Breakfast Special: Fred VanVleet Comes Back from the Dead

Earlier in the Eastern Conference Finals, when the Milwaukee Bucks won the first two games and nearly ended up going up 3-0 on the road in Toronto, Fred VanVleet was so utterly awful that Raptors fans were ready to throw him off the CN Tower and openly questioned coach Nick Nurse on social media about his usage of the embattled guard.

Well…fast forward to Game 5, where the Raptors, after winning Game 3 in overtime and taking Game 4 easily at home, traveled to Milwaukee and busted this series wide open, going up 3-2 with a 105-99 win that sends them back to Toronto to throw the Bucks off the tower and out of the playoffs instead.

And VanVleet? He had 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting in 37 minutes as the sixth man while posting a game-high-by-a-mile plus-28.

Nobody else on the Raptors was any better than plus-9 (Serge Ibaka, also off the bench.) The best starter was Pascal Siakam at plus-8.

Kawhi Leonard continues to make his case for MVP of the entire playoffs, scoring 35 points on 11-of-25 shooting, dishing nine assists, hauling in seven rebounds, and posting a plus-3 in 40 minutes.

Siakam had 14 points and 13 rebounds while Kyle Lowry scored 17, but neither guy shot the ball well (Siakam was 5-of-15, Lowry 4-of-11.)

The Raptors, curiously, couldn’t make a two-point shot to save their lives (31.7 percent on deuces), but a 3PAR of .512 and a three-point percentage of 41.9 (18-of-43) covers over a multitude of sins. When the whole thing got added up, Toronto had an eFG% of .476 which, while not good, was good enough.

Milwaukee shot 45.2 percent from the field overall but managed only 32.3 percent (10-of-31) on a much lower .369 3PAR.

Throw in a huge free throw disparity that has Bucks fans ready to choke the refs like Latrell Sprewell (25-of-31 for Toronto, 13-of-18 for Milwaukee) and you have the recipe for a Raptors win. And a nice middle finger at people who don’t like three-pointers.

The Bucks bench was anemic, scoring just 15 points, 12 of them from George Hill. And considering Hill was minus-22, you could say that the entire Raptors fortune for making the franchise’s first NBA Finals could rest not on Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo but on George Hill and Fred VanVleet.

What a world.

Kawhi’s 15 fourth-quarter points were huge:

VanVleet got it done big time:

And Eric Bledsoe and Giannis Antetokounmpo are going to have to do an awful lot more of this in Game 6 if they want the series to come back to the Beer City:

Next game Saturday. Next breakfast Sunday. We’re in the home stretch. Also there’s a feature (see “previous article” below this story) that you should read. It’s good.

Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!