The Toronto Raptors got back in the series on Tuesday night with a convincing 120-102 win in Game 4 to tie the Eastern Conference Finals at 2-2.
While Kawhi Leonard was hobbled throughout and Pascal Siakam looked gassed, the Raptors got a boost from their bench to secure the victory.
Make no mistake about it, if the Raptors are going to win this series they'll need more than one solid game from their reserves, but their Game 4 performance was a huge boost to their chances of getting to their first ever NBA Finals.
Prior to Game 4, VanVleet had only scored in double-figures once in these playoffs. His numbers were awful by his standards heading into Tuesday's game - 4.0 points and 2.7 assists on 26% shooting from the field in 20.1 minutes per game.
It's honestly amazing that the Raptors had made it this far with such a lack of contribution from VanVleet, who was a Sixth Man of the Year finalist a season ago.
His return to form didn't start in Game 4, however it was the culmination of him slowly getting his groove back. For much of the 76ers series, he seemed bothered by the length and size of Philadelphia's guards. So far against Milwaukee, he's gotten back to what makes him such a spark plug off the bench - attacking.
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In Game 1 VanVleet went just 1-for-4 but the type of shots he was taking against the Bucks were looks that he was turning down against the 76ers.
Against the 76ers in Game 3, here's VanVleet using a Marc Gasol screen without any confidence, resulting in Tobias Harris getting a piece of his shot:
Maybe Gasol's screen could've been better or maybe he saw Joel Embiid lurking in the paint, but Toronto saw far too much of a passive VanVleet in their series with the 76ers.
Fast Forward to Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals and the same scenario occurred - Gasol sets the screen but VanVleet is far more aggressive and decisive in what he wants to do and where he wants to go:
It was his only two of the game, but his other three attempts were shot with confidence even if they weren't falling.
Everyone will obviously look at Game 4 as the turning point if VanVleet is able to get back to producing the way he had throughout the season, but it's all about confidence with him. Even if his shot isn't falling, as long as he's taking them and not thinking twice about it Nick Nurse can trust that he'll have more games like Tuesday.
Powell shot the corner three extremely well this season, hitting 47% from that area. He's continued that trend in the playoff, shooting 47% on corner threes through 15 games.
If the Bucks are going to continue to guard the Raptors the way they have been through the first four games of the series then Powell's shooting is invaluable.
In Game 4 he took 13 triples - the Raptors probably don't need him to launch that many on a per game basis, but five of those attempts came from the corner and that's around the number he should be ready to shoot going forward.
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When Leonard has the ball, the Bucks have made it a conscious effort to show him as many green jerseys as possible. With Powell on the floor and willing to take the corner three, it will force Milwaukee to make a decision on how many bodies they throw at Leonard and where on the floor those bodies are coming from.
Powell's three-ball threat was a weapon that just didn't show up as often against the 76ers. It's not that he shot the ball poorly - he went 50% from three for the series - the matchup just didn't allow him to play consistent minutes. He's getting the minutes now, and so far it's paying off for the Raptors.
In the first three games of the series, the Raptors got pounded on the glass. Not only did they have trouble boxing out the Bucks on the defensive end because they wanted to get out and run, they seemed so concerned with Milwaukee getting out in transition that they didn't bother crashing for offensive rebounds.
Game 4 was the first time in the series that Toronto won the rebound count. They also pulled down a series-high 10 offensive boards. Ibaka was responsible for four of those and had one of the momentum-shifting plays of the first half on a putback dunk that sent the crowd into a frenzy.
If Ibaka can force the Bucks to worry about him on the offensive glass, chances are it will allow the Raptors enough time to get back and set up their halfcourt defence, which the Bucks have had trouble solving the last couple of games.
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With VanVleet, Powell and Ibaka all contributing in different ways, it allows the Raptors to go longer with their second unit.
The past two games have shown that the Raptors are more than just Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam, and they'll need that to continue if they plan on hosting Game 1 of the NBA Finals next Thursday.
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