry isn’t worried so much about Tuesday as he is about Game 6 in Milwaukee. He didn’t figure he would sleep last night. This isn’t his mind racing, which keeps so many athletes awake post game. Here, he’s just trying to find the right position to be comfortable. And now he has two days of treatment ahead.

“He’s a tough kid,” said Casey. “We’ll see how it feels tomorrow.”
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21 hours ago
Norm Powell dazzles in Raptors' Game 5 win over Bucks | Toronto Sun
Barring Kyle Lowry’s aching back suddenly making him unable to go in Game 6 on Thursday in Milwaukee, the Raptors seem to have finally rounded into form from the starting five to the next four off the bench.

As a team, they shot 57.7% from the floor and an impressive 44% from distance in the game. They owned the boards, out-rebounding Milwaukee an astounding 40-23. They turned 15 turnovers into 28 points and came up just three shy of an all-time franchise mark for assists in a playoff game with 28.

Newest starter Norm Powell, in just his second game since re-joining the rotation, led all Raptors with 25 points.

Powell’s insertion into the starting five has so far resulted in two wins, a much-needed confidence-building one in Game 4 and then Monday’s blowout.

“It’s great,” DeMar DeRozan said of having Powell start the game alongside himself and Lowry. “It takes the pressure off (and allows us) to do other things to space out the floor. Norm did a great job of bringing the ball up being aggressive, getting to the basket, making the right plays. Just taking the pressure off us offensively.”

About the only thing the Raptors didn’t do that well was protect the ball, turning it over 18 times, assuming of course you are willing to overlook the 50% shooting night the Bucks had in their loss.
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21 hours ago
Lowry battles through sore back to come up big for Raptors - Sportsnet.ca
Now, who’s to say the Raptors wouldn’t have pulled themselves together and stopped the Bucks’ run without Lowry back on the floor. Basketball’s a funny game like that. But as soon as Lowry checked back in, the bleeding stopped, and the Raptors went into halftime with a nine-point lead. In the final minute of the half, Lowry was especially vocal and commanding, yelling out orders and motioning to his teammates as he carried the ball up the floor.

He started the second half in distributor mode, moving the ball quickly to his teammates, letting DeRozan handle the drives, and picking up a pair of assists in the first two minutes (he finished the third quarter with five assists in nine minutes, and not a single shot attempt).

About four minutes into the third, Lowry casually dribbled the ball up the floor, made a slick behind-the-back move to get past Khris Middleton, shot straight beneath the Bucks basket, and found an unguarded Norman Powell in the corner. Powell drained a three right in front of the Bucks bench, taking advantage of a look that was so open because Lowry ran off his drive directly into Tony Snell, impeding the Bucks guard just enough to give Powell the time he needed.
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21 hours ago
DeMarre Carroll plays rare significant role in Raptors' Game 5 win - Sportsnet.ca
If Powell’s been a forgotten man for a week, Carroll’s been forgotten for much of his entire two seasons years with the Raptors – concerning, since a D and 3 guy is a valuable commodity in an NBA that continues to jack up threes at a remarkable rate.

“You can’t be on a roller coaster, every game in the playoffs,” Casey said, when asked about Carroll’s performance. “DeMarre started well, had a tough stretch but bounced back in the third.

“Guys don’t forget how to play.”

Truth is, the fruits of this performance might not be felt until the next series, should the Raptors advance to play the Cleveland Cavaliers where it figures once again to be an all hands on deck affair. Whatever happens to the Raptors this post-season, whenever, wherever and however it ends, the addition of Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker was supposed to prevent the Raptors from simply running out of gas – important, given this team's predilection to do stuff the hardest way possible.
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21 hours ago
Raptors take control of series vs. Bucks with dominant performance - Sportsnet.ca
In a three-minute stretch during the second quarter, the Raptors went three-pointer (Cory Joseph), jumper (Lowry), three-pointer (Patrick Patterson), three-pointer (Lowry) and three-point play (Joseph) as part of a 15-5 run that gave the Raptors a 19-point lead and threatened to put the game out of reach early.

But Raps didn’t close well. They coughed up turnovers and didn’t seem to have an answer for Antetokounmpo, who scored 13 of his game-high 30 in the period. What could have been an overwhelming advantage was whittled to nine by the half.

The third quarter may prove the defining 12 minutes of the series as the Raptors extended their lead, quashing the Bucks threat. They were up 17 to start the fourth in large part because Powell went for 12 points on three shots thanks to two triples and four free throws. Ibaka had five more, as did Carroll. Lowry and DeRozan had five and three of their assists, respectively.

