The Toronto Raptors have won three games in row to take a 3-2 series lead over the Milwaukee Bucks, just one win away from the NBA Finals.
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While Kawhi Leonard continues to shine for the Raptors, their second unit has been crucial over the past two games, in particular, Fred VanVleet who has broken out of his shooting slump, scoring 21 points in Game 5 on a scorching 7-of-9 from the three-point line. He was similarly effective in Game 4, scoring 13 points on 3-of-3 shooting from deep.
It's been a roller-coaster few days for the Raptors' backup point guard who travelled to Rockford, Illinois ahead of Game 4 to be with his girlfriend for the birth of his son Fred Jr.
Following the win, VanVleeet then flew to Milwaukee with the team before driving back to Rockford to be with his girlfriend and son, spending the night with his family in the hospital before heading back to Milwaukee the day of Game 5.
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Despite his exhaustive travel schedule and family commitments, VanVleet has been a steadying hand for the Raptors of late, with teammate Kyle Lowry praising his attitude and approach in the team's biggest game of the season.
"To come out with a performance like that on the road it shows the mental toughness, it shows just how much of a professional he is," Lowry told reporters post-game. "It was an unbelievable performance by him, he made some big shots for us and he did his job tonight."
With Danny Green struggling in Game 5, coach Nick Nurse leaned on VanVleet, playing him 37 minutes as he continued to light it up from three, becoming the first player in Raptors history to make seven or more three-pointers off the bench in a playoff. game.
Fred VanVleet is the first player in @Raptors franchise history to make seven or more three-pointers off the bench in a #NBAPlayoffs game. The last NBA player to do so was Channing Frye (7 threes) for Cleveland in 2016. @EliasSports pic.twitter.com/Uphdr4I7WT- NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) May 24, 2019
"Obviously he's got a lot going on and even though Fred's a younger guy, you gotta trust these guys that they're doing everything they can with their bodies and their nutrition and their rest and all that stuff to get themselves ready to play and somehow obviously he has been....or he plays better on less sleep," Nurse said post-game.
"I don't know, whatever he's doing or did the last couple days he needs to keep doing."
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Through the first three games of the series, VanVleet struggled to get going, shooting 4-of-20 (20%) from the field and just 2-of-11 from three (18.8%). Since the birth of his son and his new regime of 'zero sleep', he's flipped the script, connecting on 12-of-19 from the field and 10-of-12 from deep (83%) for a combined +53 over the past two games.
"Just keep trusting your work, keep trusting your craft and knowing that at some point that they're going to drop and a lot of times how it works is they all come at once and I think that's what you've seen, so just gotta bottle it up and put some games together, VanVleet said post-game.
Fred VanVleet (21 PTS & 7 3PM) on having a baby earlier this week! 👏#NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/2OAEETysVr- NBA TV (@NBATV) May 24, 2019
"Obviously it's turned around for me these last two games, feels like I'm getting more open looks and as you make them your teammates start to look for you more and more and the game just kind of opens up all at once, so just staying confident, staying in there ready to knock them down when I get the opportunity and just staying locked in."