Things did not look good for the Toronto Raptors coming into Game 3. They were down 2-0 to the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals despite leading at halftime in both games. Coming back to Toronto without a win wasn’t a death knell, but it seemed the Raptors had thrown their best punches and the Bucks countered their every move. But a Sunday night marathon proved the Raptors aren’t out of this yet.
Toronto outlasted Milwaukee in double OT, 118-112, and managed to keep the series at a manageable 2-1 deficit. They were helped by Giannis Antetokounmpo’s poor shooting and early exit after fouling out in the beginning of the second OT, but everyone who needed to step up did. Kawhi Leonard put forth his usual superhuman effort, finishing with 36 points and several timely steals near the end despite being visibly hobbled the whole game after he came down awkwardly following a dunk. Fred VanVleet finally appeared, sinking timely threes while competing on the defensive end. Marc Gasol provided his usual boost of excellent defense and timely passing, while Pascal Siakam seemed to break out of a shooting slump from deep when it mattered most.
The Raptors had several chances to pull away in the third and fourth quarters but couldn’t do so. They managed to still come away with the win by playing tough defense and not letting up on either end. The Raptors are as aware as the rest of us that they had some luck along the way, but every team needs a bit of luck now and again. This showed they won’t just roll over in the face of the stingy Bucks defense and the well-oiled machine that is their offense.
Giannis won’t shoot like this again, but the series would’ve effectively been over if the Raptors didn’t take this game. They fed off the energy of a raucous home crowd and came through in a big way. The Bucks know they can win this series, and have played like the better team for the majority of it, but the Raptors are giving them a challenge for the first time all playoffs. How they handle it will be revealing in their quest for a title.