"It’s gotta be a confidence builder in the fact that now guys, they know when they give the ball up that that player has an opportunity to score or has a good rhythm going," said Casey of having so many show up in the box score as the Raptors had a playoff-record 28 assists. "I thought guys make excellent decisions out of the double team, out of the trap, and everybody that caught it was ready to play, ready to either drive it, pass it, or shoot it."
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21 hours ago
Raptors win Game 5 with Kyle Lowry playing through pain | Toronto Star
Lowry’s teammates definitely gave him reason for wanting to play with the way the dismantled the young Bucks, who looked shell-shocked most of the night.

All five starters and backup Jonas Valanciunas scored in double figures — Norm Powell led the way with 25 points — and the Raptors dished out 28 assists. That’s more than they’ve had in playoff game in the current four-year run they are on and was quite the opposite of the way the team usually plays.

There were any number of times when the Raptors made not only the right first pass out of Bucks trap but an even smarter second one that yielded an even better shot.

“That comes from getting a rhythm against some of their traps, some of their double teams,” Casey said. “But again, at end of the day, at the end of it, you’ve got to be ready to shoot the basketball. They (the Bucks defenders) get there so fast but tonight we had a better feel for it.”

The Raptors also beat back any run the Bucks made at them with a defence that wasn’t consistently good but one that was solid when it had to be. Giannis Antetokounmpo got loose for 30 points and Malcolm Brogdon added 19 but no other Milwaukee player was effective.
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21 hours ago
Better Raptors revert to the Norm: Arthur | Toronto Star
And Powell, with his don’t-ask-questions style, never seemed to have a moment of doubt. Early in the game Powell, who is six-foot-four in shoes, drove and tried to score over Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is approximately 19 feet tall with his arms outstretched. It didn’t work, but I bet Norm Powell wouldn’t blink if he opened a door and found a tiger on the other side.

And as the game went on, with the Raptors moving the ball, Powell found more cracks than anyone. Powell started 18 games when DeRozan was injured, and then was put back under glass: he played a combined six minutes in the first two games of the series. He’s at a combined 68 the last two games.

“I think Powell has come in with a lot of energy on both sides of the ball,” said Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd. “They are feeding off of that ... he’s picked them up here in the last couple of games, just with his energy and his spirit. Somehow we have to match that. We’ve got to have someone who can match his spirit to give us a chance.”

Despite some hiccups the Raptors led nearly wire to wire, and looked like the team they are supposed to be. When they made shots, they seemed more likely to share the ball, starting with Lowry and DeRozan. The ball found energy, and eventually everyone joined in. This was the Raptors team that is better than the Bucks, and should know it.

“I think that’s the biggest thing and the most important thing, is just sharing the ball, and the more you share the ball the more guys get confidence in themselves and the more Kyle and DeMar trust us,” said Carroll, who had 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting. “So we just got to keep doing it, keep trying to gel.”
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21 hours ago
The Keg Must See: Valanciunas, Monroe get heated with shoving match - Video - TSN
Late in the third quarter, Jonas Valanciunas comes up with a big block on Greg Monroe and Monroe makes sure to let the Raptors centre know what he thought of his hard play on the other end as both players get into a shoving match.
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21 hours ago
What do the Raptors need to do in Game 6 to close out the Bucks? - Video - TSN
Nik Stauskas explains how the key to the Raptors' Game 5 win was shutting down the Bucks' supporting cast, and sheds light on what Toronto needs to do in Game 6 to close the series out.
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21 hours ago
Court Squeaks: Powell continues to rise up in big Raptors playoff games - Video - TSN
Josh Lewenberg and Matthew Scianitti discuss how Norman Powell continues to rise to the occasion in the Raptors' biggest playoff games, explain why Kyle Lowry's performance in Game 5 was the 'gutsiest of his career', and shed light on how DeMarre Carroll, Serge Ibaka and Powell built the momentum that the team rode to victory.
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21 hours ago
Raptors 118, Bucks 93: Powell's heroics give Toronto 3-2 lead - Journal Sentinel
The Raptors shot 57.7% from the field (41 of 71) and hit 12 of 27 three-point attempts.

Kidd said the Bucks are learning how to respond in a series and will be tested again in Game 6 at home.

"We're lacking the experience of what's coming," Kidd said. "We can talk about it, but we have to go through that process. We have to walk through that door.

