Game 5 of the NBA Finals goes at 9 p.m. ET Saturday night on Sportsnet.
The series is all evened up at 2-2 following a pair of stirring performances from the Milwaukee Bucks over the last two games to get right back into things after going down 2-0 to the Phoenix Suns to open the Finals.
Now a best-of-three, Saturday’s Game 5 is a pivotal game that will see the winner on the brink of winning it all in Game 6.
Here’s three things to keep in mind before you take in Game 5 on Saturday night.
Past adversity has appeared to temper Bucks for this moment
The Bucks have had their fair share of playoff heartbreaks over the past few years.
In 2019, they had a 2-0 series lead over the Toronto Raptors in the conference finals, but then proceeded to drop four straight. Then, last year in the bubble, Milwaukee went down 0-2 to the Miami Heat in the second round and were never able to recover as the team went down quietly in five games.
Those two experiences, in particular, have haunted the Bucks, and have been used as supposedly definitive proof that this is a team that simply can’t get the job done, no matter how much talent on the roster.
This year’s been different, though.
Twice now in the playoffs, we’ve seen Milwaukee come back from down 0-2 to even up a seven-game series — first against the Brooklyn Nets in the second round and now against the Suns in the Finals – and the biggest reason why appears to have stemmed from some past experiences members of this team have been through that have humbled them.
“When you focus on the past, that’s your ego.” pic.twitter.com/XKiRMA8Ux2
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) July 17, 2021
In particularly, those past playoff failure have appeared to really get through to Milwaukee superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo and taught him how to navigate the post-season.
“I think I would say life,” said Antetokounmpo when asked about what’s taught him how to handle his ego in such an even-keeled way at just 26 years of age. “Usually, from my experience, when I think about like, ‘Oh, yeah, I did this, I’m so great, I had 30, I had 25, 10, 10,’ whatever the case might be, you’re going to think about that [and] usually the next day you’re going to suck, you know? Simple as that. The next few days you’re going to be terrible.
“I figured out a mindset to have that when you focus on the past, that’s your ego. ‘I did this, We were able to beat this team 4-0. I did this in the past. I won that in the past.’ When I focus on the future, it’s my pride. ‘Yeah, next game, Game 5, I do this and this and this. I’m going to dominate.’ That’s your pride talking. It doesn’t happen. You’re right here.
“I kind of try to focus on the moment, in the present. That’s humility. That’s being humble. That’s not setting no expectation. That’s going out there, enjoying the game, competing at a high level.”
Can the Suns correct their turnover woes of late?
Over their past two games, the Suns haven’t looked like themselves.
Usually a low-mistake team, the Suns have committed 32 turnovers over their last two games, 10 more than the 22 they committed over their first two games.
The Bucks’ defence has been a cause of this, but there have been unforced errors sprinkled in that simply can’t happen and Phoenix knows this.
“When you turn the ball over that many times with our group, it’s not something you typically see,” said Suns head coach Monty Williams. “[The Bucks] got hands on ball a few times, but a lot of it was things that, like I said at the end, we can correct.”
Williams is naturally confident his team can shore things up, but it’s one thing to have confidence things will turn around and actually seeing it happen all in practice, especially when your All-NBA point guard has been struggling.
After a solid Game 1 performance, Chris Paul has been off all series long. He’s uncharacteristically turned the ball over 15 times alone over the last three games and a major reason for that has been the defence of Jrue Holiday, whose size, length and strength have appeared to really bother Paul, not that anyone on the Suns will admit to it.
“A blip on the screen. That’s how I would term it,” said Williams of Paul’s turnovers problems of late. “You’re not going to see Chris have those kinds of games frequently. I’ve been around him long enough, I’ve coached against him enough. That’s how I would term it: a blip on the screen or the radar.”
Added Paul himself: “It’s something I don’t dwell on. Even though it may be an anomaly, it happens. I turned the ball over hella times before. End of the day, we got to win the game. Me turning the ball over is not giving us enough shots at the basket. I’ll figure it out.”
For the Suns’ sake, let’s hope this relatively unconcerned attitude about Paul’s issues taking care of the ball really is just an anomaly and he gets back on track beginning with Saturday’s Game 5.
This has been a home-dominated series
As the old saying goes, “a series doesn’t start until the home team loses.”
