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.

NBA world reacts to Anthony Davis’ game-winner for Lakers

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It might go down as the shot of the playoffs. The Denver Nuggets had battled back from 16 points down to take the lead behind a brilliant performance from Nikola Jokic, who had the team’s final 11 points. Throw in a Jamal Murray block and the Nuggets were up one with 2.1 seconds left.

Then Anthony Davis happened.

The Lakers won the game (going up 2-0 in the series) and the NBA world took to Twitter to react — including a lot of NBA players.

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: Dates, times, matchups for all games

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And there were four.

The NBA is down to the conference finals — and the bubble has provided us with upsets galore. There are some unexpected teams in the NBA’s Final Four, but of course LeBron James is still there. The Lakers are the heavy favorites at this point.

Here are a few notes on the NBA playoffs schedule 2020:

• The NBA is continuing to push the pace with games every other day — except in the East, when ESPN wants a break not to clash with the NFL, and to let the West catch up. The fast pace of games will return with the NBA Finals.
Families for the players, and with the final four now the coaches, are in the bubble.
• The NBA has released an NBA Finals schedule to teams and their target is still a Sept. 30 Game 1. If either conference finals goes seven games that date will need to be pushed back.

Here is the NBA playoffs schedule 2020 (all times are Eastern):

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

No. 3 Boston Celtics vs. No. 5 Miami Heat

Game 1: Heat 117, Celtics 114, OT
Game 2: Heat 106, Celtics 101
Game 3: Celtics 117, Heat 106 (Miami leads series 2-1)
Game 4: Sept. 23, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 5: Sept. 25, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)*
Game 6: Sept. 27, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)*
Game 7: TBD (ESPN)*
*If necessary

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 3 Denver Nuggets

Game 1: Lakers 126, Nuggets 114
Game 2: Lakers 105, Nuggets 103 (Lakers lead series 2-0)
Game 3: Sept. 22, 9 p.m. (TNT)
Game 4: Sept. 24, 9 p.m. (TNT)
Game 5: Sept. 26, 9 p.m. (TNT)*
Game 6: Sept. 28, TBD (TNT)*
Game 7: Sept. 30, TBD (TNT)*
*If necessary

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: Second Round results

Eastern Conference

No. 3 Boston beat No. 2 Toronto 4-3

No. 5 Miami beat No. 1 Milwaukee 4-1

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat Houston 4-1

No. 3 Denver beat No. 2 Los Angeles Clippers 4-3

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: First Round results

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat No. 8 Portland 4-1

No. 2 L.A. Clippers beat No. 7 Dallas 4-2

No. 3 Denver beat No. 6 Utah 4-3

No. 4 Houston beat No. 5 Oklahoma City 4-3

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Milwaukee beat No. 8 Orlando 4-1

No. 2 Toronto beat No. 7 Brooklyn 4-0

No. 3 Boston beat No. 6 Philadelphia 4-0

No. 5 Miami beat No. 4 Indiana 4-0

Anthony Davis drains game-winner at buzzer to put Lakers up 2-0

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It looked like Nikola Jokic, the All-NBA Second Team center, was going to be the star of the game — he scored Denver’s last 11 points and had them up with 2.7 seconds to go.

Then Anthony Davis — the All-NBA First Team center — drained this game-winner, a three over Jokic at the buzzer to win the game.

This is why the Lakers got Anthony Davis (and gave up a lot to get him).

That shot gave the Lakers the 105-103 win to put them up 2-0 in the series. Game 3 is Tuesday night.

Davis carried the Lakers at the end of the game, hitting a couple of clutch threes, and finished with 31 points and nine rebounds. He has been the best Laker in this series, with 68 points and 19 rebounds through two games.

For the Lakers, it was a dramatic win in a game where they were sloppy with 23 turnovers, and where their defense came apart for stretches of the game. Good teams win ugly games, that’s how the Lakers have to view it.

Denver supporters may want to spin this as “look how much better we played” — and they did, slowing the pace down (97 possessions, via NBA.com) and getting inside more, taking advantage of switches — but the reality is the Lakers are only going to have bad outings once or twice a series and the Nuggets needed to take advantage. They didn’t, and this loss stings.

“This is the Western Conference Finals. No moral victories, no silver linings,” Nuggets coach Mike Malone said postgame.

Davis’ good look to win the game came on the kind of defensive breakdown Denver has at times that other teams have not exploited these playoffs. Mason Plumlee was inserted for his size and defense, and he was on Davis, who simply runs across the top of the arc. Plumlee doesn’t stick with him, instead running over by LeBron James, who is just hanging out at the elbow (but Denver fears), and acts like there should be a switch. Torrey Craig can’t switch, if he does that LeBron has a free lane to the rim and an easy two. If it was an X-out style switch then Plumlee needed to trail Davis all the way to Jokic, he didn’t, leaving Jokic a ridiculously long closeout. Jokic read the play and got there to contest, but Davis had gotten a clean look.

Jokic had 30 points and nine rebounds for Denver, taking over the game when it mattered most and looking like an elite playoff performer. Jamal Murray had 25 points on 8-of-19 shooting and (as The Athletic’s John Hollinger noted on Twitter) was +16 in 44:14 minutes, meaning Denver was -18 in the 3:46 he was on the bench getting some rest. Denver got 15 points from Michael Porter Jr. and good minutes out of P.J. Dozier (although his five missed free throws in six attempts came back to bite the team).

Los Angeles got 26 points and 11 boards from LeBron and 11 points each from Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

The Lakers came out flat in this game except for LeBron, who had the team’s first 12 points. It looked like a close game until the Lakers went on an 18-3 run in the second quarter, with 8-0 of that coming with LeBron on the bench. The highlight of that was an Alex Caruso dunk that had the Lakers bench up and yelling.

Los Angeles stretched the lead out to as many as 16, but the Nuggets never quit.

Anthony Davis had to shut the door on them.

Watch Alex Caruso monster dunk, LeBron and Laker bench reaction

Alex Caruso dunk
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Alex Caruso has sneaky hops. Fans relate to him because he doesn’t look like an NBA player — he doesn’t really give off the vibe of one when you see him hanging out in the Lakers’ locker room either — but watch him on the court and he is more athletic than people realize. Alex Caruso can sky and throw down a dunk.

Just ask the Denver Nuggets.

The best part of this? The reaction of LeBron James and the Lakers bench.

The Alex Caruso dunk was part of an 8-0 Laker run right as LeBron went to get some rest. Denver had done a good job early being right with the Lakers by controlling the pace and limiting the Lakers in transition. That fell apart in the second quarter, fueled by Denver’s seven second-quarter turnovers (13 for the half), which allowed the Lakers to get out and run.

And Caruso to dunk, firing up the team.