"For a lot of these guys, they've never seen this. You're talking about a team (Toronto) that has been to the Eastern Conference finals. They've been there. You go down, 3-2, you've got to go home and try to protect home and force a Game 7. That's all we can focus on now is Game 6. And we've got to be desperate and hungry."

Brogdon added 19 points for the Bucks and found a rhythm by hitting 7 of 11 shots, including 5 of 7 three-pointers.

He said the Raptors have momentum and confidence and the Bucks will have to work hard to force a seventh game.

"If we don't come out and give the energy we need to, then we'll lose and be done," Brogdon said. "It's that simple.
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21 hours ago
Notes: Bucks-Raptors deal in 2015 keeps giving for Toronto - Journal Sentinel
The Milwaukee Bucks were not going to take Norman Powell in the 2015 draft.

But that hardly mattered Monday night as the second-year forward tore them apart in the Toronto Raptors' 118-93 victory at the Air Canada Centre. The Raptors romped in a pivotal fifth game as the 6-foot-4 Powell started for the second straight game and scored 25 points.

The Bucks selected Powell for the Raptors in a draft night deal, and also sent them a 2017 first-round pick, in exchange for guard Greivis Vasquez. The former Raptors guard never made an impact for Milwaukee and was out most of the 2015-'16 season with a foot injury.

Toronto used one of its two first-round picks in the 2017 draft as part of its trade deadline deal with Orlando for Serge Ibaka. And Powell is the gift that keeps giving for the Raptors.

"Powell has come in with a lot of energy on both sides of the ball and they're feeding off of that," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. "He's playing extremely hard and he's knocking down shots. He's in there to play defense.
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21 hours ago
Milwaukee Bucks Go Down 3-2 After Game 5 Loss To Toronto Raptors - Behind the Bucks Pass
The Milwaukee Bucks couldn’t stop the Toronto Raptors’ offense and gave up 118 points as the Raptors took their first lead of the series.

The series has tilted in Toronto’s favor, as Thursday’s game in Milwaukee could now see them clinch. A great offensive effort from the Toronto Raptors gave them a first quarter lead that the Milwaukee Bucks wouldn’t breach.

Two quick three-pointers from Malcolm Brogdon helped the Bucks go up 8-7 to start the game, but Ibaka also started off strong, scoring seven of the Raptors first nine points. The Raptors took advantage of sloppy turnovers by the Bucks to go on a 17-point run.

Greg Monroe checked into the game, and scored six straight points for the Bucks, which helped the Bucks go on a nine-point run of their own to cut the lead back to just six. Still down 26-20, the last minute and a half belonged to the Raptors, who scored the last five points to hold a 31-20 lead after the first quarter. Norman Powell and Serge Ibaka started strong, each with 9 points.
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21 hours ago
NBA Playoffs Final Score: Bucks Get Blown Out by Sweet Shooting Raptors, 118-93 - Brew Hoop
Toronto was averaging 7.8 three-point attempts from the corners coming into tonight, third most in the playoffs. Not surprising given the Bucks penchant for giving up that prime look. However, tonight they had 14 such shots, making six of those. Toronto getting that shot was indicative of their improved ball movement tonight, and went hand in hand with their team’s series-high 68.2 assist percentage.
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21 hours ago
NBA Playoffs, Raptors vs. Bucks, Game 5: Everyone shows up, Toronto wins big 118-93 - Raptors HQ
Serge Ibaka set the tone early, with two massive dunks on Giannis Antetokounmpo, and went on to bounce back from his shaky Game 4 shooting performance. He went 8-of-10 from the field for 19 points, with six rebounds and three blocks. Likewise, DeMar DeRozan had another solid game — which seems almost perfunctory now, Game 3 notwithstanding — with 18 points and 6 assists. When you begin to add these all up, one realizes all five Raptors starters finished in double figures, with a franchise-high 28 assists. The team shot 58 percent from the field, 44 percent from three, 92 percent from the line. And only Giannis, with 30 points, and Malcolm Brogdon with 19, could get anything going against the Raptors’ swarming D. It was everything.

