2017 Playoffs: Game 6 Preview - Raptors at Bucks
After a 118-93 victory on the Air Canada Centre floor, the Toronto Raptors are back in Milwaukee with a 3-2 series lead and an opportunity to close out their first-round series against the Bucks in Game 6.
Tip-off: 7:00 P.M. ET
Broadcast info: SN / TSN1050
Valanciunas ready to play any role
When Dwane Casey switched up the starting lineup in Games 4 and 5 by inserting Norman Powell into the starting five, it also meant Jonas Valanciunas moving from the starting five to the bench. Much has been made of Powell's impact in two Toronto victories in Games 4 and 5, but Casey wanted to also be sure Valanciunas was being acknowledged for accepting his role change so swiftly.
"I really thing the way Jonas has handled it has been very important," Casey said. "Him being a professional, a guy that starts, that's hard. That's one of the hardest things to do in this league, to go from a starter, a big-time starter, one of our core pieces to the role he's in now. This series, that could change next series if we get there. It could change the next game. We're gonna hold that close to our vest. But I really appreciate the way Jonas has handled that situation."
Casey wasn't the only one with praise for Valanciunas. Kyle Lowry also talked about how Valanciunas matching up with Milwaukee's Greg Monroe has helped the team in the previous two victories.
"He's done an unbelievable job," Lowry said. "A guy that's been starting his whole career, coming off the bench in the playoffs, in the series, he could pout. But he's been taking it, and he's been literally performing and producing and being what we need him to be. He's a great matchup for Greg Monroe. Greg Monroe has been playing fantastically against us, and we need that bigger body on him to pay against him. It's a good matchup for him. He's been a true professional. He shows the commitment he's making to our team by just accepting his role and understanding it's for the bigger, better cause of the team."
For Valanciunas, the most important thing has always been winning. He reiterated this point after the team's practice session on Wednesday afternoon.
"It's the same game," Valanciunas said. "Start the first minute or come off the bench, it's the same game. You're playing the same game. I'm good. I don't feel bad if I don't start. I'm playing the same minutes, doing good things on the court, that's all I need to do, right? I've just got to do my job. As long as we're winning, I've been saying that a long time ago, as long as we're winning I'm okay."
Powell's professionalism continuing to impress
Despite being in just his second season, Norman Powell is already proving to be a veteran at handling the ups and downs of the NBA. After being inserted into the starting five in Game 4, Powell made an immediate impact. In Game 5, Powell started again, and had a career-night, scoring 25 points to lead the Raptors offensively.
"That's a true professional," Kyle Lowry said. "It's only his second year. It just shows the professionalism, the maturity, the maturity that he has. It's been great, man. He's been a good energy, he's pretty much been everything for us right now. He changed the series, honestly, he's changed the series so far. He's been coming in and getting his looks, with the attention that me and DeMar [DeRozan] were getting is giving him an opportunity to show what he can do. It's pretty cool, pretty fun to watch.
While he has been brilliant offensively, his impact and work on the other end of the floor that's been equally important.
"I think he fits in well with what me and DeMar do and what they have done to us, trying to take, double-team us, put more arms on us," Lowry said. "Norm's ability to get to the basket, finish, get out in transition. But he's doing it defensively also. Let's not take that for lightly. He's doing well on offence but his defence has been effective. He's been just into it. We've all been into it."
One possession at a time
While the Raptors are going to Milwaukee with a 3-2 series lead and an opportunity to close out the series, they want to focus on playing the best game they can when the ball goes up on Thursday.
"It's Game 6," Kyle Lowry said. "We understand that it's a chance to close out a series. At the end of the day, right now, if we take it possession by possession, it's very cliché I understand that, but that's really how you gotta take it. Last year we said we had to treat it like a Game 7 and we lost. So we have to treat it like a Game 6 but take it like another, separate game. Every game in this series has been completely difference. Game 6 is gonna be a completely different game."
When Jonas Valanciunas was asked about previous Game 6 experience, he was quick to point out that this year's team and situation is its own. While previous learning experiences can help with understanding the moment, the most important thing is focusing on the task at hand. One possession at a time.
"We've all got to go with the same purpose," Valanciunas said. "The same purpose to finish the game, finish the series. Our goal is to go there and finish. I think every guy has the same goal, same thinking about finishing the series. It's not going to be easy. We're not underestimating our opponents. They're going to come out playing really hard, which I think they will, and we've got to be ready."