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Many are surprised Toronto is up 2-1 in NBA Finals. The Raptors are not.


OAKLAND — The narrative of these NBA Finals is all about the Golden State Warriors.

The injuries. The comeback timelines. The star players. The quest for history. The story mostly has been about why the Warriors are not crushing the Raptors like they have everyone else. There is a begrudging nod that Toronto may actually pose a challenge.

The Raptors do not care what everyone thinks.

They know being up 2-1 in this series is exactly where they are supposed to be.

“If we didn’t feel like we could be here, we wouldn’t be here right now. Simple as that,” Kawhi Leonard said in his straightforward way. “I have the same confidence. You can’t let losses or wins effect that. It’s about what you think and feel that’s in your body, your inner thoughts and you know what you portray to your team and what your team is telling you and what we all feel. And that’s why we are here, we have confidence.”

Confidence that at the end of Friday night they will be up 3-1 and heading home to close this series out.

“We haven’t gotten ahead of ourselves the whole year, we haven’t gotten ahead of ourselves in the playoffs, it’s not gonna start now,” Fred VanVleet said. “We’re up 2-1, we’re on the road, and we’re just thinking about trying to get another win. We’re not thinking about the rest of the series, we’re thinking about Game 4.”

The Raptors franchise has been good for years, winning at least 50 games four straight seasons and having been to the playoffs six years in a row. This season, however, has been different. Leonard has infused the team with his calm demeanor, and with his unwavering confidence. Nick Nurse has this team believing this team is ready for any challenge.

It doesn’t matter what you believe about them, they believe in themselves.

They believe they can win a second game on the road Friday night and take command of the series.

“To me, this is a one-game series tomorrow,” Nurse said. “We’re just trying to take them like each game’s critical. We need to put a huge effort in because I think if we put a huge effort in and we’re the hardest playing team, then we’re going to deserve to win. And that’s all we’re focused on.”

“I mean, it would be very important,” Leonard said. “I mean, it would be a third win, and you need four to win. You already know how important that is. It’s 3-1.”

But for Game 4, Klay Thompson will be back on the court.

“We just played him twice,” VanVleet said, and the Raptors won one of those game. “I know he missed last game, but his presence just changes a little bit, what we do with Steph, not really what we do with Klay…. I know he got hot in Game 2, we know what he brings to the table, so we’ve got to try and limit him as much as possible.”

Klay Thompson being back on the court, a red-hot Stephen Curry, even when Kevin Durant returns the Raptors’ plan will not change.

“The plan is that you attack them,” Nurse said. “When you draw multiple defenders, do your best to get off it, because you’ve done your job if you’re drawing multiple, two guys or three guys, you’ve really done your job, and hit the open man and play from there.”

“The margin for error… it’s very tight,” VanVleet said. “One possession can change a series. With those kinds of stakes, it takes a different level of mental focus and physical performance. I think just being engulfed in the excellence that it takes to keep winning at a high level for a really long time — the postseason is about two months — that’s something we keep in mind.”

There is still a lot of series to go, the Warriors sat Thompson for Game 3 because they knew that. They wanted him for games six and seven, not just three.

The Raptors, however, do not care. They believe in themselves.

“[Our confidence] should be high,” Van Vleet said. “Our confidence has been steady all year, and as we continue to play good, we continue to grow, it’s just showing the type of team we can be. We just have to continue to do it. We’re only halfway there, we’ve got two more wins to go.”

PBT Podcast: The NBA is back! Breaking down the restart format.

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The NBA is back!

Or will be in July, at least, when 22 teams report to Orlando to play in a format that will see eight “seeding” games followed by potential play-in games for the eighth seed. After that, it’s a regular playoffs — no 1-16 seed but still East and West — with seven-game series each round.

Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman from NBC Sports, along with our friend Keith Smith — who lives in Orlando near the Disney property and has been all over this story from the start — break down the format and whether this is a format that provides enough safety to the players and staffs in Orlando.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at

Adam Silver: Older coaches may not be on bench in Orlando “in order to protect them”

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Gregg Popovich is 71. Mike D’Antoni is 68. Alvin Gentry just turned 65.

People 65 and older have proven particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus. The Center for Disease Control says 80% of COVID-19 deaths in the United States are people 65 and older.

As the NBA heads to the Walt Disney World resort complex in Orlando to resume the season, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver expressed concern for some of the league’s older coaches during an interview on TNT.