Oh and Lowry? He took a charge early on Monroe, fell or dove to the floor multiple times, and played like he always plays, which is: all out, constantly moving, not ready to say die. It wasn’t the best seeing Lowry stretched out on the floor to ease the soreness in his back — but still, a neat 16 points and 10 assists in 36 minutes. His Raptors looked like the best version of themselves for most of the game. What’s more, they won going away. We didn’t have to feel nervous for the entire 48 minutes. They head to Milwaukee now, up 3-2, looking to close it out. How’s that for a story?
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21 hours ago
2017 Playoffs: Game 5 Recap - Raptors 118, Bucks 93 | Toronto Raptors
WE THE NORM IN THE THIRD

A season ago, in Toronto's first-round series against the Indiana Pacers, Norman Powell came off the bench to help lead a furious second-half comeback. He says that fans still tweet him clips of the game-tying dunk he had in the fourth quarter. In Monday's Game 5, Powell started his second game of the series and he contributed a perfect third quarter to keep Toronto in front and turn a nine-point halftime lead into a 17-point advantage going into the fourth. Powell scored 12 of Toronto's 33 points in the third, on a perfect 3-for-3 from the floor, 2-for-2 from beyond the arc and 4-for-4 from the free throw line. Toronto shot 67 percent in the quarter, while holding the Bucks to 41 percent as the Raptors outscored Milwaukee 33-25 in the third.
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21 hours ago
Raptors dunk their way to 3-2 series lead over Bucks - The Globe and Mail
The Raptors returned home after splitting games on the road with Milwaukee, and had a dominant win. Powell was remarkable in his second straight start, recording four 3-pointers, four rebounds, three assists, three steals and thrilled with dunks and hustle plays.

“It’s all about giving myself up for the team,” said Powell. “I’m trying to get better, whether it’s coming off the bench, cheering for Kyle and DeMar, the guys on the floor, going in there, making hustle plays, focusing on defence, pushing the ball in transition….just trying to accomplish the things that I have set out for myself within the aspect of the team.”

Five other Raptors scored in double digits, including Kyle Lowry (16), Serge Ibaka (19), DeMar DeRozan (18), DeMarre Carroll (12), and Cory Joseph (10), who also had 10 assists.

Lowy started the game, even though he sat out Monday morning’s shoot-around due to stiffness in his back. He was visibly in pain at some points in the game, and was lying on the floor when he was out.

“Once you stop and sit down, it sucks. You’ve got to just keep going,” said Lowry. “I just want to be out there with my guys.”

The Raps went with the same starting lineup that produced a win on Saturday – Powell starting at small forward to guard Khris Middleton, while Jonas Valaniunas came off the bench.
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21 hours ago
They’re Old and Out of Contention, but the Blue Jays Shouldn’t Rebuild - The Ringer
Barring some stunning five-month hot streak, 2017 is already a write-off, which leads to a fascinating, yet extremely difficult question for president of baseball ops Mark Shapiro, GM Ross Atkins, and their bosses at Rogers Communications, the Canadian telecom goliath that owns the club: When is it time to punch out on this team and rebuild?
The argument for Toronto to tear it down is based on a series of talking points that every stathead fan and writer has down by rote: trade expensive veterans for prospects; try to get surplus value; better to sell a year early than a year late; any team that isn’t contending should be tanking. They’re familiar because in general they’re good practice.
But to look at the problem this way is to treat the Blue Jays like any other contender with an aging core and a bad April, when in fact the situation’s a little more complicated.
BR 
yesterday
The Rise of the Raptors’ Cellar-to-Contender Duo – The Ringer
“When you’re playing overseas,” he says, “you’re expected to be the best offensive player on your team and the best defensive player on your team. But to find your place in the NBA you just have to be smart, to think about what makes you unique. I can’t score like DeMar DeRozan. I just can’t. So then I think, ‘I’m going to be great at spacing the floor. I’m going to learn how to shoot corner 3s and make the right pass. And then I’m going to do what I’m here to do, and that’s play great defense.’”
Learning to be a specialist, he says, can be even more rewarding than assuming a team’s complete offensive and defensive loads. Tucker finds himself better-suited to mastery in a few skills rather than proficiency in them all. “You’re digging into the details,” he says. “You’re finding those small things that give you that edge. I love that.” And even though the NBA has given him the chance to pour himself into defense in a way he never could in Europe, he refuses to point to this moment as some grand culmination, some payoff for his years of work. It was never about reaching this point, Tucker insists, any more than it was about every other point along the way.
“I always knew I belonged here,” he says. “It’s not one of those things where now I can say, ‘I’m finally here. I finally belong.’ No. No. I always knew I could play this game at the highest level. There are a ton of guys right now who aren’t in the NBA who have the talent to be here. It’s about getting on the right team, getting an opportunity to show what you can do.
“That’s what I had in Phoenix. I have it here, too.”
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5 days ago
'We can get a lot better': Raptors far from satisfied | Toronto Sun
The one big change from the beginning of the series until now is that Kyle Lowry is no longer looking lost offensively. Lowry looked to be the proverbial fish out of water in Game 1 unable to find any rhythm and struggling to put any kind of imprint on the game. His counterpart, Bucks rookie Malcolm Brogden, looked much more like the veteran player of the two.

