The Chennai Super Kings celebrate, with South African fast bowler Makhaya Ntini in the centre of the picture.(Image: Indian Premier League) The Proteas, dressed in test kit, during their 2008 tour of Australia. (Image: Wikimedia) Newlands cricket stadium, with its famous backdrop of Devil’s Peak. (Image: Wikimedia)Janine ErasmusSouth Africa has become the hub of the cricket world almost overnight, with two major international tournaments shifting from India and Pakistan to the southern tip of the African continent amid fears for the safety of players.The country will host both the Indian Premier League and the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Champions Trophy tournaments. The unexpected cricketing bonanza will bring thousands of visitors to South Africa and some sources say it will boost the economy by up to R1-billion ($100-million).The ICC awarded the Champions Trophy to South Africa in mid-March, and followed this announcement a mere two weeks later with the news that the Indian Premier League (IPL) was also moving south.South African cricket fans have more to look forward to in 2009 than ever before. The Champions Trophy takes place in Gauteng province from 24 September to 5 October 2009, while IPL games will be held around the country between 18 April and 24 May.The new infrastructure put in place for the 2010 Fifa World Cup will have an unscheduled test run during the two large-scale sporting events.Short noticeCricket South Africa has less than a month to organise the month-long IPL event, which takes place over 59 games and in six cities around the country.Cricket South Africa CEO Gerald Majola said: “CSA is delighted to accept the invitation to host the 2009 DFL Indian Premier League tournament. This is a great compliment to both CSA and our nation to be shown this confidence in our ability to hold one of the world’s top sporting events at short notice.”England was another contender for the hosting honours but in the end South Africa’s glorious weather swayed the IPL board. In addition, South Africa is experienced in putting on a show, having hosted the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in 2007 as well as the Cricket World Cup in 2003 – the event’s first showing on the African continent. The fact that South Africa is two time zones closer to India than is England also influenced the decision, as games can be broadcast in India during prime time.The IPL is a Twenty20 tournament. In this, the shortest form of the game, teams bat for a maximum of 20 overs each, bringing a game to a close in less than three hours, as opposed to a normal One Day International (ODI) which takes around four hours per team.The tournament, which features the world’s top cricketers, caused a storm of controversy when it was launched in 2008 because of the huge salaries offered to players – salaries that could entice them to abandon their careers at home and join the league, to the detriment of their national teams. Furthermore, national cricket bodies contend that players should always be available to represent their country irrespective of the IPL schedule, but IPL contracts are inflexible.IPL players from South Africa include bowlers Dale Steyn, Albie Morkel and Makhaya Ntini, all-rounder Jacques Kallis, wicketkeeper Mark Boucher, and batsmen AB de Villiers, Herschelle Gibbs and Graeme Smith, the captain of South Africa’s national team, the Proteas. Other top international players include Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, leg spinners Shane Warne of Australia and Anil Kumble of India, Australian fast bowler Glenn McGrath, and the fearsome off spinner Muttiah Muralitharen of Sri Lanka.Fans can look forward to the likes of the Jaipur Rajasthan Royals, the Chennai Super Kings, the Delhi DareDevils, and the Kolkata Knight Riders, among others, striding onto South African fields, bringing with them the glamour and excitement of limited overs cricket played by the best in the world.Teams will start arriving in South Africa from 1 April 2009. According to the IPL, the opening ceremony and first game will take place at Newlands in Cape Town, while the final will most likely be held at the Wanderers in Johannesburg. Both cities are world-famous as cricket venues, but there are a number of other South African cities, including Durban, Centurion, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, East London and Bloemfontein, that are also well versed in hosting international games.Safety firstA horror attack by armed terrorists on Sri Lankan players in Lahore, Pakistan, in February 2009 sparked an international outcry and prompted the world cricketing authority to immediately seek an alternative venue for games already scheduled.Pakistan was to co-host the Champions Trophy, but ICC CE Haroon Lorgat said afterwards that international cricket would not return to that country soon. Lorgat, a South African, took over the helm of the ICC in April 2008, succeeding Malcolm Speed of Australia.Six policemen and a bus driver were killed during the onslaught. While cricket on the subcontinent remains as popular as ever, the safety of players and officials is the ICC’s top priority.Prestigious tournamentThe ICC Champions Trophy is a prestigious ODI