The Raptors exist to distract us from the Celtics’ collapse

Good morning. We have that and more in Friday’s NBA newsletter.

Much happened on Thursday in the NBA playoffs, but perhaps nothing was as impactful as the Toronto Raptors failing to even compete on the road against the Milwaukee Bucks. After splitting a troubling pair in Ontario, Toronto just didn’t show up against the young, aggressive Bucks. Now they’re down 2-1, facing a forceful first round exit that would potentially lead to a complete remaking of the roster.

How bad was it? Toronto only hit the 30-point mark before halftime on a buzzer-beating prayer from Delon Wright. The Raptors had just 46 points (and 32-point deficit) after three quarters. In fact, had Milwaukee not scored the entire fourth quarter, Toronto still would have lost by a point!

This was Toronto’s second game in three this series in which they failed to score 85 points. Milwaukee has a decent, long defense, but the Raptors have now shot under 40 percent from the field and under 30 percent from long range twice in this series. Toronto was No. 6 overall in offense this season, and No. 2 in the East. This should not be happening.

As I wrote earlier this week, if Toronto fails like this, Kyle Lowry might not be back. Dwane Casey might not be back. Team president Masai Ujiri might completely remake the team. You can’t go out like this and expect another chance. The Raptors are getting embarrassed out there.

Playoff Scores …

Cavaliers 119, Pacers 114 (CLE leads 3-0)

Raptors 77, Bucks 104 (MIL leads 2-1)

Spurs 94, Grizzlies 105 (SAS leads 2-1)

… And Links Galore

The Pacers led the Cavaliers by 26 points. Jokes about Cleveland’s so-called switch were flowing free. Then LeBron James found the switch, delivered the Cavaliers to victory and perhaps brought the Pacers to within 48 minutes of the end of the Paul George era. Man oh man. You can’t describe this as simply a huge Pacers collapse (though it is that) because a top-3 player ever was involved. But that doesn’t exactly make Indiana feel any better, does it?

It’s a good time to read Whitney Medworth on how the Pacers failed Paul George.

It’s a good time to read Lang Whitaker’s account of LeBron’s roar from Indianapolis, as well.

The Grizzlies beat the Spurs in Game 3 because no San Antonio point guard can stick with Mike Conley. This was a physical game (to be expected) and that suits Memphis. We’ll see if things change for Game 4.

Friday’s schedule:
Celtics at Bulls, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN, CHI leads 2-0
Rockets at Thunder, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, HOU leads 2-0
Clippers at Jazz, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN2, Series tied 1-1

We focused on the Raptors’ failures above, but Tim Cato is right: the Bucks are showing huge potential right now. They deserve heaps of credit for what’s happening to Toronto.

I mean, look at Giannis Antetokounmpo with the ELBOW BLOCK. He blocked a shot … with his elbow.

The JaVale McGee revival, as told by Harry Lyles Jr.

Behind the scenes as Memphis preps for a gameday.

The legend of Thon Maker grows. The Bucks were going to send him to the D-League to get playing time a couple months ago, but the Bucks don’t have an exclusive affiliate and coach Jason Kidd didn’t trust some unconnected coaching staff with the rookie. So Kidd’s staff decided the best way to get him minutes was … to put him in the starting lineup. Milwaukee went 18-6 after that decision and is up 2-1 in the playoffs.

And now, a moment to discuss Russell Westbrook. Kristian Winfield looked at the tape to confirm that yes, Westbrook’s shot selection deteriorated heavly through the fourth quarter. Mike Prada highlights two similar plays for the Thunder and Rockets with different results.

A Nike executive called LaVar Ball “the worst thing to happen to basketball in the last hundred years,” which can’t possibly be true.

Shout out to the commish Adam Silver on the birth of his first child! Fifty-four years old with a newborn? Brave, my friend. Brave.

Musecage entrepreneur and documentarian Kobe Bryant has formed a skills program called The Mamba League in L.A.

Joe Johnson is your latest hot yoga devotee in the NBA.

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