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This story was originally published on May 21, 2019.
Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet credited the birth of his second child for helping him return to form after the worst shooting slump of his playoff career, as they evened the Eastern Conference Finals with a crucial win over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 4.
VanVleet flew to Illinois on Monday for the birth of his son Fred Jr, before rushing back to Toronto for the Raptors' 120-102 Game 4 victory over the Bucks, which tied the series at 2-2.
The 25-year-old had been mired in a slump after shooting just 1-11 in Game 3. After scoring 14 points in Toronto's postseason opener back on April 13, VanVleet had scored in single digits in 14 consecutive games during which he shot just 21.7 percent from the field including 14.3 percent from beyond the 3-point line.
MORE: Takeaways from Toronto's Game 4 victory
He busted out in a big way on Tuesday, finishing with 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting while dishing out six assists. VanVleet, Norman Powell and Serge Ibaka accounted for all 48 of Toronto's bench points, helping the Raptors to a 48-23 edge in bench scoring.
Perhaps the newest addition to the family is what inspired VanVleet to deliver his best game yet.
"It makes you tired," VanVleet said of the arrival of his second child. "It gives you a little perspective, I guess, on life.
"I had a lot of time to think. Had to sit at the hospital all day, had a lot of time to think, obviously a plane ride back.
"It just changes the way you're looking at things. You are not so down on yourself about everything."
Fred VanVleet comes up with the steal and lays it in!#WeTheNorth 104#FearTheDeer 84- NBA (@NBA) May 22, 2019
10-3 @Raptors start to the 4th on @NBAonTNT pic.twitter.com/adeFL1fbJI
The bench's performance helped take the pressure off Kawhi Leonard who scored 19 points after pouring in 36 points in 52 minutes in Toronto's double overtime thriller in Game 3. Though Leonard didn't explode offensively, he still carried the burden of guarding MVP hopeful Giannis Antetokounmpo despite not looking 100% after sustaining a leg injury in Game 3.
"We know we have to be better," VanVleet added. "We see all the stuff. We understand what the narrative has turned into, that it is kind of 'Kawhi Leonard and The Backup Singers.'
"We understand that. Sometimes it has been like that, and there's other stuff that goes into that. There's give and take there. But we have to do the same s*** again in Game 5."
The Raptors are aiming to make the Finals for the first time in franchise history with the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors awaiting the winner of the series.
Leonard said of the production his teammates delivered: "It was big time. Everybody contributed, knocking down shots, playing great defense.
"[I] feel good. Keep going, keep fighting. We have a chance to make history."
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