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Raptors’ all-star VanVleet ruled out of Game 5

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PHILADELPHIA – Fred VanVleet says his body has “tapped out.”

The Toronto Raptors’ all-star guard, who suffered a strained left hip flexor, was ruled out of Monday’s do-or-die Game 5 of their opening-round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers.

The 28-year-old, who’s also been battling a bruised knee the past few months, limped off the court in the second quarter of Saturday’s Game 4, ripping his jersey in frustration.

“I knew I wasn’t coming back,” he said of his reaction. “To be in this situation with this team, being hobbled already … you’re just trying to go until you can’t run no more. More so just being in the moment, wanting to be out there with the guys fighting, trying to get the win.”

The Raptors trailed the Sixers 3-1 in the best-of-seven opening-round playoff series and needed a win Monday to stave off elimination.

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VanVleet said the hip has been bothering him on and off all season, but he felt a pop in the first quarter on Saturday. He finished out the quarter, and put some heat on his hip on the bench.

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“Once I checked back in, it was all locked up,” he said at Monday’s shootaround. “Couldn’t really move, can’t really lift my leg or anything like that. It was difficult to move around.”

VanVleet averaged 20.3 points, 6.7 assists, and 4.4 rebounds per game this season and was named an All-Star for the first time, but his troublesome knee kept him out of 13 games since late-January. The latest blow was disappointing.

“For sure,” he said. “But I’ll take the positives away from the situation. There’s still something gratifying about just laying it on the line for your teammates, for your brothers in the locker room, knowing you’re not 100. My body finally just tapped out. So here we are.”

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He said “painting with a broad brush,” there’s a chance the hip flexor and knee injuries are connected.

VanVleet planned to be as big a part of Monday’s game at Wells Fargo Arena as he could.

“Do the same thing I always do: talk trash, keep the guys level-headed, give them pointers here and there, just support them,” VanVleet said. “Join the coaching staff as I’ve done (before). I’ll be locked in all day today from this morning to the end of the game trying to help as much as I can.”

VanVleet was asked, in jest, if he had one of the brown Raptors coaching pullovers to wear on the bench.

“I got to check my fits,” VanVleet laughed. “We’ll see what (the coaches) are wearing. I might throw the top on.”

If the series goes to a Game 6 on Thursday in Toronto, VanVleet said he’s not sure if he’d be ready to return.

“Hopefully we can extend this thing and I would feel great about maybe playing in the next round,” he said. “Nobody believes we can do it, but I think we can. I’m going to stay positive and get as much rehab as I can.”

Raptors coach Nick Nurse said Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes and perhaps Malachi Flynn would bring the ball up the floor in VanVleet’s absence.

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The Raptors got a boost ahead of their 110-102 win in Game 3, when Barnes was named NBA rookie of the year.

“It’s special. You only get one chance to get that one so he deserved it … I thought he was by far the best rookie this year,” VanVleet said. “He was special for us this season. It’s not like we’re giving him the ball every possession and letting him dictate everything. I know how much he wanted it, he did it with a pure heart, came in and worked every day, and I’m just so happy for him that he was rewarded and acknowledged for that.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 25, 2022.

© 2022 The Canadian Press





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