Lowry turned the tables on that matchup nicely in Game 2, taking advantage of the young Bucks guard. He was aggressive getting into the paint and then took what was available once there. Often it was a kick out to an open shooter but, as the game went on, Lowry changed it up and finished those drives at the basket.

As good as the Raps feel about their game today collectively, there is still plenty of room for improvement, starting with that a long-held habit of getting a lead only to take their foot off the gas.

It happened twice in Game 2 as the Raptors opened the lead up to 13 and then suddenly fell back on lazy habits. The good ball movement that led to both of those leads was replaced by lazy cross-court passes that were easily picked off, or the ball movement stopped altogether and bad shots were taken resulting in empty possessions.

Casey calls it getting ‘happy on the farm.’ For Raptors fans, it’s a real head-scratcher and nothing they associate with happiness of any kind.
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5 days ago
Protecting home is Bucks' next assignment as series shifts to Bradley Center - Journal Sentinel
“We have to be the desperate and aggressive team,” Kidd said. “I think we learned that in the month of March, that there’s never a time to be comfortable.

“It’s not about home court. Things happen. Look at hockey, and in the NBA you have (eighth-seeded) Chicago going to (top-seeded) Boston and winning two games.

“You have to go out there and take it or protect it.”

Yet after hearing all the noise from the energized “We the North” crowd in Canada, it will be nice for the young Bucks team to have a big crowd on its side.

Veteran guard Jason Terry said the Bucks must be smart in the way they approach it.

“Just coming home is not going to get the job done,” Terry said. “We need to have precise execution and really go after it and get this game.”
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5 days ago
Raptors head to Milwaukee for Game 3 preparing for 'a war' - Sportsnet.ca
There’s only so much you can do to prevent an insanely athletic seven-footer with a 7’4 wingspan from getting his. But the Raptors still need to do more.
 
“I thought our physicality was better,” Casey said. “But we’re going to have to take it up to another level. To make it a grind-it-out type of game. That’s what it’s going to come to.”
 
The Raptors were at least able to better constrict Antetokounmpo’s room to breathe in Game 2. Much of that improvement can be chalked up to simply hustling back on defence, something the Raptors were sluggish to do in Game 1. You can see it on the stat sheet—the Bucks had 18 dunks or layups in Game 1, and only 11 in Game 2.
 
Casey says his team also made adjustments to its guarding schemes in certain situations—he doesn’t particularly want to discuss them publicly—that he feels helped keep Antetokounmpo relatively in check.
 
“You’re not going to stop a superstar at this time of year. We want to slow him down. It’s not one guy. It’s a team effort. We want to continue to take his numbers down as much as we can,” Casey said. “We’ll probably guard him a different way tomorrow night.”
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5 days ago
Raptors have to give as good as they get | Toronto Star
“Everybody has their own thinking about screens, about physicality,” Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd said. “There’s always different referees, they see things differently, their interpretation is different, so for us, we’ve just got to stay focussed on playing basketball and everything else will take care of itself.”

The Raptors were more forceful both fighting through screens and setting them in their 106-100 win Tuesday that tied the best-of-seven series 1-1. Toronto got free offensively to show some impressive ball movement and shooting — they had 24 assists on 34 baskets — and didn’t get caught up on screens defensively. That allowed them to clog the paint and limit the effectiveness of Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo.

“They showed me more bodies in the paint,” said Antetokounmpo, who still managed to have 24 points and 15 rebounds. “In the first game they let me go in the paint a lot. In the second game . . . they didn’t let me. When I was driving the ball into the paint, everyone was sacking me.”

Casey has long held that the Raptors need to be more consistently physical and decried the lack of toughness in their Game 1 performance.

