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Raptors’ role players ‘let it rip’ in Game 3 victory

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OAKLAND — Three words were written on the whiteboard at the front of the Raptors’ locker room:

“Let it rip.”

“I think we all kind of followed that advice,” Danny Green said after his 18-point game.

Then he poked holes that narrative.

“But it’s just easier to look at that now and say it worked great for us, especially on a great shooting night,” Green said.

Forget narrative, it simply was a great shooting night for the Raptors, and that was one of the key reasons Toronto won Game 3 and is now up 2-1 in the NBA Finals. After struggling in Game 2, Toronto’s supporting cast took advantage of a shorthanded Warriors defense to get to their spots, make the extra pass, and knock down seemingly everything.

Kawhi Leonard had 30 points on 17 shots, but it was the other guys that were the difference.

Kyle Lowry had 23 points and was 5-of-9 from three. Pascal Siakam had 18 points, nine rebounds, and was a team best +22. Green’s 18 came on 6-of-10 shooting from three. Marc Gasol added 17 points. The Raptors shot 52.4 percent as a team, hit 17 threes, and racked up a ridiculous 126.8 offensive rating.

The offense won the Raptors Game 3.

“We haven’t really had a good team shooting night [in the Finals], and I knew eventually at some point we were due for one,” Green said. “So luckily we got one tonight, but we still have to do a better job defensively on that end of the floor to limit those guys better so we don’t have to rely on our offense or our shooting to win games for us.”

Lowry was the catalyst outside of Leonard that the Raptors have needed all series, pushing the ball in transition and playing downhill of the pick-and-roll. He thought his performance was more about mindset than anything else.

“For me, it was just coming off being aggressive and not so being passive and trying to get everybody else involved and more so get myself going and let everybody else feed off of that,” Lowry said.

Leonard was doing the same thing.

“Once I’m driving in the paint, kicking out to guys that are making shots, the defense doesn’t want to collapse as easy, and we just got to keep playing them in a flow, really,” Leonard said. “I feel like we just don’t need to worry about me scoring the basketball, we all can score with the offense that we have, just got to keep moving.”

Toronto’s offense was the most consistent part of their game, and it covered up some defensive lapses that let the Warriors hang around in the game.

“We just kept scoring,” said Fred Van Vleet, who had 11 points off the bench. “We knew that they were going to make a run. Just tried to keep continuing to put pressure on them and just work the game.”

Can the Raptors repeat this performance — getting and hitting those same shots — against a Warriors team that may have Klay Thompson and/or Kevin Durant back in Game 4? Every step in the Finals is harder, and the next one will be for Toronto, mostly because Golden State will be better. Combine the expected talent upgrade (on defense as well as offense) with a sense of desperation from the Warriors and it makes for a new challenge for the Raptors.

We’ll see if the Raptors can let it rip on Friday night.

Must watch: Lonzo Ball halfcourt alley-oop to Zion Williamson

Lonzo Ball Zion Williamson
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Damn. This is just a thing of beauty.

Lonzo Ball and Zion Williams have a connection on the court and the Grizzlies got a look at it up close and personal Monday.

NBA TV has another angle

In a must-win game for 0-2 New Orleans, Zion played more in the first half than we have seen recently, but he was still under 10 minutes total. He had 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting, leading an energized Pelicans team that led by seven at the half.

Thunder’s Dennis Schroder leaves bubble for birth of child

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Dennis Schroder was not in uniform when Oklahoma City lost to Denver Monday. He wasn’t even in Orlando.

Schroder left the bubble to be with his wife for the birth of his child, something the team knew was coming but came up suddenly Monday morning, coach Billy Donovan said pregame (reporting from ESPN’s Dave McMenamin inside the bubble).

 

“I’m not gonna leave my wife by herself while she’s having a second baby,” Schroder said when he talked about this with reporters previously. “(Dennis) Jr. is still 17 months old, so I’m for sure gonna go there and support her and try as much as I can to be there for my family.”

Congratulations to the Schroder family, we hope everyone is happy and healthy.

The Thunder will miss Schroder while he’s gone. He is a Sixth Man of the Year candidate averaging 19 points per game while shooting 38.1% from three. The Thunder are at their most dangerous when Schroder is paired with Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a rotation that we will not see for a while.

