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Collective effort carries Raptors across finish line in marathon Game 3 win

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TORONTO – Sometimes all you are really desperate for is a response. Proof the fight is there. The will.

Any questions?

The Toronto Raptors have won their share of playoff games over the past six seasons as they have crawled their way up the NBA food chain, forcing the league, the networks, anyone who cares about the game to pay attention.

But they’ve never won a game like they did on Sunday night.

Few Raptors teams have ever managed to find a way to win a game through sheer effort, determination and yes some courage. It will go into the books as a 118-112 double-overtime win that narrows the Milwaukee Bucks‘ lead in the Eastern Conference Finals to a more manageable 2-1 with Game 4 on the same court Tuesday night.

But whatever happens to this team as they try to make the most of the one season of Kawhi Leonard they’ve been promised, it should be this group’s signature; evidence that it all mattered, that they were willing to lay it all out there for one another.

That’s what was the key, more than any line-up change Raptors head coach Nick Nurse made or contemplated: Would whoever was on the floor eating up those minutes — in whatever configuration — going to find a way to play hard and play free?

Without fear?

With their collective heels hanging over the cliff Nurse needed his club to push first rather than get knocked over the edge and start a tumble down a crevasse with no obvious bottom. Step wrong and all you know was the landing was going to hurt, the kind of pain that offers little hope of recovery and scars that can last years.

The Raptors responded, individually and collectively, after it appeared the Bucks were poised to shove them out of the playoffs with a handy sweep of Toronto in two games back in Milwaukee.

There is no arguing that.

Home court? Pride? Desperation? Whatever the inspiration the Raptors turned in by far their best defensive effort of the series – maybe of the post-season, considering the Bucks’ status as an emerging juggernaut.

Rather than hope Leonard could save them alone offensively they received a wide spectrum of contributions in various forms – all the more remarkable given their rotation is capped out at seven players. They initiated the attack, didn’t get knocked off balance when the Bucks punched back and were able to keep Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo largely in check – no small feat considering he’s the favourite for the NBA MVP award this summer.

Nurse coached his butt off, mixing lineups, parsing out minutes, balancing foul trouble.


© Sportsnet