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NBA playoffs update: Raptors and Spurs advance

Kawhi Leonard is off to Canada. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
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28th April, 2017
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As the NBA Playoffs continued last night two more teams fell by the way side and second round match ups began to emerge.

Here’s what happened.

Toronto Raptors 92 Milwaukee Bucks 89
The Raptors survived a frantic comeback from the young Bucks to close out the series in six games. Toronto lead by as many as 25 late in the third quarter but Milwaukee refused to give up.

Lead by their Greek star Giannis Antetokounmpo – 34 points and 9 rebounds – the Bucks rallied with a 20-3 run and took a two point lead with 3.18 to play.

Australian point guard Matthew Dellavedova contributed 12 points and four assists of the bench for the Bucks while young Aussie centre Thon Maker patrolled the paint well registering five blocks.

Eventually the Raptors regained control and when they took an 85-82 lead – on a Corey Joseph three pointer – they never relinquished their hold on the game.

The Bucks had a chance to tie it up but Antetokounmpo decided to take the easy two points – rather than tie with a three – with just three seconds to play. Patrick Patterson then stole the Bucks inbound pass to ice the game and send Toronto on to the second round.

Toronto fans will be encouraged by the performance of DeMar Derozan – so often a shadow of himself in the postseason – who lead the team with 32 points including some clutch buckets late in the game.

DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors during a game against the Washington Wizards on November 2, 2016 at Verizon Center in Washington, DC.

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Derozan looked at his deadly best last night attacking the rim with verve as well as causing damage with his well tuned mid range game. The Raptors will need Derozan to keep playing at this level if they are progress any further.

The Bucks will be disappointed that they couldn’t advance having given the Raptors a serious scare early in the series. However, their roster is young and they have shown that they are not too far off the top teams in the east – expect these young Bucks to be back stronger next year.

Toronto will be delighted to get out of this series but there are serious issues moving forward. The Raptors were held under 100 points in four of the six games by a team ranked 17th in defensive efficiency. That level of offence just won’t cut it against Cleveland in the next round.

San Antonio Spurs 103 Memphis Grizzlies 96
San Antonio advanced to face the Houston Rockets – defeating the Memphis Grizzlies in a seesawing encounter in Memphis.

The Grizzlies lead by ten midway through the third quarter but were unable to prevent the tide turning as San Antonio whittled the lead down to prevail by 7.

As per usual the Spurs were lead by Kawhi Leonard – 29 points and nine rebounds – who overcame a relatively poor shooting night to keep the Spurs offence humming. Tony Parker rolled back the years and poured in 27 points – on an impressive 11 of 14 shooting – to conjure memories of his Finals MVP performances back in 2007.

Perhaps most heartening for the Spurs was the performance of LaMarcus Aldridge – anonymous for much of the series – who got busy on the offensive glass and registered a 17 point 12 rebound double double.

San Antonion Spurs' Kawhi Leonard.

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Australian Patty Mills provided his customary scoring off the bench – adding a vital ten points on an efficient four of six from the field. Mills’ play off the bench has been crucial to San Antonio’s success in the series.

Memphis didn’t quite have enough to get over the line and take the Spurs to a game 7. A stellar performance from Mike Conley – who scored 26 – had the Grizzlies ahead comfortably but they just couldn’t hold on.

Conley was well supported by Spanish centre Marc Gasol who scored 18 points and added six assists. As well as by the evergreen duo of Vince Carter and Zach Randolph. Carter who is now 40 added a dozen points and continues to defy expectations by contributing at this late stage of his career.

Randolph – by comparison a youngster at 35 – provided his customary hustle in grabbing 11 rebounds.

Eventually San Antonio’s class shone through as they advanced to face Houston in what will be one of the most hotly anticipated second round series