Here’s 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors’ 118-112 double-overtime win over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.
One - Endurance: This was a battle of sheer wills as this must-win game for the Raptors dragged out across double overtime. The Bucks lost Giannis Antetokounmpo to foul trouble, while Kyle Lowry and Norman Powell were bounced for the Raptors. The Raptors led from start to finish, and yet the Bucks just refused to go away, and in the end it took a superhuman effort by the best player in the conference to put this game away.
Two - Mentality: Kawhi Leonard found another gear when everyone else faltered. Despite playing 52 minutes, it was Leonard who skied from the dotted circle for a dunk in double overtime, then followed that up with several more big plays down the stretch to close things out. This wasn’t Leonard’s best game - his efficiency and shot selection laboured at times - but he found it deep within himself to come up with the plays when it mattered most, and that’s the mark of a great player.
Three - Everything: In addition to carrying the scoring load, Leonard was also assigned the challenge of guarding Antetokounmpo. Granted, the Raptors aggressively blitzed the MVP finalist on the block with hard double teams, which led to eight turnovers, but Leonard also did yeoman’s work to keep Antetokounmpo off the offensive glass, keep him off the line, and to bother his shots as best as possible to limit him to just 5-of-16 shooting. The Bucks will undoubtedly scour the tape and come prepared with a better strategy to beat the doubles going forward, but in this game at least, the Raptors got the job done.
Four - Redemption: Pride kicked in after playing what was possibly the worst game of his career. Marc Gasol was a monster on both ends, as he drained four triples, and he was meticulous with his help defense in shutting off the paint while still flying out to the perimeter to contest threes. Gasol did have one gaffe where he passed up an open dunk and swung it out into a turnover at halfcourt, but he redeemed himself later in double overtime by rolling hard to the rim and taking the punishment to earn himself two free-throws.
Five - Consequence: Gasol aggressively looked for his shot early on, drained two early triples and a midrange shot, and the Bucks respected him from thereon. With a defender pressed up closer to him, Gasol was able to dribble against the rotations and collapse the defense to create for others. Gasol even did damage in the post, as he dropped a gorgeous baseline dime to a Pascal Siakam early on. The lesson here is that Gasol must first establish himself as a threat in order to unlock his playmaking. Tonight, he finished with seven assists to lead the team.
Six - Heroic: There’s something about Norman Powell that just allows him to thrive against the Bucks. Powell stepped up with 19 points off the bench before fouling out in the first overtime. Powell’s willingness in attacking the Bucks’ closeouts has allowed him to profit at the basket, and his length and activity on defense has also been an asset. He can’t guard Antetokounmpo, which is the main reason why he fouled out, but that’s hardly a knock against him. The Raptors badly need Powell to keep contributing because Danny Green just looks like a shell of himself.
Seven - Perseverance: Siakam nearly ended up as the scapegoat after he clanked two free-throws in regulation that would have sealed the deal. However, Siakam kept with it, and ended up being one of the heroes in the end as he got Antetokounmpo to foul out in double overtime, while blocking Brook Lopez at rim and calmly swishing another two free-throws to finally clinch the win. The biggest key for Siakam is that he must keep attacking the basket, no matter how difficult the matchup is against Antetokounmpo. Even if it’s not the most high-percentage play, Siakam must make him work on the other end, tire him out, and challenge the officials to call the contact.
Eight - Unsung: Fred VanVleet and Green were absolute duds in regulation, but they both chipped in down the stretch after Lowry and Green fouled out. VanVleet’s on-ball defense against Eric Bledsoe was vital, and he also provided timely help in the paint, while Green nailed a huge three in overtime to give the Raptors a semblance of breathing room. Nick Nurse should still try to limit their minutes whenever possible, as neither one looks to be at anywhere close to 100 percent.
Nine - Bluff: Nurse threw a curveball before the game by teasing a lineup change, before ultimately sticking with his starters. It’s unclear as to why he threw out that bit of gamesmanship, but it was a smart decision in the end. Nurse has to dance with the group that got him here, and the bottom line was just that his players had to perform to their abilities. Gasol was better than what he showed in Game 2, and Nurse gave him a chance to redeem himself, and that’s exactly what happened. The case with Green is unclear, but Powell’s ability to create offense is probably more valuable off the bench when he’s likely sharing minutes with VanVleet.
Ten - Adjustments: If anything, it wouldn’t be a surprise for the Bucks to change their lineup. Brogdon has thoroughly outperformed Nikola Mirotic, and he should be back in the starting lineup to give the Bucks an added dimension of playmaking. That being said, the Bucks also need Brogdon to cover Leonard while Khris Middleton sits, and so it might not make sense to have them overlap.
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