Well, in that case, despite four games having gone by, this is a series that hasn’t really begun yet because the home teams have dominated thus far.
Maybe it’s because these are both fanbases absolutely starved for a championship – neither market has won a major sports title since the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV in 2010. Between these two teams specifically, only the Bucks have won an NBA championship way back in 1971 when Lew Alcindor, better known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Oscar Robertson were playing for the team. But the energy from both home crowds during these Finals has been absolutely electric and has likely made communication difficult for the opposing side.
Because of how dominant the home side has been in this series, however, coming into Game 5 it feels like there’s a little more pressure on the Suns to hold serve on Saturday night. Those “Bucks in six” chants at Fiserv Forum at the end of Game 4 were sounding quite menacing and that’s because there’s been no better team at home this post-season than Milwaukee. If Phoenix can’t take Game 5 on Saturday, you have to like the Bucks’ chances to close things out at home on Tuesday.
Rugby Canada fires coach over social media posts ridiculing the women sevens Olympic team – The Globe and Mail
Rugby Canada fired Jamie Cudmore, a former star player in charge of developing the next generation of talent, on Friday for a series of social media posts belittling the women’s sevens team.
His posts took aim at the sevens squad for its disappointing performance at the Tokyo Olympics.
Much had been expected of the Canadian women in Tokyo, given their performance in Rio and the fact they were tied with Australia on points for second in the World Rugby Sevens Series standings when the pandemic shut down the season last year.
But the Canadian women lost to Fiji and France after beating Brazil to miss out on the quarter-finals. Their next game in Tokyo is for ninth place.
Cudmore, an enforcer in the rugby field during his playing days, served as an assistant coach with the Canadian men’s 15s team and ran Rugby Canada’s national development academy.
The fact that the comments came from within has added to a year of turmoil for the governing body and the sevens women, who launched a formal complaint in January under Rugby Canada’s bullying and harassment policy.
Cudmore apologized for the posts but was relieved of his duties soon after. Rugby Canada called the posts “unacceptable and in breach of organization policy.”
“It was an emotional event for a good friend and I let that get the better of me,” Cudmore said on Twitter. “I’ve always played/coached with my heart on my sleeve for this great country. I’m sorry if I’ve offended anyone.”
The good friend is former sevens coach John Tait.
In the wake of the complaint filed by 37 current and former team members, an independent review concluded that while the conduct described in the complaint reflected the experiences of the athletes, it did not fall within Rugby Canada’s policy’s definition of harassment or bullying.
Tait, while maintaining he had done nothing wrong, subsequently stepped down.
A former Canadian international, Tait was one of Rugby Canada’s most successful coaches, leading the sevens team to the bronze medal at the Rio Olympics.
The controversy has divided Rugby Canada, with most of Tait’s staff leaving.
It appears Cudmore could not resist taking a shot at the women given their Olympic performance under interim coach Mick Byrne.
“Karma is a bitch! #Survivorsmyass,” read a since-deleted Cudmore tweet.
“Rugby Canada stands with our women’s 7s athletes,” the governing body said in its initial response on social media. “We support the team in their efforts both on and off the rugby pitch and are proud of the way they have represented our country. Rugby Canada is aware of recent social media comments made about the team and worked to ensure they were removed as quickly as possible.
“Our organizational values include solidarity and respect, and everyone on our staff is expected to help create an inclusive environment for all. We condemn any inappropriate comments directed at the team and our leadership will be meeting to address this matter immediately.”
Rugby Canada upped the ante hours later, relieving Cudmore of his duties. CEO Allen Vansen said in a series of tweets that the organization had concluded “that immediate action must be taken.”
“Rugby Canada’s core values, including integrity and respect, must be exemplified in all our rugby programs and we are determined to promote a healthy, inclusive culture now and in future,” Rugby Canada board chair Sally Dennis said in the statement.
Cudmore won 43 caps for Canada, playing in both the 2003 and 2007 World Cups. The 6-foot-5, 257-pound lock forward is one of Canada’s most famous exports – a hard man on the rugby pitch who was no stranger to suspensions for taking matters into his own hands on the field.
Several of Cudmore’s deleted tweets were captured and posted by sevens player Charity Williams.
