For second straight game, Raptors own fourth and defeat Wizards, take series 4-2

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With its season on the line in the fourth quarter of an elimination game, the Wizards had nothing. Their offense was stagnant and relied too much on their two stars to create everything off the dribble for everyone. Their bench was no help. A season of inconsistent (in part due to injuries) and at times disinterested play caught up with them.

Washington shot 25 percent in the fourth quarter, John Wall was 0-of-4 and again looked gassed, the Wizards allowed the Raptors to pull down eight offensive rebounds in the fourth alone, and they allowed the Toronto to start the quarter on an 11-2 at the hands of the Raptors’ deep bench. After that Toronto never looked back.

The result was a 102-92 Toronto win that eliminates Washington from the postseason and sends the Raptors on to the next round (to face the winner of the Pacers/Cavaliers series).

“We knew they were going to make a run, they were on their home floor, we just had to stay aggressive,” Kyle Lowry said of the Raptors in the fourth. “We needed this game. We wanted to win this game bad.”

After a rough first trip to Washington earlier this series — where the Wizards won Games 3 and 4 and doubt started to creep into the minds of Raptors’ fans (and maybe players) — this was redemption. In Game 5 and again Friday night in Game 6, back in Washington, the Raptors trusted what won them 59 games in the regular season: They defended well (particularly in transition), they shared the ball on offense, and they leaned on their bench, which had Fred VanVleet back for the first time this series.

It was that bench that started the fourth for Toronto with an 11-2 run, aided by the Wizards 0-4 shooting. The Raptors were doing it on both ends, playing good defense, then turning those misses and turnovers into buckets going the other way.

“Our bench is always my favorite part, I love those guys to death,” Lowry said. “Freddy came back and gave us some juice, Pascal (Siakam) was guarding 17 people, we got CJ (Miles) and those guys. and they were great.”

The Raptors also got 24 points on 15 shots from an energized Kyle Lowry, which made up for an off night from DeMar DeRozan (16 points on 18 shots). Those stars shared the ball and that led to eight Raptors with at least seven points.

Washington should look at this series and how they got beat as a model going forward. Toronto reshaped its offense last offseason to share the ball more, run more motion and actions off the ball, and not just rely on its stars. They focused nightly on defense and playing the right way. And the Raptors had the best bench in the league and trusted it. Washington needs all of those things.

Early in the first quarter, energized by the crowd, it seemed as of the Wizards might force a Game 7. The Wizards got seven quick transition points, playing fast yearly and get up by 11 on 7-of-9 shooting. Then reality set in, the Raptors did better with transition defense to slow the game down and the Wizards shot just 3-of-15 the rest of the quarter. Still, the Wizards were up 30-20 after one as the Raptors just could not hit shots.

The return of VanVleet instantly settled Toronto’s second unit down, led to good decisions and clean looks, including a couple of lobs.

The Raptors closed the gap in the second quarter (a couple of times), led by Lowry’s 10 points in the quarter, to make it a 53-50 Wizards lead at the half.

Bradley Beal put on a show with 12 points in the fourth quarter to keep the Wizards in front by a few. Beal finished the game with 32 points on 22 shots. Wall had 23 points but on 9-of-22 shooting and with eight assists (and four turnovers).

Then came the fourth, the Raptors bench, and their rested stars. After that, it was all over, and the Wizards fans were leaving early.

Toronto goes home and will get to rest for a few days, then watch Game 7 between the Pacers and Cavaliers on Sunday.

Kevin Huerter dunked, then stared down Jimmy Butler (VIDEO)

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Atlanta Hawks rookie Kevin Huerter contributed seven points, five assists, three rebounds, and two steals during his team’s win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night. He performed reasonably, and he’s often been a double-digit scorer for the Hawks this season.

But for Huerter, the moment of the game came for him on a breakaway dunk attempt with less than two minutes to go in the fourth quarter. In a close game, Taurean Prince was able to poke the ball away from Joel Embiid, leading to Huerter streaking down the floor with the ball.

Philadelphia’s Jimmy Butler ran to recover, but couldn’t quite stop Huerter, who threw it through the rack.

That’s when Huerter stared down the wily vet.

Via Twitter:

If Butler is the kind of guy who likes “dogs” then perhaps he has a newfound respect for Huerter these days?

Trae Young beat the Sixers on a game-winning floater, 129-127.

Jeremy Lamb hits 48-foot game-winning shot of the season (VIDEO)

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The Charlotte Hornets are still alive in the Eastern Conference playoff race. As the Hornets took on the Toronto Raptors in Ontario on Sunday, things came down to the wire between the two East rivals.