The first round of the playoffs starts Aug. 17. Schroder can return to the team, the question is how long he will be in quarantine when he does. If Schroeder has a negative coronavirus test for seven consecutive days before his return, he will be in quarantine for four days. If he does not get tested, or if he exposes himself to the virus unnecessarily while outside the bubble — for example, picking up wings from a strip club for dinner — he will have a 10-day quarantine.

The Thunder could use him for what will be a tight first-round playoff series in a very balanced West. Schroder may or may not be there, he has higher priorities right now.

Oklahoma state Rep. threatens to increase Thunder’s taxes for kneeling during national anthem

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The Oklahoma City Thunder – like all NBA teams (minus a few individuals) – kneeled during the national anthem.

That powerful protest calls attention to racism, particularly through police brutality. It is highly patriotic to work toward ending those shameful practices. Though some have distorted the underlying message, the protests have largely worked. In the years since Colin Kaepernick first kneeled, Americans have developed a heightened sensitivity to racism and police brutality.

Of course, there are still many opponents of anthem kneeling. The demonstration causes a visceral reaction (which is also why it has been so effective). At this point, it’s hard to stand out among the critics of anthem kneeling who keep making the same, tired arguments.

Oklahoma state representative Sean Roberts found a way.

Roberts, via Oklahoma’s News 4:

“By kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, the NBA and its players are showing disrespect to the American flag and all it stands for. This anti-patriotic act makes clear the NBA’s support of the Black Lives Matter group and its goal of defunding our nation’s police, its ties to Marxism and its efforts to destroy nuclear families.

If the Oklahoma City Thunder leadership and players follow the current trend of the NBA by kneeling during the national anthem prior to Saturday’s game, perhaps we need to reexamine the significant tax benefits the State of Oklahoma granted the Oklahoma City Thunder organization when they came to Oklahoma. Through the Quality Jobs Act, the Thunder is still under contract to receive these tax breaks from our state until 2024.

Perhaps these funds would be better served in support of our police departments rather than giving tax breaks to an organization that supports defunding police and the dissolution of the American nuclear family.”

This is outrageous.

It’s outrageous that the Thunder get such a targeted tax break. The franchise is a private company that should succeed or fail based on its own merits. While it’s easy for NBA fans (like readers of this site) to get caught up in the league, professional basketball isn’t actually important for the greater good.

It’s outrageous that a company’s tax status could depend on how its employees exercise their freedom of expression. The First Amendment still exists.

Ultimately, Roberts almost certainly doesn’t have the power to do what he’s threatening. This is grandstanding for political gain. It gets Roberts into national headlines and little else. Mission accomplished, I guess.

So, Roberts builds a reputation as another big-government politician – someone who wants to use the heavy hand of government to dissuade free expression.

NBA referee Brent Barnaky explains standing for the national anthem

NBA referee Brent Barnaky
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Magic forward Jonathan Isaac, Heat big Meyers Leonard and Spurs coaches Gregg Popovich and Becky Hammon drew plenty of attention for standing during the national anthem while nearly all NBA players, coaches and referees kneeled.

Referee Brent Barnaky also stood.

Tim Bontemps of ESPN:

This isn’t much of an explanation. Nor does it need to be. Barnaky explained that he wasn’t countering the message of kneeling players (opposing racism, particularly through police brutality). That’s sufficient for Barnaky to maintain his neutral positioning – important for an official.

For decades, nearly everyone stood for the national anthem. For many people, that was just about following norms. Even NBA players espousing social-justice messaging previously stood for the national anthem.

But Colin Kaepernick’s brave defiance caused some people to thoughtfully consider their national-anthem posture. So, while many people continued to stand for the national anthem because that’s just was done, some made deliberate choices based on their own values. Sometimes, that led to kneeling. Sometimes, that led to standing.

The thoughtful standers blended into the crowd… until kneeling became widespread in the NBA. Now, they’re the noticeable outliers within the league.

It can take courage to go against the grain. I commend Barnaky for that – and for voicing his support for social justice and peaceful protest.

Barnaky made a personal choice that can stand alone. It doesn’t undermine what anyone else is doing.