tournament that takes place every two years and is regarded as second only to the World Cup. It was scheduled for Pakistan in September 2008 but was postponed once already due to security concerns.South Africa and Sri Lanka were both considered but again, the weather in South Africa was a major factor. Games will take place at the dual venues of the Wanderers in Johannesburg and Supersport Park in Centurion, near Pretoria.Only the top eight ODI teams are eligible for the tournament. Second favourite South Africa is placed in Group B, along with New Zealand, Sri Lanka and England. Top seed Australia as well as India, Pakistan and West Indies are in Group A. Australia is the defending champion.ICC President David Morgan said, “I think the Board has made a sensible decision that will give the event every chance of success. Cricket South Africa can provide two world-class venues in what is effectively one location.” Morgan added that weather conditions in the area around Johannesburg in September and October are stable and ideal for cricket.At the top of their gameThe Proteas are currently at the top of the ICC’s ODI table, just one point ahead of their arch-rivals Australia, while the positions are switched for the latest Test Championship table.On 25 March Australian captain Ricky Ponting received the ICC Test Championship mace and a cheque for coming second in the ODI championship, while South African captain Graeme Smith received the ICC ODI Championship shield plus a cheque as runner-up in the Test Championship.Do you have queries or comments about this article? Contact Janine Erasmus at firstname.lastname@example.org.Related articlesSporting South Africans honoured Tourism in South Africa Useful linksCricket SASouth African Cricketers’ AssociationInternational Cricket CouncilIndian Premier LeagueWestern Province Cricket The WanderersCricket Australia
7 October 2009 Johannesburg’s calabash-shaped Soccer City Stadium will be the jewel among the 10 stadiums that will host the first football World Cup to be played on African soil. Situated south-west of Johannesburg, a stone’s throw from the famous township of Soweto, Soccer City Stadium will host the opening ceremony and the opening and final matches of the 2010 Fifa World Cup™. Here it is on the Map Bigger than the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, the Stade De France in Paris and the Yokohama International Stadium in Japan, Soccer City will be one of the largest stadiums to host a football World Cup. Nearing 90% complete, with the pitch laid and work on the stadium precinct already well under way, the sheer scale of the stadium awed experts from Fifa and the 2010 Organising Committee South Africa (OC) during a recent stadium inspection tour. The stadium’s unique calabash shape will be seen by millions of television viewers around the world, and remain as an enduring symbol of one of the proudest moments in South Africa’s post-democratic history.Comprehensive design shift To take its place among the top sports venues in the world – such as the Olympia Stadium in Berlin, the Stadio San Siro in Milan, New Wembley in London and Bernabeu in Madrid – Soccer City underwent a comprehensive design shift. The original stadium, known by locals as the FNB Stadium, was almost completely demolished, with significant parts of the new structure being built from scratch, starting in early 2007. The budget for the reconstruction of the stadium – the biggest roofed stadium ever built for a World Cup final – is estimated at R1.2-billion. Stadium manager Brian Carter told BuaNews that the stadium’s seating capacity has been increased from 88 000 to 94 700 through extensions to the upper tiers around the stadium. In addition, 99 more suites have been added to bring the total to 184, with private boxes and VIP suites being built. “Eight television presentation studios, a soccer museum and a 300-seater restaurant are being built, as well as a parking area that will accommodate 15 000 vehicles,” Carter said. The International Broadcasting Centre that will house the world’s media for the duration of the tournament is under construction next to the stadium. Safa House, headquarters for Fifa and the 2010 Organising Committee, is also situated nearby. ‘Melting pot of African cultures’ However, the feature that will grab the most attention when the world of football descends on South Africa in June 2010 will be the stadium’s calabash-shaped design Selected from a number of competing designs, the calabash was picked as a uniquely African object and a recognisable symbol of the African continent. In Africa, the calabash is used for cooking food, traditionally over a fire. It is socially synonymous with family time, entertaining friends and sharing stories. “The calabash, or ‘melting pot of African cultures’, sits on a raised podium on top of which is located a ‘pit of fire’,” Carter said, adding that spectators and television viewers would get the impression that they were sitting inside a giant cauldron. For South Africans, the future Soccer City always evoke the original venue and its rich history. First built in 1987, the stadium has become synonymous with South African football and has hosted some of the best-known games played