The Toronto Raptors refused to go away in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Semi series with the Philadelphia 76ers. With their 101-96 win on Sunday afternoon, they evened it up at two games apiece, making sure it remains in the air ahead of what could, and should, be a pivotal Game 5 in north of the border. Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler were each fabulous for their respective teams, but it the former that got the best of the latter. Leonard would finish with 39 points, with the most important three coming with a tick over a minute left, while Butler would end up putting in 29 of his own in the loss. Leonard was the only Raptors player to put up more than 20, with Pascal Siakam struggling from the field. Butler was largely left to lead the Sixers on a day where Joel Embiid was under the weather, helping explain his lack of productivity. You will have to expect he’ll be better than that next time out when he is more healthy and ready to go.
Over in the Western Conference Semis, the Denver Nuggets did the same thing to keep their series with the Portland Trail Blazers alive and well. Their 116-112 win in Portland means they are now at 2-2 as well, and that just about anything can happen from here. On the back of a second straight triple-double, the fourth of the playoffs so far, from Nikola Jokic (21 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists) and 34 points from unsung hero Jamal Murray, they outlasted the Blazers to grab a crucial win that now hands them home court advantage once again. In fact, the aforementioned duo are the first since Magic and Kareem to have a triple-double and score more than 30 points, a simply unbelievable stat that is well worth repeating. This despite Jokic having come off a Game 3 in which he played a remarkable 65 minutes. CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard, 29 and 28 points respectively, led the Blazers in the loss that knotted up the series once again.
Pundits and fans alike continue to question how ‘real’ the San Diego Padres are, but they just keep on coming. On Sunday, they took the Los Angeles Dodgers at home and found themselves down 5-4 in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded and two outs. Just the scenario you’d dream about as a kid in the backyard. To make things even better for pinch hitter Hunter Renfroe, he would smash the 0-1 pitch into the upper deck in left field to win the game 8-5. The win saw that the Padres avoided a sweep to the Dodgers and that it kept 2.5 games behind their visitors in the NL West standings at this early stage. All seemingly unimportant stats that are all the more vital for them given their relative youth and lack of experience. They may well fall out of it eventually, but for now they are well in the fight.