Raptors' bench carries stellar season into playoffs

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Raptors' bench carries stellar season into playoffs

It was just two minutes and 11 seconds of game time, but it felt like the Raptors had just turned the perception of their team on its ear.

VanVleet is averaging 6.8 points per game, 2.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.

A few weeks before the start of the playoffs, Washington Wizards Coach Scott Brooks lounged on a courtside seat inside Toyota Center in Houston and called over Kelly Oubre Jr. This time the Wizards came in as the No. 8. And my model can't account for playoff LeBron. "He's one of the best, if not the best big-man shooter in the league". "It's the same role they played all year. but as long as those guys are producing the way they are, why should we change our rotation?" The team stuck by the ball-sharing that won them games all season. But the pair stayed true to Toronto's new offensive style and responded by getting other players involved. "His 3-point shooting is huge". Toronto has played 13 series in franchise history and won one Game 1, beating Philadelphia in the second round in 2001. "Understand we'll make the right pass and everyone else to going to make the right play, and guys did". With Gobert in the middle, expect Oklahoma City to have more trouble. Oubre said professionalism was the No. 1 priority, then Brooks shared a characteristic, and the two went back and forth until they had created a long list that eventually drilled home the objective of the game: defense over nearly everything else.

The Raptors realized a year ago they would never go anywhere meaningful if Lowry and DeRozan had to do all the heavy lifting in the postseason, and this team, the second-youngest in these playoffs, was built to not just succeed in the regular season but also finally find a blueprint for postseason success.

Still, let's not go overboard here. For a team that had chose to revel in the doubts of their detractors, that showed clips of various USA analysts criticizing them on the scoreboard before the game began, that said over and over that they were confident this new-look group wouldn't fall into familiar Game 1 traps, there were the Toronto Raptors after two quarters staring at a four-point hole.

You could see how Saturday's game could have turned into another devastating opening loss.

Miles, who hasn't been here for the Game 1 streak, understood the importance of winning. My former colleague Tom Haberstroh penned the definitive piece on the meaning of games late in the regular season back in 2012.

As in the Bucks-Celtics series, an injury to an All-Star point guard (in this case, two-time MVP Stephen Curry) might make this a more competitive series than the overall numbers would indicate. Washington went into the halftime break with a 59-55 advantage. Remarkably, John Wall did not play in any of the four matchups. The 7.2-point difference in their point differentials is the largest of this year's first-round matchups, and only one team since 2000 has lost a best-of-seven series with an edge of plus-7 or better over its opponent: the 2007 Dallas Mavericks, who lost to the eighth-seeded "We Believe" Golden State Warriors.

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