Hawks unimpressive, but pull away late for Game 2 win over Wizards

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The Hawks were in desperation mode entering Game 2 against the Wizards, and with John Wall being a late scratch for Washington due to a wrist injury he suffered in Game 1, that combination should have been deadly enough for Atlanta to deliver an early knockout punch.

The Wizards remained difficult, however, even with their best player sidelined. The Hawks eventually pulled away for the 106-90 victory to even the series at a game apiece, but were unimpressive in the process, which will no doubt give their opponents all kinds of confidence as the series shifts to Washington for its next two games.

Ramon Sessions got the start in Wall’s absence, and finished with a team-high 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting, to go along with four assists. He didn’t impact the game the way Wall would have, but he was a more-than-serviceable replacement, and 10 of his points came in the third quarter, where the Wizards quickly cut the Hawks’ halftime lead of seven to a single point less than two minutes in. This was a theme throughout — Atlanta would build a lead of eight or 10 points, but could never fully close the door until very late in the contest.

Washington had a top-five defense during the regular season, and was second in defensive efficiency among the teams remaining after the first round of the playoffs. That effort was evident in Game 2, and the defense (along with shooting 12-of-22 from three-point distance) is what kept the Wizards continuously competitive in this one.

Atlanta did get plenty of open looks, however, and several shots simply did not fall. Kyle Korver finished 4-of-11 from three-point distance, Jeff Teague finished just 3-of-12 from the field for nine points, and Atlanta as a team made just 10 of its 29 attempts from beyond the arc.

The Wizards lost this game at the free throw line, where the Hawks finished the night with a 14-point advantage. Credit Atlanta’s signature ball movement for putting Washington in difficult situations time and again, but one of the league’s better remaining defensive units needs to play smarter at the same time.

It’s tough to take much from this individual contest, primarily thanks to Wall’s absence. But the Wizards were consistent in their ability to compete with the top-seeded Hawks for extended stretches on the road, and it’s worth wondering if things might have turned out differently had Wall not been sidelined due to injury, which was at least partly to blame for Washington’s sloppy first-quarter start.

Wall’s status moving forward will be the biggest deciding factor in the series. The Wizards catch a break in the schedule, and Wall will get five full days off before Game 3 in Washington on Saturday. They’ve now shown they can compete with or without him, and it feels like Atlanta will be in trouble if Washington can get back to full strength.

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.

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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.