We’re running it back because they can’t.
With the National Basketball Association on hold for the foreseeable future, TSN and Sportsnet are airing the entirety of the Toronto Raptors’ playoff run to the 2019 NBA title. You can watch Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday night on TSN4/5 at 8pm ET/5pm PT.
Over these 24 games, fans can relive the highs and lows – there were lows, but you just might not remember them – of that magical run to the franchise’s first-ever championship, capping a remarkable turnaround from NBA laughingstock to the league’s very best.
From Kawhi Leonard calling the series against the Philadelphia 76ers, to the team improbably overturning a 2-0 series deficit against the Milwaukee Bucks, to that famous June night in Oakland when the Raptors got their hands on the Larry OB, you can relive all 24 games that made the Toronto Raptors NBA champions.
One game after Kawhi Leonard emptied the tank leading the Toronto Raptors to a double overtime win over the Milwaukee Bucks to effectively keep the team in the series, new father for the second time Fred VanVleet and the Raps’ bench took over the starring role as the Raptors evened the Eastern Conference Finals 2-2.
VanVleet was coming off a disappointing Game 3 performance, shooting just 1-of-11, but one night after welcoming his second child, he bounced back with 13 points on 3-of-3 shooting from three point range, and six assists to lead the Raptors to a 120-102 win over the Bucks in Game 4.
VanVleet wasn’t the only Raptors’ bench player with a big performance at home in Game 4. Norman Powell continued his strong series against the Bucks with 18 points and Serge Ibaka finished with a double-double, 17 points and 13 rebounds.
Ibaka said he thought the win was the Raps’ most complete effort of the post-season.
"This playoff so far, yes. Our team needs it from us, coming off the bench to bring some energy, and defensive intensity, and score some points to help our starting lineup. It was big-time for us (Game 4)."
"We stepped up for (Leonard)," Kyle Lowry said after the win. "He's given us a lot through these playoffs. A couple of games where we can give him a chance to not have to do as much and carry the load as much — he got down to 34 minutes tonight. I wish he would have played less than 30."
While it was big to see the team step up for Leonard during an off game, it didn’t alleviate the injury concerns over their star player. Leonard battled through 34 minutes at what looked like less than 100 per cent after an apparent leg injury in Game 3. He did still finish with a team-high 19 points while continuing to play solid defence on Bucks’ star Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Game 4 win may be most remembered however, by rapper Drake massaging Raptors’ head coach Nick Nurse’s shoulders during the game.
Drake had been a constant presence courtside in Toronto during the playoffs, and there were signs going into Game 5 his antics were starting to get to the Bucks. Drake chirped Antetokounmpo all night long in Game 4 and while the Bucks star didn’t take the bait, Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer voiced his displeasure ahead of Game 5.
"There's certainly no place (on the court) for fans and, you know, whatever it is exactly that Drake is for the Toronto Raptors," Budenholzer said. "You know, to be on the court, there are boundaries and lines for a reason, and like I said, the league is usually pretty good at being on top of stuff like that."
Predictably, Raptors fans had far less issue with Drake’s courtside fandom.
Down 2-0 to start the series, the Raptors are winners of two straight and it’s a whole new series against the Bucks. In a sprint to the NBA Finals, the Raptors may now have momentum – and Drake – on their side.
Here's what TSN's basketball analysts had to say about Game 5 versus the Bucks:
“Listen closely. Can you hear it? Yep, the sound of hundreds of so called “basketball insiders” jumping on the Raptors bandwagon. Call this the “Buck the Trend” game. Just when this series looked like a Wimbledon final, the Raptors were able to break serve and end the homecourt pattern. Didn't look good early, but cue the comeback and cue Kawhi who was well - Kawhi. Cyborg did it all and dragged everyone with him. An 18-2 run absolutely tasered the Bucks who looked frozen in the headlights especially in the 4th. So many key moments: Freddy again, Norm again, the bench again, defence again - the Raps just wanted it more. If you didnt believe before, you certainly did now. And now, the Raptor wagon one win away from...can you hear it? The NBA Finals.”
“Toronto let a win on the road slip away in Game 1. They wouldn’t make the same mistake. An early punch from the Bucks wouldn’t be enough in game 5. Everyone would contribute in his own way, but it was Kawhi and VanVleet’s performances that would seal a tough, tough road win.”
“A Classic! Nothing sweeter than a ‘Tipping Point’ road win!! Fred VanVleet shot lights out (7-9 on 3’s): clutch in back-to-back games. Raps only committed 6 turnovers. Stellar ball protection = Bucks being stuck playing slow.”
“All the credit to FVV JR! I remember chatting with Fred pre-game for my pre-tip story, and he honestly didn’t look like he had slept. His new baby boy was born between games 3 & 4 and while he was really good in 4, he was exceptional in this one!!! It was no secret Freddy was struggling with his shot, but as soon as Freddy Jr. came into the world it was like he couldn’t miss. Although he wouldn’t give his new baby boy credit, I fully chalk this W up to his arrival!”
“After a few days of going back and forth between Rockford and Toronto (or, in this case, Milwaukee) with almost no sleep, Fred VanVleet (Sr.) plays 37 minutes and scores 21 points in G5. The birth of his son was such a turning point for him and while that was mostly a coincidence, I do think there was some connection. Fred was in his own head. He was in a bad slump and overthinking everything. Suddenly, he had something more important to think about and I think it took the pressure off. What a huge development for the Raps to have the real FVV back.”
“Toronto entered the 4th quarter of game 5 down by three and Kawhi Leonard does it all but “pop-lock and drop it” in the first four minutes of the frame. Steals, drawn charges, assists, back-to-back threes. Madness. How many times in the playoffs have we seen the Raptors get bounced because they didn’t have the best player in a deep series? That wasn’t the case anymore. Kawhi Leonard was their difference and they had Milwaukee right where they wanted them: shook.”
“Game 5 was the dagger! The Raptors knew they let game 1 slip away in Milwaukee, but not this time! Kawhi was a monster with 35 points - 15 in the 4th - and a career-high 9 assists! The Fun Guy wasn’t alone - Fred Sr. was 7-9 from 3, and Kyle was...well...Kyle!! Time to close at home!”