The story before Raptors-Bucks Game 5 was centred around Kyle Lowry: how was his back feeling? How effective would he be? Could the Raptors survive with him at less than 100 percent? It was a concern. But instead of showing worry, the rest of the Raptors squad showed support. The end result: a 118-83 victory over the Bucks with enough stories to drown out the Lowry anxiety, and propel the Raptors to a 3-2 series lead.
Let’s begin with the obvious highlight: Norman Powell. Despite playing no meaningful minutes in the series’ opening three games, Powell came into Game 5 as the Raptors secret weapon. His aggressive inside-out game on both ends of the court confounded the Bucks with 25 points on 8-of-11, including 4-of-4 from three (he hasn’t missed from there in two games), and 5-of-5 from the line, plus four rebounds, four assists, and three steals. Norm looked to personally break Milwaukee’s spirit with a series of dunks — he saved the rudest for last — to send them on their way, whimpering. It was an awe inspiring performance. “Powell came in with a lot of energy,” said Bucks coach Jason Kidd. “And they’re feeding off that.” And how.
But that’s only one Toronto story. There was also the mildly incredible bounce back play from DeMarre Carroll in the first half, and then the strong play from Cory Joseph in the second. Carroll finished with 12 points, and actually paced the Raptors with a quick 7 and 4 in the first quarter. He mostly played within himself, and even hit a 3 and a runner! Joseph, meanwhile, reclaimed some minutes (20) and potted ten points. It was nice to see. But yes, perhaps that’s not exciting enough.
Would you be interested in a Jonas Valanciunas-Greg Monroe third quarter shoving match? Jonas, the big man whose role in the series had become a tad uncertain, got tangled with Monroe on one end of the floor, and then trundled down the lane and was fouled. He was greeted by Monroe (who pushed Khris Middleton out of the way to get to him) and the two exchanged shoves. By that point, Valanciunas was in the process of exerting his will on the game. He finished with eight points, seven rebounds, two blocks and one legitimately electrifying sequence. Coach Dwane Casey was complimentary afterwards of his big man’s energy.
But still, there are more chapters to this tale. Serge Ibaka set the tone early, with two massive dunks on Giannis Antetokounmpo, and went on to bounce back from his shaky Game 4 shooting performance. He went 8-of-10 from the field for 19 points, with six rebounds and three blocks. Likewise, DeMar DeRozan had another solid game — which seems almost perfunctory now, Game 3 notwithstanding — with 18 points and 6 assists. When you begin to add these all up, one realizes all five Raptors starters finished in double figures, with a franchise-high 28 assists. The team shot 58 percent from the field, 44 percent from three, 92 percent from the line. And only Giannis, with 30 points, and Malcolm Brogdon with 19, could get anything going against the Raptors’ swarming D. It was everything.
Oh and Lowry? He took a charge early on Monroe, fell or dove to the floor multiple times, and played like he always plays, which is: all out, constantly moving, not ready to say die. It wasn’t the best seeing Lowry stretched out on the floor to ease the soreness in his back — but still, a neat 16 points and 10 assists in 36 minutes. His Raptors looked like the best version of themselves for most of the game. What’s more, they won going away. We didn’t have to feel nervous for the entire 48 minutes. They head to Milwaukee now, up 3-2, looking to close it out. How’s that for a story?