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.

Rumor: Patrick Beverley may meet with five teams before Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers want to bring Patrick Beverley back next season, his spark was at the heart of why this team made the playoffs and impressed with their potential.

First, however, the Clippers are going big game hunting for the likes of Kawhi Leonard and/or Kevin Durant (even with the Achilles injury). Beverley isn’t just going to sit around and wait for them, reports longtime NBA reporter Sean Deveney Tweeted.

The Bulls need a point guard and Beverley — a Chicago native — has said he is interested.

The Lakers also are reportedly big game hunting, but Beverley is the kind of guard they could use around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Phoenix and other teams have been mentioned.

Beverley is going to have options, but he loved his time with the Clippers last season, and that means something.

Pelicans reportedly pick up option year on coach Alvin Gentry

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David Griffin, the guy with the hammer in New Orleans, likes Alvin Gentry. They have a relationship that goes back to Phoenix, where Gentry was the coach and Griffin was in the front office (and was eventually GM).

Gentry also has a style of play — he wants to run and be up-tempo. That should fit very well with soon-to-be No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise the Griffin and the Pelicans want to keep Gentry around, as reported by Malika Andrews of ESPN.

This is another smart, stabilizing move by Griffin. The Pelicans want to build an athletic, fast-paced team and Gentry is the right coach for that style.  Maybe it doesn’t pan out, maybe the Pelicans ultimately need to go another direction with their coach, but right now this seems a good fit.

Report: Utah “frontrunner” to land Mike Conley Jr. if Memphis trades him this week

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Utah feels like it is close — a 50-win team two seasons in a row, an elite defense, an All-NBA center in Rudy Gobert and an elite shot creator in Donovan Michell. They look at the West next season, with a depleted Warriors team, and see an opening.

Yet when Utah fell to Houston 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs this year, it was reminded of what is keeping the team from being truly elite, and another shot creator and shooter is at the top of that list.

Enter Mike Conley Jr. He averaged 21.1 points and 6.4 assists per game last season, shot 36.4 percent from three, and plays strong defense. Conley would be an upgrade over Ricky Rubio at the spot.

The almost All-Star point guard out of Memphis is available via trade. He’s the kind of veteran floor general, shooter, and shot creator Utah could use. The Jazz and Grizzlies talked but couldn’t come to an agreement at the trade deadline, but the sides are talking again and conversations are “intensifying” in the run-up to the NBA Draft Thursday, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Grizzlies are intensifying talks to potentially move franchise cornerstone Mike Conley Jr., league sources told The Athletic. Memphis has been in conversations with the Jazz and Utah is a frontrunner to acquire Conley should the Grizzlies trade the point guard during draft week, league sources said.

What would be in a trade package? Certainly the No. 23 pick in this draft, plus some young players the Grizzlies like (maybe Grayson Allen, Royce O’Neal, and even someone like Jae Crowder. Reports say Derick Favors is not part of the discussion.

While anything can happen the week of the draft — and things change quickly — don’t be surprised if some version of this trade gets done.

Kawhi Leonard wins day with last laugh — his viral laugh — at end of speech

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Kawhi Leonard just won again.

He won his second NBA title leading the Toronto Raptors to the franchise’s first crown. He earned his second Finals MVP in the process.

Then on Monday he had the last laugh and won the Raptors’ championship parade in Toronto by ending his speech with his laugh, the same one that went viral at the start of the season.

Of course, what Leonard will do on July 1 was a cloud hanging over the parade, Leonard is a free agent this summer. Kyle Lowry at one point started a “five more years” chant during the parade, which is the maximum number of years Toronto can re-sign Leonard for.

Leonard, exactly as we all should have expected, dodged the question, while praising his time in Toronto.

Unfortunately, this was a parade marred by more serious concerns.