“There are people involved in this league, particularly coaches, who are obviously older people…” Silver said. “We’re going to have to work through protocols, for example, and it may be certain coaches may not able to be the bench coach. They may have to maintain social distancing protocols, and maybe they can be in the front of a room, a locker room… with a whiteboard, but when it comes to actual play we’re not going to want that that close to players in order to protect them.”

You can guess how that went over with D’Antoni and Gentry (and, likely, Popovich).

Pretty quickly, Silver was walking his statement back. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, president of the NBA Coach’s Association, was quickly on the phone with Silver.

The league may want to take coaches who are members of vulnerable populations and find a way to add layers of protection for them, but keeping them from coaching their teams would be an incredibly tough sell to everyone around the league.

NCAA sets August deadline for early draft entrants to withdraw

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ASSOCIATED PRESS — The NCAA has set a new schedule for early entrants to the NBA draft to withdraw and return to school.

The NCAA announced Thursday that it would give players until 10 days after the NBA scouting combine or Aug. 3, whichever comes earlier. This comes three weeks after the NCAA postponed its deadline, which was originally scheduled to fall on Wednesday.

That June 3 deadline was set to come 10 days after the completion of the combine, but the NBA postponed the combine amid the coronavirus pandemic and has yet to announce a new date.

The NBA has announced the date of the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery, now set for August 25. Traditionally the NBA Draft Combine would follow a few days after that, although there has been no official announcement.

The NCAA’s date will force players to decide whether or not to stay in the draft before the combine takes place, or even before many have found out if they are invited. Some players who might otherwise have returned to school now likely will keep their name in the draft, only to not get a combine invite.

In a statement, the NCAA said the Division I Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee worked with the National Association of Basketball Coaches on the new timeline and “believes this is the most equitable alternative available in these unprecedented circumstances.”

“This provides the utmost flexibility to student-athletes testing the waters to make the most informed decision about their future during this uncertain time,” NCAA Senior Vice President for Basketball Dan Gavitt said in the statement.


More details leak on NBA return format in Orlando, here’s a timeline breakdown

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The NBA is back.

Or will be. Soonish. Thursday the NBA owners approved a restart plan featuring 22 teams, with training camps opening in late June and games starting July 31.

What exactly will all that look like? What are the timelines, and how many games a day? Here’s a breakdown of what we know, with the latest details on format, plus some of the things we don’t yet know.

• June 15: International players who returned home called back to team market

• June 21: All players report to their team markets for workouts.

• June 22: Coronavirus testing of players and staff starts. Once teams report to the Walt Disney World facility the league wants to have daily testing. What we don’t yet know is what form of the test the league will use. While many coronavirus tests are very accurate, some studies suggest a person has to have the disease for a few days before it shows up on a test, and there are false negatives. Which is why the league wants daily testing.

• June 30: Training camps begin at team practice facilities.

• July 7: Teams travel to Orlando, continue their team training camps at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex there. The 22 teams invited are the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards from the Eastern Conference; and the Los Angeles Lakers, L.A. Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns from the Western Conference. It’s the 16 teams in playoff position when play was suspended, plus the six teams within six games of the postseason.

We do not yet know many of the health and safety protocols players will go through both on arrival at the Walt Disney World resort and facilities, save for the fact the league is doing daily testing. We do know players can golf and eat at outdoor restaurants, so long as they follow social distancing guidelines.

• July 31: NBA “seeding games” begin (the league is not calling these regular-season games). Teams will play eight games stretched over 16 days, with 5-6 games a day (played in the style of Summer League, with games starting as early as noon and extending into the evening, alternating between courts). There will be a four-hour gap on each court between games to allow time for sanitization, and then full warmups by teams.

• After the regular season, if the ninth-seeded team is within four games of the eighth-seeded team, they will have a two-game play-in matchup for the final playoff spot. The nine seed has to beat the eight seed in both games to advance (the eight seed team just needs to win one of the two).

• A full, traditional NBA playoffs follows with seven-game series in each round. Games will be played every other day (no back-to-backs in the playoffs). This will not see the long breaks often associated with the first round of the NBA playoffs (and, obviously, no need for travel days).

• October 12: The latest date for the seventh game of the NBA Finals.

• October 15: The 2020 NBA Draft takes place.

• October 18: NBA free agency opens

• November 10: Training camps open.

• December 1: The 2020-21 NBA season tips off.

Those last four dates — everything in the offseason — could be pushed back, with the NBA possibly starting as late as Christmas. Players were reportedly caught off guard by the fast turnaround. The league and players still have a lot of financial negotiations to go through after the coronavirus fallout, and the start dates likely will be part of that.

There are still a lot of health and safety questions to be answered, but Adam Silver has the owners and players on board to try and make this work.