With less than a minute to go in the fourth quarter, Kawhi Leonard appeared ready to play the hero yet again. Leonard hit a game-winning shot over the Portland Trail Blazers at the beginning of March, and it looked like he had sealed a win out of a time game against the Hornets with just 45 seconds left. With everything tied, 112-112, Leonard scored on a go-ahead 18-foot jumper.

Leonard then blocked Kemba Walker‘s shot attempt with 32 seconds to go, giving the Raptors real hope to win the game. Toronto was unable to score on the ensuing possession, and it came down to a final shot attempt for Charlotte.

On a sideline out of bounds, Jeremy Lamb had just 3.1 seconds to get off what was undoubtedly the game winner of this 2018-19 NBA season.

Via Twitter:

The Hornets are now in 10th place, two games back of the Miami Heat for the eighth seed in the western conference with just nine games to go in the regular season.

Charlotte hasn’t been eliminated just yet, thanks in large part to Lamb’s incredible play.

Pau Gasol says Chris Wallace joked about being traded for brother Marc

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The Pau Gasol trade shaped the face of the NBA as the first decade of the new millennium ended. It made the Los Angeles Lakers relevant again, and gave Kobe Bryant a solid second running mate to push him to another two championships in 2009 and 2010.

Gasol was famously traded in a package that included the rights to his younger brother Marc Gasol, who became a star for the Memphis Grizzlies before being traded to the Toronto Raptors this past winter.

Big trades involving superstars like the Gasol often come with the benefit of advanced knowledge by the player or their agent, and with some communication between them. But according to Gasol, the first person to tell him about the trade was newly-minted Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace, who had joined the team before the 2007 NBA Draft.

Speaking on Adrian Wojnarowski’s podcast, Gasol said that Wallace tried to make light of the situation by pointing out the irony of being traded for his own brother.

Via the Woj Pod:

I walk in and the first thing he tells me is, ‘Pau please, come in, sit down. You just got traded to the Los Angeles Lakers.’

I’m like, ‘Sorry, what?’

I couldn’t take it in. What are you talking about? At that point I was not expecting to be traded at all.

[Wallace said], ‘You got traded for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, a second round pick, and the funniest of all, your brother Marc.’

I’m like, what? Is this a joke, [he’s] trying to be funnier and funnier? At that time I couldn’t process what he was saying, I’m like, is this really happening? Why is he making a joke out of it when I’ve be here for six-and-a-half years, [Wallace] basically just got there, and now I’m traded.

Obviously I got more excited as the minutes went by, but it was crazy and it was Chris that told me. Obviously it was one of the greatest moments of my career just because …. at first it was hard to to process being treated and moving away from the team that you’ve given so much to (and in the other way around) but then I walk into a situation that would allow me to to win. Which is what exactly what I wanted, what I craved, and to play with one of the greatest players in Kobe and to be coached by Phil Jackson.

It is one of the great NBA narratives that both brothers were swapped for one another, and that each had continued success at a level in the NBA that not many siblings have experienced in their lives.

Perhaps he didn’t know why Wallace was joking about the trade at the time, but obviously Gasol knows that it worked out OK for him in any case.

Report: Jason Kidd holding off on Cal job until Lakers decide on Luke Walton

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The Los Angeles Lakers could be headed toward a departure with their head coach in Luke Walton. The Lakers will miss the playoffs yet again, this time coming up short despite adding LeBron James over the summer.

James has reportedly wanted Walton out for some time, and when the season ends many are expecting to see the two sides part ways. The list of potential coaching candidates for Los Angeles appear to be a group of also-rans, potential LeBron favorites who no self-respecting basketball decision-maker would want in charge of a championship-hopeful franchise.

One of those potential head coaching candidates is Jason Kidd, who was fired by the Milwaukee Bucks in January of 2018. We have seen rumors of Kidd being on the list of candidates for the Lakers job for some time, but now it appears that Kidd is basing his decision-making on the availability of the Los Angeles job.

Via Twitter:

Kidd holding out on making an employment decision until the Lakers decide what to do with Walton makes sense. That L.A. would be interested in Kidd to lead their group is another thing altogether.

Talent is a salve that has often pushed teams passed their failings, and this offseason for the Lakers will be a big-time test of that medicine. Los Angeles is not a well-run franchise, and the fact that they have expected anything different from their results speaks to the dissonance between their ability to make basketball decisions outside of branding.

But if they can add one or two big stars in free agency this summer, they might have enough talent on the roster to overcome the inherent issues with having LeBron run the team by proxy. It’s hard to have any faith in the Lakers to make the right decision at this juncture, and considering Kidd for the most important head coaching position in the NBA is par for the course.