in the country, including numerous cup finals and South Africa’s victory in the 1996 African Cup of Nations. Rally to welcome Mandela from prison Soccer City is also remembered for the mass rally held to welcome former President Nelson Mandela from prison in 1990, when more than 100 000 people crowded the stadium to hear Mandela call for a non-racial, unified South Africa. Together with the newly revamped Orlando and Dobsonville Stadiums as official 2010 training grounds, Soccer City will entrench Johannesburg and Soweto as Africa’s premier footballing city. Construction at the stadium is expected to be completed in time for hand-over to Fifa and the 2010 Organising Committee by October 2009. The stadium will host the opening match of the 2010 Fifa World Cup on 11 June 2010, followed by group stage matches, a second-round match and a quarter-final. On 11 July 2010, the two best teams in the world will step onto the turf of Soccer City to determine which country will lift the Jules Rimet Trophy. Source: BuaNews and the 2010 Fifa World Cup South Africa Organising Committee
26 February 2014 South Africa will carry vital momentum into the third test against Australia in Cape Town starting this weekend, Proteas batsman Hashim Amla said in an interview on Tuesday. After being thrashed by 281 runs in the first test in Centurion, Graeme Smith and company bounced back with a 231-run victory in only four days in Port Elizabeth in the second test that ended last weekend. The Proteas’ victory over Australia at St George’s Park was one of the most memorable fight-backs he had been a part of, said Amla.Fight-backs “Over the last few years we’ve had quite a few fight-backs,” he explained. “I say fight-backs to win the test, as well as fight-backs to hold on to the draw, like the matches at The Wanderers and Adelaide. Over the last few years there have been some really memorable test matches, and this last one is one of them because we came out on top.” The win in Port Elizabeth was all the more remarkable because Wayne Parnell was lost to the bowling attack after only 8.3 overs due to an injury. Now the Proteas head to Newlands, which has traditionally been a happy hunting ground for them.Newlands The last time South Africa lost at the Cape Town ground was way back in March 2006, when they went down to Australia. Since then they have won eight and drawn three at Newlands. Those results include victory by an innings and 20 runs over the Aussies in 2009 and a remarkable eight-wicket win in late 2011 after being skittled for only 96 in their first innings. That was followed by Australia being bowled out for just 47, which included 5 for 15 from Vernon Philander on his debut.‘We have momentum’ “Newlands has been a happy ground for the Proteas over the last few years, but Australia is a good team,” Amla said. “There is a lot riding on the last game, and fortunately we have momentum and that is what we are going to try and take carefully into the match. Going into the last test, it will be important to assess the conditions as soon as we can. Looking back, he added: “Players got hundreds and the bowlers bowled well, it’s a better situation to be in going in one-all, having won the second test.” Test batting rankings Amla is back to second in the test batting rankings, trailing only AB de Villiers, whose mark of 935 points is tied for the tenth best of all time and equal highest with Jacques Kallis for the best by a South African. Amla’s unbeaten 127 in Port Elizabeth was his 21st test century, which equalled the number of centuries scored by Gary Kirsten and left Amla third on the all-time South African list of century makers, behind only Jacques Kallis (45) and Graeme Smith (27).‘I play every game like it’s my last’ “I play every game like it’s my last,” Amla said of his latest century. “I’m grateful to have reached 21 hundreds, it feels like just the other day that I started playing International cricket. It’s also great to contribute towards a winning cause, it’s the best thing when you score runs and your team wins.” The third test at Newlands starts on Saturday, 1 March. SAinfo reporter and Cricket South Africa
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With an exciting two year calendar of events approaching including the 2015 FIT Touch World Cup (2015 TWC), TFA is undertaking an initial internal expression of interest process seeking suitable Volunteer Event Staff personnel to contribute to the success of our events. If interesting in volunteering in any of the events, please complete the online Expression of Interest process via http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Volunteer-Event-Staff-EOI by Wednesday, 22 January 2013.Further details are available in the attachment.Related Filesvolunteer_event_staff_-_expression_of_interest-pdfRelated LinksVolunteers Required
Semedo hails Barcelona fight-back to defeat Inter Milanby Carlos Volcano23 days agoSend to a friendShare the loveNelson Semedo hailed Barcelona’s fight-back for their Champions League win over Inter Milan.Luis Suarez struck twice in the 2-1 victory.”We were strong enough to turn the result around,” said the Portuguese full-back. On Luis Suarez and Leo Messi, who scored or created the goals, he added: “They are two players who make the difference.”He also praised Arturo Vidal, who crossed for Suarez’s opener.”Arturo Vidal was really good, we’re used to the fight he gives and he was key in the team’s comeback.” About the authorCarlos VolcanoShare the loveHave your say
