Fred VanVleet has reached the Eastern Conference Finals of the NBA playoffs for the first time in his young NBA career. The Rockford native had a great view of Kawhi Leonard’s stunning game-winning shot Sunday night that lifted the Raptors over the 76ers and onto the next round.
VanVleet was out of the game on the Raptors’ bench when the Raptors inbounded the ball. Leonard drove right in front of him and launched that shot. VanVleet counted the four bounces and then celebrated when the ball dropped through the rim.
“Once it hit the rim once and twice it was like, ‘Alright this is going to fall,’ and it did and this is just like a movie moment,” VanVleet told reporters following the game.
“It was a great play,” continued VanVleet. “Obviously we had a good set drawn up. Give Kawhi the ball and kind of get out of the way and he got to his spot and he made a big play, a big shot. That’s what the greats do.”
It wasn’t a great series against the 76ers for VanVleet personally. He averaged only two points per game while making only 13 percent of his shots from the field, and he averaged only 1.1 assists. He’s happy for a new series and a fresh start.
“It’s good to have this series behind me and move on to Milwaukee.”
Yes the Bucks are next. They’re the number one seed in the East and they have their own superstar who seems unstoppable in Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks went 3-1 against the Raptors during the regular season. VanVleet says the Raptors will have to be better than they were against the 76ers and he expects that to happen.
“I think we’ll just keep evolving. Keep growing. Keep getting better,” said VanVleet. “I think we’ve shown we can win in a multitude of ways and you want to have a lot of stuff in your tool box so that bodes well for us going forward, but we understand Milwaukee brings something totally different and that’s a whole nother challenge.”
Maybe Leonard’s game-winning basket Sunday night is a sign that this is the Raptors’ year?
“This is unbelievable to be a part of something like this,”said VanVleet. “It’s just, you’re in the middle of some historical stuff.”
Games one and two of the Raptors-Bucks series will be played Wednesday and Friday nights in Milwaukee. Game three will be played Sunday in Toronto.