“Everything else has to be heightened by our playoff level of play, our physicality,” he said. “That’s something that I thought they out-physicalled us, got into us, rode us off our line, and you can not let that happen at this time of year.”
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5 days ago
Game 3 preview: Toronto Raptors at Milwaukee Bucks | Toronto Star
KEY MATCHUP

Valanciunas vs. Maker

The Raptors could use a breakout offensive game from centre Jonas Valanciunas, who enjoys a substantial bulk advantage in the matchup with Thon Maker, the 20-year-old Orangeville product. Valanciunas has been doing a good job chasing Maker out near the three-point line, but managed just nine points in Game 1 and 10 in Game 2.
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5 days ago
Raptors 905’s Jerry Stackhouse named D-League coach of the year | Toronto Star
The Raptors 905 hosted the Maine Red Claws at Mississauga’s Hershey Centre on Wednesday night, leading the best-of-three Eastern Conference final 1-0, needing just one win to have a chance at championship in just the second year of the team’s existence.

But more than that, Stackhouse helped develop players not only to the help the parent organization but also to help players get better, higher-paying jobs.

Casey lauds Stackhouse for the work he did with Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Jakob Poeltl and Bruno Caboclo in keeping them sharp and getting them ready to help the NBA team.

“He did a great job with that team, growing that team, developing that team,” Casey said Wednesday.

But Stackhouse and his staff did more than just develop players in the Toronto system.


Edy Tavares was the D-League’s defensive player of the after a season in Mississauga and Axel Toupane was one of the team’s most versatile players.

Both parlayed their D-League season into NBA contracts, Tavares with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toupane with the New Orleans Pelicans.
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5 days ago
Numbers for Game 2: The Raptors get back on track - Raptors HQ
Rookie Jakob Poeltl got nearly four minutes worth of burn in the early going due to Jonas Valanciunas’ foul trouble in the first quarter, while head coach Dwane Casey looked to sophomore Delon Wright for roughly 8.5 minutes in the second frame as well.

Neither youngster made a huge splash in the box score (two points and a rebound for Poeltl, no points, two rebounds, and three assists for Wright), but both of them performed their jobs admirably when called upon.

Poeltl was a +4 in his limited minutes and his size and defensive presence made it hard for Milwaukee to go small. He contested three shots in 3.7 minutes, for a rate of 0.8 contests per minute. For context, Ibaka contested a monster 14 shots in 35.5 minutes for a rate of only 0.4.

Meanwhile, Wright’s length, mobility, and athleticism challenged the Bucks’ strengths and helped spark an important run in the second quarter. He might not have filled up the traditional box score, but in his 8.5 minutes of action, he managed to record a screen assist, amass three deflections, and contest four shots, according to NBA.com’s hustle stats.
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5 days ago
NBA Playoffs: The Raptors continue their collective quest to stop Giannis - Raptors HQ
To begin, there was Jonas Valanciunas walling off the paint as DeMarre Carroll strove along with Giannis on his drives. That worked for a time — though it’s clear Carroll needs assistance. Antetokounmpo would often find himself swarmed by DeMar DeRozan or Lowry, coming in for steal or block attempts. Antetokounmpo was still often able to attack in the pick-and-roll as the screener or the ball handler, sometimes even switching roles in the same possession. It was evolution in real-time.

Then P.J. Tucker checked in and made things physical, hounding Giannis on the perimeter, enacting smart close-outs, and using his active hands to dislodge the ball. Again, the Bucks’ young star could and would recover, but the Raptors were doing what they could to keep him harried. Coach Dwane Casey said his team would not always go under screens — saying it makes the team “soft” — and while that was not necessarily true — Toronto gave Giannis space — the Raptors squeezed through them when they could to keep the pressure on. For his part, Giannis went 3-of-5 on jumpers just inside the arc anyway. It was like watching the T-1000 reform itself and keep coming.

Later in the game, the Raptors settled on something approaching a workable solution. Put Tucker on Khris Middleton to bottle him up, have Patterson contend with Giannis, and leave Serge Ibaka to roam when necessary — risking attacks from Thon Maker or Greg Monroe (who continues to be an under-the-radar problem in his own right). When Antetokounmpo slipped by Raptor players on the perimeter, or when, god forbid, the Greek Freak was able to get out and run, Ibaka too rose to the challenge.
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5 days ago
Raptors 905’s Jerry Stackhouse named D-League Coach of the Year - Raptors HQ
Stackhouse came in and preached defense and shared minutes across the roster, which is often a tough sell in the D-League. Many players in the D-League are hoping to play big minutes to get attention from the NBA. Stackhouse had his guys playing in the 20-25 minute range, but buying into his system. As a result, the 905 won; and as Stackhouse has said, teams like winners.

