Celtics

About last night: Kawhi pushes Bucks to brink of elimination

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About last night: Kawhi pushes Bucks to brink of elimination

WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT

Blakely: Raptors take control of Eastern Conference Finals 

Less than a week ago, the Toronto Raptors were an overmatched, underperforming hot mess against a Milwaukee Bucks squad that was clicking on all levels. 

Today? 

The tide of the series has turned dramatically with the Raptors now having won three straight over Milwaukee to be within one win of advancing to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. 

Kawhi Leonard continues to be arguably the best player in the postseason, and was sensational in Game 5 with 35 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. 

But the true difference-maker was Raptors reserve Fred VanVleet, who had 21 points, including seven 3-pointers, the same number of made 3’s by the entire Milwaukee starting five. 

With steady play by veteran Kyle Lowry (17 points, seven rebounds, six assists) and Pascal Siakam (14 points, 13 rebounds, three blocked shots), the Raptors have gone from a disaster to being a win away from venturing into unchartered territory: the NBA Finals. 

Forsberg: Troll job goes to waste 

Biggest disappointment for the Bucks has to be wasting the amazing troll job by owner’s daughter Mallory Edens, who wore a Pusha-T T-shirt courtside as a hilarious shot at Drake. 

Well, that and losing three straight games for the first time all season. Not ideal timing there for Milwaukee. 

But cyborg Kawhi Leonard continues to come up with all the big plays and his big-game experience and poise is accentuated compared to these young Bucks.

SO... THAT HAPPENED


NUMBER OF NOTE

35 — Kawhi Leonard has seven games with at least 35 points this postseason. The only other player in the last 20 years to have seven 35-point games before the NBA Finals? LeBron James, on three separate occasions.

THEY SAID IT

"This isn't the sexy answer, but from the first day of training camp we've been saying we're going to stay level. A s---ty preseason game is just gonna get written off. A great win at Golden State, same thing. A terrible game in San Antonio, 'Let's bounce back.' And we've done it all year. We've kept it even-keeled."

— Raptors head coach Nick Nurse to ESPN, on storming back to move within one game of the NBA Finals

THURSDAY'S SCOREBOARD

  • Raptors 105, Bucks 99 (TOR leads series 3-2)

WHAT WE'LL BE WATCHING

BlakelyDurant-drama continues… 

The he-said, he-said back and forth between Kevin Durant and FS1’s Chris Broussard makes for good theater

But more than anything else, it serves as a timely distraction from what’s really going on with the Golden State Warriors. 

Whether they will own it or not, his absence has in many ways brought this group closer together, a team that’s embracing the fact that they need one another more than ever with Durant’s uncertain return.

He is a brilliant basketball player, one whose presence makes the Warriors damn near unbeatable this time of year. 

But the social media beef he and Broussard are involved with, only cements the perception that Durant is overly sensitive when it comes to being criticized or questioned by the media. 

As I said earlier, it makes for good theatre. But Durant returning to the floor for the NBA Finals?

That’s the show that everyone is eager to see him involved with this time of year.

Forsberg: Backed against the wall 

Love Giannis’ attitude after the loss, and now Game 6 can’t come soon enough.

“We're gonna come back to Milwaukee being pissed,” Giannis told reporters. Now it’s time to go show it.

The Bucks had a chance to step on Toronto’s throats early in Game 5 and let the Raptors off the ropes. Are the Bucks just not ready for the moment yet? We’ll find out when they have to fight for their lives on the road.

Selfishly, we want two more games out of this series. 

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NBA Rumors: Celtics target Mike Conley traded from Grizzlies to Jazz

NBA Rumors: Celtics target Mike Conley traded from Grizzlies to Jazz

If Kyrie Irving leaves the Boston Celtics in free agency, Mike Conley won't be replacing him.

The Memphis Grizzlies have traded their veteran point guard to the Utah Jazz for a haul that includes former Celtics forward Jae Crowder, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday. The Athletic's Shams Charania was the first to report the pending deal.

Conley, who's set to make $32.5 million next season, reportedly was on the Celtics' radar as they prepare for life without Irving. Instead, the 31-year-old is heading to Utah, which likely means Ricky Rubio will depart in unrestricted free agency.

The Grizzlies appear to be in full rebuilding mode after dealing the face of their franchise. That's good news for Boston, which owns Memphis' 2020 first-round pick that could convert to an unprotected first-rounder in 2021 if the Grizzles' 2020 pick lands in the top six.

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NBA rumors: How Nets' Kyrie Irving pursuit is impacted by second star joining him

NBA rumors: How Nets' Kyrie Irving pursuit is impacted by second star joining him

Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving reportedly is "prepared to sign" with the Brooklyn Nets, but would they change their mind about the 27-year-old veteran if a second superstar free agent doesn't join him this summer?

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski addressed this possibility during Wednesday's episode of "Get Up."

“What Brooklyn would like to have is not just Kyrie Irving, but a second star come in with him, and obviously Kevin Durant is that player,” Wojnarowski said.

“If they don’t get a second star, it'll be interesting to see if Brooklyn wants to have Kyrie Irving as a solo act. That didn’t go so great in Boston last year. So we’ll see if Brooklyn is still following through on just Kyrie Irving, because if they don’t take Kyrie Irving they can just bring back D’Angelo Russell at a lower number, younger player. But the focus with the Nets (is getting) two stars, and to try to get Kyrie Irving to go out and try to recruit KD.”

No, it didn't go well at all in Boston this past season with Irving as the leader. Irving was among the reasons why team chemistry seemed to be a real issue with the Celtics throughout the 2018-19 campaign, and his leadership skills were justifiably questioned numerous times. Irving had a good statistical season in Boston, but the team came up woefully short of expectations by finishing in fourth place in the Eastern Conference during the regular season and then being eliminated by the Milwaukee Bucks in a five-game second-round playoff series.

The Nets made the playoffs last season with a young, hard-working team led by a young, up-and-coming head coach in Kenny Atkinson. They looked a lot like the Celtics did before irving came to Boston in the summer of 2017. Do the Nets want to risk Irving messing up the impressive culture they've built over the last few years? It's a risk Brooklyn must weigh over the next two weeks.

The Russell part of this equation is interesting as well. He was an All-Star for Brooklyn last season and is four years younger than Irving. Russell also would be cheaper to re-sign than the Celtics' guard, as Woj noted. The Nets shouldn't let Russell walk as a restricted free agent without getting anything in return unless they know for sure that Irving and a second superstar are coming in free agency. Russell is a great asset, either as an important part of the Nets' core going forward or as a trade chip.

Click for the biggest winners and losers of the Anthony Davis trade>>>

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