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Enough DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry get Raptors ugly win over Bucks 87-76, series tied 2-2

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This game wasn’t pretty. If anything it was much closer to 1997 basketball than 2017 — the game was physical, slow, there was plenty of grabbing, teams shot a combined 23.3 percent from three, there was a lot of isolation basketball, and ball and player movement were sporadic at best.

The Toronto Raptors don’t care.

In desperate need of a win after falling behind 2-1 in the series, the Raptors got what they needed — big games from DeMar DeRozan (33 points) and Kyle Lowry (18), plus improved defense on Giannis Antetokounmpo — and that was enough for an 87-76 victory.

The series is now tied 2-2 heading back to Toronto for Game 3 on Monday.

If the Raptors were going to get back in this series, it had to start with their All-Star guards playing up to that billing, and Saturday afternoon it happened.

In the first half it was DeRozan carrying Toronto, bouncing back from an 0-of-8 shooting performance in Game 3. DeRozan was 8-of-14 for 21 points in the first half, the rest of the Raptors combined were 7-of-28 with 20 points. DeRozan finished the game with 33 points on 22 shots, and had nine rebounds and five rebounds.

The Bucks were struggling as well, and it was tied 41-41 at the half.

The second half saw what the Raptors really need in this series — the emergence of Lowry. He was attacking and had 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting, three assists, and he was creating looks for everyone. He had struggled for the first three games against the length of the Bucks defenders and how they covered the pick-and-roll, but he finally seemed to get a comfort level. Toronto needs him to stay in that zone in Game 5.

Toronto needed more than just its stars, it needed better defense on Antetokounmpo, and they got it, he was 0-of-7 shooting in the second half and finished the game with 14 points on 19 shots. P.J. Tucker deserves particular credit for his defense on the Greek Freak.

Tony Snell ended up leading the Bucks in scoring off the bench with 19, including hitting five threes. If anything, Jason Kidd needed to go to more of him (and Kris Middleton) in the fourth, those two rested too long.

The Raptors also did a good job of slowing the game down, making it a half-court slog, which suits them much better than the more athletic Bucks.

The questions become: In an even series, can the Raptors carry over what they did right, and can the Bucks adjust? Raptors coach Dwane Casey brought Jonas Valanciunas off the bench, can the Bucks use that to their advantage and get Antetokounmpo switched onto smaller defenders? The Bucks looked like a young team when it came to finding and exploiting mismatches in this game. (Norman Powell got the start instead so the Raptors could play small, and he finished with a dozen points and had some key threes.)

If Lowry can play like he did in the second half for the rest of this series, you have to like Toronto’s chances.

Shaq calls his absurd light-up shoes the real Big Baller Brand

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Because 7’1″, 350-pound Shaquille O’Neal needed an impossible-to-ignore pair of light up shoes to call attention to himself…

Shaq posted a video of himself on Instagram wearing some outrageous light-up shoes — then in the comments decided to take another dig at Big Baller Brand.

Boy was shining wasn't he #whatarethose #shineonem #feetwork #shaqshoestherealbigballerbrand

A post shared by DR. SHAQUILLE O'NEAL Ed.D. (@shaq) on

So how much do those shoes cost? More or less than ZO2?

One of the things I enjoyed about Summer League was that as Lonzo Ball played better and better, the spotlight shifted more to his play and more away from his father. Think what you will of LaVar Ball — marketing genius or loud-mouthed dad — personally I’m just weary of him. I like Lonzo’s play, I don’t need the rest.

However, between Shaq and Charles Barkley, I think there’s going to be a lot of LaVar/Big Baller Brand talk on Inside the NBA next season. Those two can’t help themselves.

After four years out of NBA, Pacers give Damien Wilkins chance to return

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Consider this the most unexpected signing of the summer.

The last time we saw Damien Wilkins in the NBA, the 6’6″ wing out of the University of Georgia was finishing his ninth NBA season, averaging 6.4 points per game and shooting 33.3 percent from three. He looked like a guy who was done at the NBA level. Since then he has played in China, Spain, and the D-League.

The Pacers are giving him another crack to make an NBA roster. They have signed 37-year-old Wilkins to a non-guaranteed deal, reports the Indy Star.

The Indiana Pacers agreed to a one-year, non-guaranteed veteran minimum deal for close to $2 million with small forward and shooting guard Damien Wilkins, a league source confirmed to IndyStar.

The Pacers have 14 guys on the roster already, and they have at the wing Victor Oladipo, Lance Stephenson, Rodney Stuckey, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Glenn Robinson III, it will be tough for Wilkins to crack that rotation.

But he’ll get his chance, and having a desperate veteran pushing guys in camp never hurts. Maybe he can impress enough in camp that if the Pacers don’t want him another team might. It’s a foot in the door, and that’s all Wilkins can ask at this point.

Watch the Top 10 dunks from the NBA Summer League

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Summer League, at its core, is athletic young players in sloppy games.

That leads to massive dunks. Here are the top 10, which John Collins deserving the top spot.

Report: Carmelo Anthony willing to waive $8 million trade kicker for Rockets

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Carmelo Anthony does not want to return to the Knicks. The Knicks want to trade Carmelo Anthony. The Houston Rockets would like to trade for Carmelo Anthony.

So far all that will has not gotten a deal nearly as close to done as has been reported, I was told by sources. There are major hurdles, and the Knicks don’t like the offers they’ve gotten so far, which is why they pulled back (not because of the Scott Perry hiring or some desire to change Anthony’s mind). As has been reported before, Anthony is willing to waive his no trade clause for the right team to get the deal done, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN said on The Jump.

“My sources tell me he’s willing to waive the trade kicker, which is worth around $8 million, so that makes a little easier for Houston to do a trade.”

That’s nice. It doesn’t solve the core problem with a Rockets’ trade.

The Rockets are over the cap so the only way this trade gets done is they send out enough salary to match and create space for Anthony. The Rockets could do that with a combination of Eric Gordon, Clint Capela, Trevor Ariza, and some expiring deals, but that cuts way too deeply into the roster and hurts the Rockets more than it helps. What the Rockets need to do in this trade is move Ryan Anderson, and his three-years, $60 million — except the Knicks don’t want that contract on their books (even though Anderson is a good player when healthy). So now the two sides are trying to find a third team that would take on Anderson’s contract, but the Rockets are going to have to give up sweeteners — a couple first round picks or a pick and a quality young player — that they don’t have to get the deal done. So enter a fourth team to get the sweeteners, but that team will want things back, and quickly the house of cards falls apart.

On top of all that, the Knicks still don’t think they’re getting enough back in the trade to want to do it. Yet, anyway.

Over on the left coast, there is Portland saying “look at us, look at us!” They would be willing to trade for Anthony, as C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard have made clear.

One massive problem with that: Anthony has not been interested in waiving his no trade clause for anyone but Cleveland and Houston.

If he changes his mind — and that’s a huge, unlikely “if” — maybe a deal could be found. The Blazers already have a top-five payroll in the NBA (may be top two when all is said and done) and that means they have to send out salary as well, someone like Evan Turner and Meyers Leonard (moving Allen Crabbe is the dream, but also highly unlikely). The Knicks could have interest in Turner, the Blazers have picks to throw in, and if a third team picked up Leonard maybe we’re close to something. But until Anthony makes it clear he would accept a trade to Portland, something he has yet to do, this is all a moot exercize.

But hey, Anthony will waive his trade kicker. So there’s that.