It’s not hard to believe that NBA teams will soon be calling Stackhouse about an NBA assistant coach deal or even a head coaching spot in the future. It feels like more a matter of when than if. And Stackhouse deserves it.
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5 days ago
Raps need to keep pushing the ball in Game 3 - Video - TSN
After they were able to even up the series before heading back to Milwaukee, Rod Black, Jack Armstrong and Leo Rautins explain why the Raptors need to keep pushing the ball and wearing down the Bucks defence if they want to earn the series edge in Game 3.
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5 days ago
Lowry, Ibaka the one-two punch the Raptors needed - Video - TSN
Kyle Lowry was in attack mode all night and was rewarded with 22 points, while Serge Ibaka helped shut down the Bucks down the stretch. Rod Black, Sam Mitchell, Jack Armstong and Leo Rautins look at how these two stepped up.
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5 days ago
Raptors know better than to take Bucks lightly - Article - TSN
Word on the visiting side - from Bucks reporters, broadcasters and even their coach Jason Kidd - is that Game 1 was some of the best basketball they have played all season, if not the best. Have we seen Toronto at its best in this series? No, probably not.
That's not to say Milwaukee won't continue to rise to the occasion, or that the Raptors will ultimately reach their ceiling, but - with the series evened up - one team seems to have more room for improvement. As Lowry continues to work his way back and get in sync with Tucker and Serge Ibaka, the hope is that their best is yet to come.
"For us, we see a little bit of how we can play," Tucker said. "We don't feel like we played a great game. We won and that's great, but we want to get better. For us, it's just taking it to another level still."
The pressure has been and will continue to be on the favoured Raptors while the Bucks look to play spoiler. If nothing else, you can count on Milwaukee putting up a fight and making things interesting. This is still Toronto's series to lose but now, more than ever, it's clear: if they're not careful, it's far from a lock.
“It’s going to be a battle," Dwane Casey said. "We’ve got to be ready for war. It’s not going to be easy. The game is not going to be pretty. We don’t want a pretty game. You talk about execution, that’s what the playoffs are about: playing after the execution is not there. Teams are going to take away your first option and probably your second option. After that it’s just about playing basketball. I thought our physicality was better. We’re going to have to take it up to another level to make it a grind-it-out game.
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5 days ago
Lowry, DeRozan team up in a lot of different ways | Toronto Star
Again, Delon Wright gets a few minutes, has an impact and his use in brief stints as a disruptive full-court defender and ball-handler was something Casey had planned long before it happened.

“I just thought he and Jakob both, there were times in the second quarter when were making substitutions to give guys a blow that he could come in and create. I thought he did an excellent job of coming in and creating shots, creating opportunities.  I thought he did as good a defensive job as you can with Dellavedova and also Brogdon.”

I don’t think Wright’s ready to handle 22 minutes a night of playoff basketball – he still gets a little skittish at times with the ball – but he can have a big impact as a different look for eight or 10 minutes, for sure.

I’m sure you’ll see it every game from here on out, or at least until the Bucks find a way to exploit his inexperience. But since they’re so inexperienced, maybe they won’t.
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5 days ago
Raptors Claw Back – BallNRoll
A big aspect of the bounce back performance by the Raptors as a whole was their three-point shooting coming to life. Led by Patrick Patterson and Cory Joseph the Raptors hit a franchise playoff record 14 three-pointers on 48% shooting from long range.

Moving forward, the Raptors will need to bring more toughness and more consistency to their game. It will be important for them to of course stay loose, but defensively it will be just as important for them to make things uncomfortable for Giannis Antetokounmpo. ‘The Greek Freak’ has had far too much room with which to operate and the to be frank, the Raptors have played him too soft to this point. The Raptors must deliver the metaphorical first punch when they come out on the road. By that, they must play more physically and make Giannis feel uncomfortable. When competing against a player as great as Antetokounmpo, sometimes making him feel uncomfortable is the best form of defense.
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5 days ago
Game 3 Preview: Toronto Raptors vs. Milwaukee Bucks | Basketball Insiders
The Raptors are the better team and should win this series, but the way the Bucks kept coming at them despite it being a must win game for Toronto has to be a bit concerning. The Bucks aren’t simply satisfied to be in the playoffs; they’re here to win this series. They could’ve let up, content with stealing home court advantage, but they battled until the very end. When it comes down to it though, the Raptors are simply better. Their frontcourt is better. Their bench is better. Their stars, Lowry and DeRozan are better at being aggressive and attacking the paint. The Raptors will settle down, begin to impose their will on the Bucks, and pull out the Game 3 win. It will be close, but Toronto will come out with a 2-1 lead.
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5 days ago
Kyle Lowry Had the Redemption Game Toronto Needed | VICE Sports
"Just playing," Lowry said. "Going out there and taking my shots. Being aggressive. My teammates challenged me, like I said before, and I got to the free-throw line nine times. Got aggressive early and the second half, DeMar kind of got himself going. So we balanced well tonight. For me, it was just going out there and playing."