ANN ARBOR, MI – DECEMBER 30: Jim Harbaugh speaks as he is introduced as the new Head Coach of the University of Michigan football team at the Junge Family Champions Center on December 30, 2014 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)Michigan fans are still pretty pumped about the hiring of former Wolverines quarterback Jim Harbaugh as head coach. One has chosen a rather interesting way to convey that excitement. A Twitter user who goes by the name of Mark the Nomad has gotten a tattoo that pays homage to Harbaugh’s 1994 appearance on the television show Saved By The Bell. No, really.Mark claims that he’s received the most negative feedback from Columbus, Ohio. That doesn’t surprise anyone.I have a very important announcement to make.— Mark (@MarktheNomad) April 4, 2015I want all of you to stop what you’re doing and look.— Mark (@MarktheNomad) April 4, 2015So, this just happened: #GoBlue pic.twitter.com/jqlqyDoFsM— Mark (@MarktheNomad) April 4, 2015A huge thanks to those who donated to the tattoo fund on GoFundMe. I certainly didn’t think it’d pick up traction the way it did.— Mark (@MarktheNomad) April 4, 2015I had the best tattoo artist, IMHO, on the planet. If you’re in the Sarasota area, hell if you’re in Florida, go see Caitlin at Trap Ink.— Mark (@MarktheNomad) April 4, 2015You may be shocked to learn that most of the negative feedback I’ve received is via Columbus, Ohio.— Mark (@MarktheNomad) April 4, 2015If we’re being honest, it’s actually some high-quality ink. That being said, he’s probably going to get tired of explaining it to everyone he ever meets.
Duke KyrieDuke is just three days away from beginning its national title defense. The Blue Devils open up Friday night against Siena, but there are over a dozen former players currently in action in the NBA.Like other programs with a large number of NBA alumni, Duke does a good job of playing up its track record on social media. It did so again tonight with a quick “Duke in the NBA” graphic on Twitter. Pretty self-explanatory. There’s background music, as images of ex-Dukies in NBA gear appear and flow from one to the next. Duke forever. #DukeintheNBA #BannerHunters #TheBrotherhood #DukeFam pic.twitter.com/3DnvM2cVcF— Duke Basketball (@dukeblueplanet) November 11, 2015How many members of the 2015-16 Blue Devils will join these guys in the professional ranks next year?
Left: Neil deGrasse Tyson, a celebrated astrophysicist, and Fabiano Caruana, the No. 2 ranked chess player in the world, chatted about baseball. Right: Peter Thiel showed up for the decisive tiebreaker round and had a grandmaster at his side to explain the games live. After the match — after the trophy presentation and the cake and the champagne — our photographer and I tracked down the Norwegian contingent at an after-after-party at a steakhouse a couple miles uptown. It was a festive scene. Holiday garland and lights festooned the bannisters and the restaurant was a cozy respite from the cold and rainy November day outside. Carlsen was sitting at a far table in the crowded dining room with about 50 others. He was eating. With a fork. Like a person. It was odd to see him with something other than a chess piece in his hand.I wanted to talk to him. I’d been watching him for hours most days for the past three weeks. But honestly I had no idea what I’d say. Carlsen famously hates interviews. But I was saved. “No questions. Definitely no,” his manager, Espen Agdestein, told us. “He’s very tired. We’re just relaxing.”I’m not Carlsen. But I understood. Left: While waiting for the title ceremony, Magnus Carlsen is finally able to relax with his father by his side. Right: Following his defeat, Karjakin was clearly disappointed while speaking to the Russian media. He confirmed rumors about travelling to New York with a Virgin Mary icon. Left: Magnus Carlsen, 26, at the World Chess Championship’s opening gala at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Right: Sergey Karjakin, 26, tests the overhead lights in the playing hall. All photographs by Misha Friedman There are other internal chess-world squabbles. Agon Limited, the match’s organizer, filed an application for a restraining order and injunction against a number of popular third-party chess websites, just before the match began. The websites’ alleged transgression? Relaying chess moves live, which Agon saw as a violation. The application was denied by a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, who wrote that “robust reporting of factual data concerning the contestants’ moves” best served the public interest. Agon’s CEO, Ilya Merenzon, told me that the company would continue to pursue the matter in court, and was also proposing legislation to cement their rights to the games they organize.I discussed the case with Macauley Peterson, the content director for chess24, one of the defendants, on the floor of the venue during one of the early games. He kept glancing away from me at people walking