Toronto Raptors

One Play: Marc Gasol's forgotten shot that was essential to the Toronto Raptors championship run

Welcome to "One Play!" Throughout the 2019-20 NBA season, our Staff has been breaking down certain possessions from certain games and peeling back the curtains to reveal its bigger meaning.

Today, Toronto Raptors forward Marc Gasol takes the spotlight.

Context: On Friday, Sportsnet and SN1 will air Game 3 of last season's Eastern Conference Finals between the Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks.

In a series where the Bucks asserted their dominance in the first two games, making it look like they were going to walk their way to the NBA Finals, Game 3 was pivotal for the Raptors, who were trailing 2-0.

While a trip to the Conference Finals may not have even occurred without Kawhi Leonard's Game 7 game-winner against the Philadelphia 76ers, you could make the case the Raptors' win in a double overtime thriller in Game 3 against the Bucks was just as crucial to keeping their season alive.

Like most games throughout their postseason run, when you look back at the box score, it was Leonard's game-high 36 points that immediately stands out. But when you take a deeper dive, it was more than just Kawhi being Kawhi that helped Toronto come away with a victory in a must-win situation.

See for yourself.

The Play: Gasol buries a huge 3-pointer with the Raptors trailing by two with just under four minutes left in double overtime.

Breakdown: On the play before, the Bucks were off and running in transition to try and take the lead following a turnover by Leonard. Eric Bledsoe missed the initial layup with Khris Middleton botching the first putback, but George Hill was there to clean up the mess and give Milwaukee a two-point lead.

Fred VanVleet tried to respond with a 3-pointer but his shot was off the mark. Gasol battled with Brook Lopez for the rebound, forcing the ball to go out of bounds off Lopez to set up this play.

The actual play itself was sort of lackadaisical. It didn't appear as though Toronto was trying to score off of the out of bounds play, moreso just to get the ball inbounds and then run something.

Just look at how Gasol barely even screens Middleton, the primary defender on Leonard, who looks like he was supposed to be option No. 1 on the play.

However, with Lopez sitting in the paint to protect any possible cut to the basket, Gasol was able to pop out to the perimeter and create extra separation between him and his defender. Even when Gasol caught the ball, Lopez was still several feet away from him.

Lopez eventually gets out on Gasol with a decent - but not great - close out, to which the Raptors centre rises up without hesitation and knocks down a massive 3-pointer to give Toronto a one-point lead.

Why it matters: Kyle Lowry fouled out of this contest in the fourth quarter and the Raptors responded by going nearly four minutes without scoring. They were playing good defence, but players not named Kawhi Leonard were struggling to get anything to fall.

Toronto should have won the game in regulation, but a pair of missed free throws by Pascal Siakam in the final seconds left the door open for the Bucks to force overtime. The team's offensive woes continued into the first OT, only scoring seven points, but they were still able to force a second overtime with the pressure rising.

Giannis Antetokounmpo fouling out at the start of the second overtime gave the Raptors life, but Kawhi needed help badly. In fact, from the start of the fourth quarter until Gasol hit this shot in 2OT, there were only five (!) made field goals total by non-Kawhi Raptors.

This one play is a great example of why Toronto traded for Gasol.

The veteran centre had been brutal on offence through the first two games of the series, shooting 3-for-20 (15.0%) from the field and 2-for-9 (22.2%) from beyond the arc. He did have two 3s in the first half of Game 3, but this was his first made field goal since the start of the third quarter.

Even though he had shot poorly in the series and hadn't made a shot in over 30 minutes of action, it didn't matter. Gasol still pulled up without hesitation and all the confidence in the world, knowing his star player needed help.

It was the only non-Kawhi field goal of the second overtime.

After this 3-ball, the Raptors never surrendered the lead as they would go on to take a crucial win to make the series 2-1.

Going down 3-0 to Milwaukee - a team that only lost consecutive games once all season - would have likely been the kiss of death on Toronto's title hopes. It would have taken a historic meltdown for the Bucks to lose four games in a row up 3-0.

The Game 3 double-overtime victory was the first of what eventually became four-consecutive wins, giving Toronto the momentum it needed heading into its first ever NBA Finals.

Without this clutch shot from Gasol, the Raptors may have fallen short of their goal yet again.

The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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