Three Things We Learned in NBA Thursday: Tony Snell’s becoming a thing for Bulls

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If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while knitting sweaters for penguins….

1) The Bulls can put together an impressive game. Sporadically. Before the season — heck, even now — you look at the Bulls on paper, and you think that should be the best team in the East. But over the course of the season we have seen only flashes of that Bulls team — we saw it again on Thursday night as the Bulls handled the hot Cavaliers. Derrick Rose was attacking and put up 30 points, putting pressure on the improved Cavaliers defense the whole time. Pau Gasol had his 14th straight double-double. Most importantly, the Bulls defended like we expect them to (something that has not happened much this season). In no way was this a playoff preview; there was no Jimmy Butler, no Kevin Love, and by mid-April both of these teams will be different anyway. But if you’re a Bulls fan, you can see  a statement win and a reason for hope in this.

2) Tony Snell is becoming a thing. That’s how our man Sean Highkin described it to me — he was at the game writing the dispatch for PBT. And he’s right. Snell put up 22 against the Cavaliers on 9-of-11 shooting, more importantly he played good defense on LeBron James all night (LeBron had eight turnovers on the night). Snell stepped up in the absence of Jimmy Butler, but it’s becoming a regular occurrence. He had 24 points against the Kings Tuesday night, last weekend he had 19 against New Orleans. If Snell can become a consistent force for the Bulls, they get that much better. But consistency has been the key with all things Bulls this season.

3) George Karl will try to bring stability to Kings organization. In his five years with the Sacramento Kings, DeMarcus Cousins has now had five coaches. While there were reports he and his agent were trying to block the hiring of Karl, in reality they wanted to express concern about how this franchise has seemed to shift plans every couple years. Part of that was the mess that the Maloof family ownership was its last few years. However, Vivek Ranadive hired Mike Malone to provide that structure and bring some professionalism to the organization, then once Malone didRanadive either decided or allowed (depending on what source you want to believe) the coach to be canned so they could become more of a running team. Karl is the kind of coach with the gravitas to change this pattern, and more than anything else he does that needs to be the ultimate goal. Pick a style, and then stick with it long enough for it to take root.

Report: Raptors could get OG Anunoby back during Finals

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The Toronto Raptors are headed to the 2019 NBA Finals, and they are going to need every player on their roster if they want a chance at dethroning the Golden State Warriors.

Forward OG Anunoby has been out since early April after needing an emergency appendectomy. He has not played in the playoffs yet this season, but a new report says the Raptors may be hopeful he could return before the end of this final series.

Via Twitter:

Anunoby Is a useful second-year forward who plays hard on both ends of the floor. Toronto is going to have a hard time matching up with the Warriors defensively, whether Kevin Durant plays or not. Having Anunoby available would help Toronto be more switchable and more adept at taking on some of Golden State’s smaller lineups.

We don’t have a timetable for Anunoby’s potential return yet, but the way the Finals are spaced out (Game 1 is on Thursday, Game 2 is next Sunday) it could help get players healthy and ready.

That could be good news for Kawhi Leonard, who sat out several games this year simply to rest. Leonard has looked a little banged up through these playoffs, as has just about everyone else. The bad news for Toronto is that this time between games could also help the Warriors get Durant ready to play.

Game 1 of the 2019 NBA Finals is on Thursday at 6 p.m. PST in Canada.

Drake gave Nick Nurse another shoulder rub (VIDEO)

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People are already getting tired of Drake being a prominent figure in the storyline of the Toronto Raptors. They will have to just deal with it for now as Toronto is headed to the 2019 NBA Finals after beating the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday night.

That said, Drake is actually an ambassador for the Raptors. Some folks seem to forget that.

There was a dust-up during the Eastern Conference Finals about Drake having given Raptors coach Nick Nurse a shoulder rub during Game 4. Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer thought that fans shouldn’t be interacting with members of the coaching staff or players, but the Raptors didn’t seem to think it was that big a deal.

After the Raptors won on Saturday, Drake embraced Nurse yet again, playing off of the initial kerfuffle.

Via Twitter:

Get ready to see more Drake than you’ve ever wanted.

Watch Raptors fans celebrate Finals berth in streets of Toronto (VIDEO)

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The Toronto Raptors are headed to their first NBA Finals in franchise history. Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry beat Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night in Game 6 to send them home and push Toronto into the final series of the year against the Golden State Warriors.

Raptors fans, who have been perennially disappointed by teams who were just good enough, naturally found themselves celebrating in the streets of Ontario. Videos of cars honking and people walking through the avenues surfaced on social media, with the whole thing looking like a big party.

Via Twitter:

The Raptors aren’t the most talented team in the Eastern Conference, but they did have the best player in the entire playoffs this season in Leonard. Coach Nick Nurse figured out a way to stop the Bucks by collapsing on Antetokounmpo, and Milwaukee’s shooters went cold at just the wrong time. The rest of the Raptors bench finally gave Leonard some support, and Toronto was able to mount a comeback in the series to push themselves into the NBA finals.

For that, both Toronto and the Raptors fans deserve to be overjoyed with what’s happening right now.

Game 1 of the 2019 NBA Finals will be on Thursday at 6 p.m. PST in Toronto.

Bucks fans greet team, Giannis Antetokounmpo at Milwaukee airport (VIDEO)

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The Milwaukee Bucks season is over. Giannis Antetokounmpo and his supporting cast couldn’t get things done in Game 6 on Saturday night against the Toronto Raptors in Canada. Now it’s Kawhi Leonard who is heading to the 2019 NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors.

This season was a magical one for Milwaukee, one in which they took the No. 1 overall seed in the Eastern Conference and likely have the league’s MVP in Antetokounmpo.

As you might expect, Bucks fans are happy about that fact, and showed up to the Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport to greet their returning team.

Via Twitter:

It has to be nice for athletes to get this kind of treatment. Although some may want to just go home and languish in their defeat, the unwavering support of fanatics has to take the bite out of the sting, even if just a little bit.