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The Raptors aren’t back. They never left

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We have that and more in Wednesday’s NBA newsletter.

NBA: Playoffs-Milwaukee Bucks at Toronto Raptors John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

If you thought the Raptors were toast when they went down 0-2 to the masterful Bucks in this Eastern Conference finals series, it’s time to recalibrate your sensors. Toronto blew Milwaukee out of the water on Tuesday to even up the series at 2-2 despite Kawhi Leonard being injured and tired and Pascal Siakam suffering from foul trouble.

Kawhi still did damage in 34 minutes, and Kyle Lowry (25 on 6-11 shooting) and Marc Gasol (17-7-5-2-1) were great. But the bench was the real story: Serge Ibaka, Norman Powell, and Fred VanVleet were all confident and good. Powell shot inefficiently to get his 18 points, and VanVleet made up for it (13 points on 5-6 shooting, 6 assists, 1 turnover). All of the above played really tough defense, which was the difference in this one.

After Game 2, it looked like Toronto had no cards left to play against a superior Bucks team. Game 3’s double overtime thriller didn’t really convince anyone Toronto had a chance, even though they won. Game 4 should change that.

This is a GREAT series and no one can reasonably know who will win. We have a best-of-3 series starring Kawhi and Giannis and, well, uh, Drake. Let’s go.

Scores

Bucks 102, Raptors 120
Series tied 2-2

Schedule

No games scheduled. Clean your fish tank.

Links

We talk about luck in the NBA Draft almost exclusively in terim of the NBA Draft lottery. I wrote that the Bucks are one example which proves that luck is embued throughout the entire draft process.

In appreciation of Blazers vs. Warriors, the most dumb, funny sweep in recent memory. Dan Devine on Steph Curry’s performance in the West finals.

Kristian Winfield on how the Blazers get better despite being capped out and in line to lose free agents. Time for a supermax deal for Damian Lillard.

Fascinating Chris Mannix look at how NBA front offices use draft prospects’ social media accounts to dig into players’ personalities and honesty.

LeBron moving to the Western Conference and then missing the playoffs is going to cause the NBA to ... move up the start time of games on the West Coast? Are you kidding me?

All hail Pascal Siakam.

Sue Bird is having knee surgery. So this WNBA season will begin with the following players out of action: Maya Moore, Breanna Stewart, Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi. The upside is that this is an opportunity for more young stars to thrive and get noticed ... right? Here are some candidates.

A breakdown of who is advising Jeanie Buss on Lakers matters.

How a three-team Anthony Davis for Lonzo Ball trade might look.

A perfect Onion headline.

And finally: Maitreyi Anantharaman on how League Pass was the best $199 he ever spent.

Be excellent to each other.