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Series Tied

A couple days ago, the Toronto Raptors were done.

May 22, 2019 - 10:09 am

A couple days ago, the Toronto Raptors were done. They were down 2-0. They had been blown out by 22 in Game 2. And they were just going back to Toronto to die and then start the eventual rebuild when Kawhi leaves them in a few weeks.

We’d gone from an epic second round to teetering on the verge of sweeps in both conference finals. Milwaukee was going to wrap up the series and then have more than a week to rest up for the Warriors.

Then… Kawhi turns in an epic 52-minute performance on a bad leg in Game 3’s double-overtime win. And then suddenly, this series actually had a pulse. 

Or did it. Let’s be real. What that was, was a win, that could have and should have been a loss, against a Bucks team that didn’t play well. And there was no way Kawhi was bouncing back, on that bum wheel after playing 52 minutes against a Bucks team that was going to wake the hell up for Game 4. Great, Toronto lives to fight another day, but there’s no way they win another day. At last that’s the way I saw it. And so did most anyone else who knows anything about the game. Ehhhhhhhh!! 

Actually, the exact opposite went down. Instead, the Raptors dominated 120-102. An 18-point blowout. And now we’ve got ourselves a series. This matchup has been hit with the paddles.

Toronto had to have last night. And I don’t mean Toronto the team. I mean, Toronto the city. They wanted that badly. Did you see the crowd in Jurassic Park last night? How many blocks did that stretch for? That looked like a victory parade and it was actually just people looking to watch the game on the big screen.

And then there are the celebrities. Timbaland was in the house. Donovan Bailey was in the house. Hell yes he was. 

And of course Drake. And course Drake was doing what he always does, which is a lot.  And by a lot, I mean way too much. Like losing his ish, when the Freak missed a free throw.

Totally out of control. Or at least I thought so, until I saw him giving Raptors coach Nick Nurse a deep tissue massage during the fourth quarter:

The…hell…is….that????? Seriously. I know he’s into the game and he wants a win badly, but when was the last time you saw a fan give a head coach a quick rubdown during the fourth quarter of a playoff game. I don’t remember Jack Nicholson breaking out the baby oil on Pat Riley back in the day. 

Nor do I recall Usher giving David Blatt a chiropractic adjustment. Or Billy Crystal getting Vinny Del Negro to loosen up.

Dude…That’s just weird. I have expected Drake to just drag his massage table out to center court during time outs so he could rub nurse up properly. But incredibly… it worked. Because they got the win.

And last night’s win came with Kawhi clearly banged up. Actually, banged up doesn’t do it justice. He was out there one one leg. And only had 19 points on the night. That’s the guy Drake should have gone all shiastsu on. With and Pascal Siakam still wasn’t right after playing 51 minutes in Game 3. Drake should have broken out the hot stones and enya CD on Siakam. What? Aromatherapy didn’t want any of that? Is this guy a platinum recording artist or some good in a mall kiosk? I thought he was going to have Nurse sit backwards and smash him into that face contraption: you know that, weird part massage table, part Hannibal lector mask that they have at airports. Yo, coach still your feet into this tub of hot water that 50 others losers have already stood in today.

Brookstone wouldn’t tolerate some of the crap Drake tried to pull last night. And Drake give Nurse one of those bent, crooked pens for free when he was done? I mean, damn. Bob Kraft and his attorneys are killing themselves to prevent the release of that video tape of Kraft and his 78 year old junk, but the entire world can just be subjected to Drake rubbing up Nick Nurse on live TV?! How the hell is that all right??! Seriously, step back from that for a min. Just think about that for a minute. It’s the fourth quarter, of an a conference championship game. A must win game for the Raptors. And the dude from hotline bling is giving the coach a deep tissue massage, that he didn’t ask for and obviously doesn’t want. And it’s happening in front of about a billion people. Seriously. It’s not like Nurse said, hey, hey!! I’m freaking out here, get Drake; I need my rub now, dammnit!! Nah. Nick’s probably thinking up his next defensive set or substitution pattern when all of a sudden he’s thinking, damn, is some drunk groupie rubbing me up: she’s pretty strong. Holy crap, its dude who recorded, “hold on, we’re going home.” Who is hitting me with this unwanted rub down. Weeeeeirrd….normally weird is good. But not this case. 

Seriously.  The….hell….is….that….just know you’ll will never, ever see a member of the XR4TI rubbing me up during the show, no matter how stressful it gets. 

Anyway….I got distracted. Back to the game….But Milwaukee respects Kawhi so much, maybe too much, to the point that even though he’s not right, they still locked in on him defensively. They were so focused on the one-legged superstar that they let the other guys get loose. And the other guys really got loose. 

Norman Powell – 18 points
Marc Gasol – 17 points, 7 assists
Serge Ibaka – 17 points, 13 rebounds
Fred VanVleet – 13 points, 6 assists. F.V.V. went from hitting absolutely nothing to hitting everything last night.

And then there is Kyle Lowry. There might not be a more polarizing player on the Raptors roster and maybe not even in the entire Eastern Conference than Kyle Lowry. Fair or not, he has come to embody everything that has been good, and bad, about the Raptors over the last few years. And he was everything good last night.

With Kawhi busted up, Lowry did everything. 6 of 11 from the field. 3 of 7 from deep. 10 for 10 from the line. Hustling, getting extra possessions. Making winning plays.

Kawhi won’t get into details, but make no mistake about it, he’s hurt. Just ask Danny Green: “He’s playing through pain. He can’t even celebrate baskets because of how painful it is. You dunk on a guy like Giannis and you are worried about your knee, it shows you that he’s fighting. We’re going to need him to fight through the rest of this series. We need two more.”

FVV backed that up: “[Kawhi] is out there, he’s battling. We know we need him. That’s for him and the medical staff to worry about. As teammates you just appreciate a guy going to war for you. We all do the same. When guys are hurt, you try to go out there and lay it on the line for your teammates. It’s playoff basketball. Obviously seeing him in a different mode in terms of offense, where you can see he is moving a little bit different, and they are still sending more help. They don’t care that he is hurt. They are not taking the double teams off. We got to keep stepping up and making shots.”

Obviously Kawhi’s health is the major issue the rest of the way. Does he have enough in the tank to win two of the next three, including one on the road? But don’t sleep on this – here’s a guy who’s heart and toughness have been questioned in the past. Here’s a guy who allegedly was in Toronto for just one year before bouncing to another team.

And he’s out there on one leg, busting his ass for a group of guys he only recently started playing with.

That says something. That says a lot. He’s taken them from completely out of this series to right back in it and maybe even in the driver’s seat. And if I’m Toronto, I’m making sure Drake is on a plane to Milwaukee and he’s bringing his massage table, oils, enya’s greatest hits and magic hands with him.