* Tonight on TNT: Game 5, Raptors vs. Bucks (8:30 ET)
The Toronto Raptors have forged a tie in the Eastern Conference finals with the Milwaukee Bucks behind back-to-back solid performances from standouts Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry. Both players, however, have been hobbled a bit by injury as Game 5 of the series looms.
Leonard scored 36 points in 52 minutes in a double-overtime win in Game 3 on Sunday despite dealing with leg soreness. Time and again, he came up with clutch plays in that victory, but was a little less impactful in Game 4. Although Leonard finished with 19 points in 34 minutes, he appeared to hobble at times throughout that game.
As for Lowry, he scored 12 of Toronto's first 17 points and finished with 25 points overall, going 10-for-10 at the free-throw line. On Wednesday, Raptors coach Nick Nurse said Lowry is definitely playing through pain in this series, while Leonard is apparently doing better than he appears to be.
Lowry has been battling a left thumb injury that he suffered in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers. He has been wearing a specially designed glove that looks like an oven mitt to try and help speed up his healing process. Nurse said Wednesday that Lowry is admittedly still playing through some pain.
When asked at Thursday's shootaround about any improvement in his thumb, Lowry flatly said, "no."
"I will not be able to get it taken care of until after the season is over," Lowry said. "It hurts ... it's pretty bad. We've been taking things to make sure that during the game we try to limit the pain as much as possible during the games but, it is what it is.
"It hurts on everything. Every time I use this hand, it hurts. But it's whatever. At this point, it is what it is. ... I still got a lot more to give. My thumb being hurt, it is what it is, but other than that, my body feels great, my mind feels strong and that's the important thing."
As for Leonard, Nurse said in a Wednesday conference call that his star forward is "feeling good. No concerns at this point. He's good."
"Kyle's hand is not great," Nurse told reporters on Wednesday. "You know, he's -- it's hurt and it's sore and it causes him a lot of pain. But he seems to be able to manage it through the game and do what he can do.
"He's obviously scoring and playing great on top of the other things he always does, and we're really [seeing] a heck of a lot of toughness and again, the spirit that he just wants to be out there and help his team any way he can."
Nurse also said OG Anunoby does not have a timetable for returning from an emergency appendectomy that has sidelined the 21-year-old forward for the entire postseason.
"He is being more active every day," Nurse said. "I think we are getting closer to a point where we're - you know, unpack is the next step for him. He's moving pretty good, he's shooting, etc., but still a ways away from being able to take hits and contact in the areas that he needs to test out."
On the Bucks side of things, coach Mike Budenholzer knows his team must get more from his bench, which has outscored Toronto's reserves 130-78 through the first three games of the series. In Game 4, it was a different story as the Raptors' bench, led by forward Norman Powell's 18 points, rang up 48 points Tuesday to help Toronto even the series.
"They need to play well," Budenholzer said Wednesday of his reserves. "I think our whole team, whether it be the bench or the starters, needs to be better defensively. I think there's things offensively where the bench can, you know, just like the rest of us, we have to execute a little bit better. ... this series, the benches have been critical and very influential and credit to Toronto's bench, particularly. They really stepped up and had a huge game, and we need that from our group."
Aside from that storyline, one involving rapper Drake has also gotten a lot of attention in the East finals.
Drake's impromptu massage of Nurse's shoulders is getting a lot of attention, though the Raptors' coach said he didn't even realize it had happened.
"I didn't even know I got the shoulder rub last night until somebody showed me a picture today," Nurse said. "I didn't even feel it. I was so locked into the game. Didn't distract me at all."
Drake has been very animated at courtside, and Budenholzer said if the rapper steps onto the court, it crosses the line.
"I don't know how much he's on the court. It sounds like you guys are saying it's more than I realize," Budenholzer said. "There's certainly no place for fans and, you know, whatever it is exactly that Drake is for the Toronto Raptors. You know, to be on the court, there's boundaries and lines for a reason, and like I said, the league is usually pretty good at being on top of stuff like that."
Drake took to social media to respond to Budenhozler's criticism, firing off a series of emojis on Instagram. He then did an Instagram Live post in which he linked a user's comment that read, in part: "If you don't want the opposing team to celebrate and dance, prevent them from scoring, winning, or achieving their objective. Get over it and keep moving."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.