He may be guilty of over-simplifying here. The Raptors did make some schematic tweaks to try to open up additional driving room for Lowry, particularly early on in the game, and Lowry responded by attacking with more vigor. He still looked shy heading into the paint on occasion—he missed a layup trying to bait a foul on Khris Middleton, passed up a look at the rim to get DeRozan a slightly better one, and picked up his dribble in the paint a couple of times looking for a pass out—but this was also a big part of the game plan, to collapse Milwaukee's length after traps and get the ball out to open shooters (the Raptors responded by hitting 14-of-29 from long range).

All told, Lowry drove 15 times in Game 2, shooting 3-of-5 on those drives, getting fouled twice, and tallying one assist, a big change from producing zero points on 10 drives in Game 1. Lowry also had three secondary assists, and combined with DeRozan's four, it was clear that those two did a better job moving the ball away from Milwaukee's exceptional length and aggression.

"That's the way they play. They kinda make you get in there, they all come to the ball, you gotta kick out," Lowry explained. "You gotta make shots against those guys. Their length is their strength, so once you get in the paint, they're all in there. Trying to kick out, and we gotta make shots. It was there. We watched the film and that was one of the things that was open for us, get in the paint."

Lowry's redemption came with two big, defining, KLOE-type moments down the stretch, too. Lowry has long had a sense of the moment, and it's been his late-game heroics as much as his quarters-long surges that have ingratiated him to fans and earned him the Kyle Lowry Over Everything acronym (shout out to Zach Harper, and rest in peace Daily Dime Live). One goof with a sign in Jurassic Park aside, Lowry's earned the trust of the fan base with the game on the line, and the Air Canada Centre shook of a game-long anxious energy to dial in for the closing possessions.
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5 days ago
The Secret Lessons of the NBA Playoffs – The Ringer
This is a Kyle Lowry–specific one, and I’m so sad about that. As I write this, Lowry is tied with Jamal Crawford for the worst playoffs shooting percentage among all active players with at least 500 attempts (37.9 percent), and also tied for second-worst from 3 during the playoffs among all active players with at least 200 attempts. He’s a lightning bolt during the regular season (over 46 percent from the field, over 41 from 3), and a … wait for it … waaaaaait … it’s gonna be good … hold on … almost there … nearly there … here it is: a frightening dolt during the playoffs.
Get well soon, Kyle.
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5 days ago
NBA Playoffs 2017: How the Raptors can use the Bucks' pressure against them - CBSSports.com
Toronto's floor spacers aren't going to hit every single high-quality look, but the team went 14-for-29 from 3-point range. Also notable: the Raptors had 24 assists on their 37 field goals. They had an elite offense in the regular season despite tying the Phoenix Suns for the lowest assist percentage in the league, per Basketball Reference. In this series, they're going to need to keep moving the ball and punishing the Bucks for leaving shooters open. 
"That's what it has to be," Patterson said. "We have to help out those guys in any way possible. All throughout the night they were looking to trap [DeRozan and Lowry] and take them away as much as possible, so we have to do our job collectively of relieving the pressure on them."
Toronto finished the third quarter up 84-83. It was not dominating, but it was dictating the terms of engagement. In the series-opening loss, they scored 83 points total. For the Raptors to have their best chance of taking a 2-1 lead on Thursday, they would prefer a free-flowing, high-scoring game to a grind-it-out slugfest.
None of this is to say that Toronto has figured Milwaukee out. It knew how the Bucks were going to play heading into the series, and it still dropped the first game. The second one went down to the final seconds, with the Raptors losing a lot of their rhythm in the final frame. Wide-open 3-pointers from Malcolm Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova could have given Milwaukee the lead before Lowry's jumper sealed Toronto's 106-100 win. Casey, though, liked how his team stretched out the traps, got the ball to the weak side and made the Bucks' rotations longer than usual. If the Raptors are going to avoid an upset, they will need to do that consistently. 
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5 days ago
Eric Koreen, The Athletic - ESPN
Zach talks to Eric Koreen of The Athletic about the Raptors-Bucks series.
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6 days ago
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