Leonard lays down Raptors challenge after back-to-back Bucks defeats

By Sports Desk May 18, 2019

Kawhi Leonard wants the Toronto Raptors to prove their championship calibre by responding to back-to-back defeats against the Milwaukee Bucks with a win in Game 3.

The Bucks took a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals with a 125-103 blowout of the Raptors at Fiserv Forum on Friday, MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo contributing 30 points, 17 rebounds and five assists.

Milwaukee began the game with a 9-0 run and took a 28-point lead early in the third quarter, though Toronto reduced the deficit to 13 later in the period.

However, the Raptors were unable to stop Mike Budenholzer's team surging back to seal a resounding triumph and Leonard is keen to see a response in Toronto on Sunday.

"If we want to do anything, if we want to be a championship team, we've got to play through adversity. It's a challenge now to come home in Game 3 and try to get a win," said Leonard, who scored 31 points.

Asked how the Raptors let the game get away from them so early, he responded: "A couple of turnovers, missing wide open shots, they got out in transition. We started the game and Giannis got an offensive rebound putback and those are one of our key emphases to try to limit them, and they came out with a 9-0 run.

"It's very tough [to stop], especially on the road. When you get down in a hole, down 15 points in the first quarter, when you're on the road it's tough to come back in that game.

"They've got adrenaline running, they're feeling confident, just got to try to lock in and chip it down point by point and see what happens."

Game 1 proved a much closer affair as the Bucks triumphed 108-100, and Raptors coach Nick Nurse wants a repeat of the effort displayed in the series opener.

"We didn't play very well tonight, and we did play pretty well in Game 1," said Nurse.

"They've done what they're supposed to do and protect their home court, and we've got to go now and do the same and get ourselves back in the series.

"But it's got to be more of an effort like Game 1 than tonight because, again, we were just uphill for almost three quarters tonight.

"We've got to continue to work the offense for shots. And again, I sound like a broken record up here, but we had our share of wide-open shots that could have at least stymied a little bit of the breakout in the score. But we've got to make sure we continue to work for them.

"We just weren't quite physical enough. We weren't getting our screens set good enough. We weren't getting them off their screens good enough as well.

"We're going to have to be better or they're just going to look bigger and stronger than we are, and I don't necessarily think that's the case. We've got to play a little tougher."

Point guard Kyle Lowry, who scored 15 points off four-of-13 shooting, emphasised the need for Toronto to improve on the glass after they were out-rebounded 53-40.

"They got 17 points after second-chance shots. That definitely will hurt you. It's not a back-breaker; we've just got to be a little bit more physical rebounding the ball," said Lowry.

"We know that they're going to crash a little bit more. But when we get out-rebounded, we don't get to play the way we need to play. We've got to do a better job of rebounding the basketball. They had 11 offensive rebounds - way too many. Those are things we can clean up.

"Now we've got a chance to go home and protect home court and do what we're supposed to do."

Related items

  • Celtics' Hayward wishes Irving 'the best of luck' with Nets Celtics' Hayward wishes Irving 'the best of luck' with Nets

    Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward hopes Kyrie Irving is successful with the Brooklyn Nets.

    Irving left Boston and inked a four-year, $140.6million contract with Brooklyn this offseason.

    Hayward was asked about Irving's departure when he met with reporters on Tuesday. 

    "The interesting part of the league is the drama that happens every offseason," Hayward said, via NBC Sports Boston. "I don't know if there's any league like that, where you have major guys moving teams.

    "I wish [Irving] the best of luck as he goes to Brooklyn."

    The Celtics also lost Al Horford (Philadelphia 76ers) and Marcus Morris (New York Knicks) in free agency.

    But, they signed three-time All-Star Kemba Walker and added center Enes Kanter.

    "As a team, we're excited about who we have coming in," Hayward said. "I'm more than excited to welcome Kemba and Enes, and all the other guys that are new for us."

    Hayward was inconsistent last season after he missed almost all of 2017-18 with a devastating leg injury. He averaged 11.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in 25.9 minutes per game while shooting 33.3 per cent from three-point range. 

    Hayward said he has spent the offseason focusing on bouncing back.

    "More than anything, just building back some confidence; being able to do everything that I'm used to doing," Hayward said. "Reps is what gives you confidence, being able to do things over and over and over and not worry about how my ankle is feeling or having to be cautious with it, has been really good for my confidence.

    "That has felt really nice, being able to train how I'm used to training. Not having to worry about doing stuff for only 10 minutes, only doing a certain amount of reps. It's been really good from that standpoint."

    The Celtics entered 2018-19 as the favourites to win the East but finished with a 49-33 record and were eliminated by the Milwaukee Bucks in five games in the conference semifinals.

  • Reddish tops Williamson in NBA rookies survey Reddish tops Williamson in NBA rookies survey

    Zion Williamson's fellow NBA rookies do not expect him to have the best career of the players in his draft class, with Cam Reddish coming out on top in the league's annual rookie survey.

    Only five per cent of respondents in the survey believe Williamson will have the best career of the 2019 draftees.

    Atlanta Hawks guard Reddish, meanwhile, received 19 per cent of the vote for the question.

    Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (16 per cent) and Hawks forward De'Andre Hunter (11 per cent) also ranked higher than Williamson.

    Three other players – Jaxson Hayes, who will play alongside Williamson for the New Orleans Pelicans, RJ Barrett and Coby White matched the small forward at five per cent.

    Reddish, who was selected at number 10 by the Hawks, and Williamson were team-mates at Duke Blue Devils.

    Williamson was the story of college basketball last season and averaged 22.6 points, along with 8.9 rebounds, while shooting 68 per cent from the field.

    He was the consensus top prospect in the 2019 draft and the Pelicans chose him with the number one pick.

    However, Williamson is favoured to win the Rookie of the Year among members of his draft class, as 35 per cent of respondents in the survey predicted he would take home the award.

  • Pacers have a 'chance to be really special' next season – Oladipo Pacers have a 'chance to be really special' next season – Oladipo

    Victor Oladipo believes the Indiana Pacers have a "chance to be really special" as they prepare for the 2019-20 NBA season.

    The Pacers finished 2018-19 with a 48-34 record and were swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs after star Oladipo ruptured a quad tendon in his right knee.

    Indiana lost some key pieces from that team — including Thaddeus Young, Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collision and Cory Joseph. But, the Pacers replaced them with the likes of Jeremy Lamb, T.J. Warren, T.J. McConnell, Justin Holiday and JaKarr Sampson.

    The Pacers made multiple moves this offseason and two-time All-Star Oladipo said Indiana will "definitely" make the playoffs.

    "I feel like we got some great additions," Oladipo said, via the Indianapolis Star. "We got a chance to be really special. I feel like the league is wide open."

    Indiana's biggest acquisition was Malcolm Brogdon, who they landed in a sign-and-trade with the Milwaukee Bucks.

    Brogdon, who averaged 15.6 points and shot 42.6 per cent from three-point range last season, then signed a four-year, $85million deal with the Pacers.

    "We added a lot of fire power offensively, but we always wanted a team on a good timeline," Indiana president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard told reporters in early July.

    "We feel we have a young team, a very vibrant up-and-coming team that's willing to get better. We like guys who love the game. You can always tell when guys love the game, they have these incremental improvements every year."

    Oladipo said he was excited to play with Brogdon.

    "I know what type of player he is, the level that he plays on and has been playing on the last couple of years from Milwaukee," Oladipo said. "To have him as an addition is pretty big for us."

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.