“I wanted to take this moment to talk about our performance and how proud I am of this team beyond any result,” Williams wrote on Instagram. “Because I am, and what we accomplished this year is far greater than one weekend. What this team stands for and who we have become means that young female athletes across Canada can play their sport and feel safe. I’m proud of that.
“But instead I have to sit here once again and share what we’ve been going through as a team. The consistent hatred we have received from people in our own organization. I’m only sharing because this is what we have been dealing with for months. From private texts, to public stalking online and in person. The bullying and harassment that we have received for coming forward is outrageous and scary at times. This is the reason we called for an internal investigation because we haven’t been safe.”
In the wake of that probe, the players said they had been let down by Rugby Canada’s harassment and bullying policy – which has since been updated and replaced.
Rugby Canada says it plans a “detailed, independent review of all performance rugby programs starting next month with a goal of positioning teams for success in supportive, inclusive environments.”
Captain Ghislaine Landry also took to social media from Tokyo.
“We always knew this was about more than rugby, about more than one tournament, even if it’s the Olympics. We knew the last nine months might put our Olympic dream in jeopardy, we had that discussion as a group, and still the decision was clear. We were ready to put our dreams at risk for change.
“This has not been a distraction but it has taken a toll on us. And so, while we are heartbroken not to have been able to play our best, we are proud and united.”
In a statement released April 28, the players said their complaint “explained the psychological abuse, harassment and/or bullying these athletes feel they were subjected to in the centralized training environment.”
Nigerian sprinter Okagbare out of Olympics after testing positive for human growth hormone – CBC.ca
Nigerian sprinter and 2008 Olympics long jump silver medallist Blessing Okagbare on Saturday was provisionally suspended after testing positive for human growth hormone before the Tokyo Olympics, the Athletics Integrity Unit said in a statement.
The 32-year old, who has also won world championship medals in the 200-metre and the long jump and is competing in her fourth Olympics, had comfortably won her 100-metre heat on Friday with a time of 11.05 seconds, qualifying for Saturday’s semifinal.
She was also due to compete in the 200, and the 4×100-metre relay.
“The athlete was notified of the adverse analytical finding and of her provisional suspension this morning in Tokyo,” the AIU said.
The unit said she tested positive in an out-of-competition test on July 19 and was informed of her suspension on Saturday.
This is the latest blow for Nigeria’s athletics team after 10 track-and-field athletes were ruled as ineligible for the Tokyo Games three days ago for failing to meet minimum testing requirements.
Bring on the cheers
Find live streams, must-watch video highlights, breaking news and more in one perfect Olympic Games package. Following Team Canada has never been easier or more exciting.
On the list of banned substances, human growth hormone reduces body fat, increases muscle mass and strength and helps in recovery, according to the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Okagbare’s silver medal from the Beijing Games was a result of her being upgraded in 2017 after the International Olympic Committee disqualified Russian athlete Tatyana Lebedeva due to a doping offence. She had originally finished third in that long jump competition.
WATCH | The 100-metre dash, explained:
Canada’s Kylie Masse wins silver in 200m backstroke at Tokyo Olympics – Sportsnet.ca
TOKYO — Kylie Masse has won her second medal of the Tokyo Olympics with a silver medal in the women’s 200-metre backstroke.
The 25-year-old from LaSalle, Ont., finished in two minutes 5.42 seconds on Saturday — behind Kaylee McKeown (2:04.68) and ahead of Emily Seebohm (2:06.17), both of Australia.
The Canadian women’s swim team has generated five medals in Tokyo, including Masse’s other silver in the 100-metre backstroke on Tuesday.
“I know I have high expectations of myself, but I’m really happy to have gotten on the podium a second time at an Olympic Games,” Masse said.
She has a chance at a third medal as she’s expected to swim the backstroke leg of the women’s medley relay on Sunday.
Masse led at 150 metres in the 200, but was caught at the wall by McKeown.
“I knew it was going to come down to the last bit,” Masse said. “I think maybe from how I felt, my stroke rate maybe slowed down a bit at the end.
“I’ll have to look back on the race and talk to the coaches, but that was a best time for me, a Canadian record, so I have to be pleased with that.”
Masse’s Canadian teammate Taylor Ruck of Kelowna, B.C., finished sixth with a time of 2:08.24.
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