by. He said he was worried about who might be eavesdropping.The tournament’s organizers have declared their own victory, though, bragging that the 20-day biennial championship had drawn some 10,000 spectators to its location in the South Street Seaport. But that’s less than, say, half the average attendance of the worst team in baseball for any one of its 81 home games this year. And the event’s only two main sponsors were PhosAgro, a Russian producer of phosphate-based fertilizer, and EG Capital Advisors, a Russian investment management company. Not exactly Nike and Coca-Cola. Left: A branded vodka bar assured VIPs were sufficiently entertained throughout the tournament. Right: Ekaterina, a Karjakin family friend, flew in from Moscow just for the tiebreaker round. Spectators in the VIP lounge. A production team from Russia created an atmosphere for VIPs more often seen in Moscow than Manhattan. Tickets were expensive, but there were a lot of young fans at every game, especially on weekends. You had to elbow your way through knots of onlookers to get anywhere in the venue’s sprawling VIP wing. Men in suits and expensive shoes crowded around TVs, watching the games and sipping martinis. The room was at a low murmur — equal parts English and Russian with an occasional dash of Norwegian. The clinking of glasses and the ratatat of ice in cocktail shakers punctuated the chess talk.Like a Russian nesting doll, a VVIP section had been set up for Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley billionaire, and company within the VIP section. It was newly roped off and closely monitored by scary-looking bodyguards. Thiel, a Donald Trump supporter and a strong chess player himself, and Yuri Milner, the Russian billionaire venture capitalist, sat at a board inside. With apologies to Beyoncé, it was $6 billion at a chess table. Accompanying them: Bennett Miller, who directed “Foxcatcher,” about the wrestling-obsessed murderer and multimillionaire heir to the du Pont fortune, and the Icelandic grandmaster Hedinn Steingrimsson, who was giving them a private analysis of the ongoing championship game taking place just a few yards away.A buffet and wine bar had been installed for the guests from Silicon Valley who’d arrived that day, and bored-looking members of their entourages lolled on large couches, poking at iPhones. Word around the venue was that the billionaires had paid $50,000 for these privileges. (The match’s organizer wouldn’t comment on the figure.) Much later in the evening, some other journalists and I raided their buffet, eating what must have been thousands of dollars worth of cold mini tacos.“Are you security?” the writer Brin-Jonathan Butler asked one of the well-dressed, well-built men keeping close watch over the well-heeled chess lesson.“Something like that,” he responded ominously. “I wouldn’t bother them, if you don’t mind.”This World Chess Championship scene was somewhere at the intersection of Bond film, Trump fundraiser and museum gala. Watching an elite chess match in person is at once enjoyable and discomfiting. You follow the players’ actions — their moves, their mannerisms — for long stretches of time. You hang on each one and imbue it with meaning. You become so familiar with their moves that you can rattle them off later from memory: “queen to h6,” say, or “rook to e2.” You try to understand why the players did what they did. The moves can be beautiful or inscrutable or frustrating or disappointing. You try to imagine what you would do if you were in one of their chairs. You try to predict what they will do next. You try and make sense of their postgame explanations. But you aren’t them, and you can never really understand.On Wednesday, the final day of the World Chess Championship, hundreds crowded into the Fulton Market Building in lower Manhattan to watch, trying to understand. Magnus Carlsen, the defending champion, No. 1-rated player in the world and the closest thing the sport has to a rock star, was facing his challenger, Sergey Karjakin of Russia, in a series of speedy tiebreaker games. The 12 lengthy games that had stretched over the previous 19 days — I attended 11 in person — ended tied and the two grandmasters were back in their chairs in a soundproof glass box to break the deadlock. It was the biggest day in chess in many years. Carlsen, the former wunderkind, was clinging to his title and his legacy, while Karjakin and the Russians were hoping for a return to the days of Soviet chess hegemony. On the fourth game of the tiebreaker, and the 16th of the match, Carlsen attacked the Russian’s king, Karjakin resigned and the two shook hands. It was over. Despite the high-powered, moneyed interest, and its prime New York City location, the match was sparsely covered by the American press — as chess is generally — and given little attention outside the core chess world. It’s unlikely to increase the game’s reach or exposure as the organizers may have hoped. That did happen once in the States — in 1972 — but that was because of Bobby Fischer.The troublesome shadow of Fischer stretches over every conversation of chess’s success and future in the U.S. He was the best American player of all time, and its only modern world champion. His legacy is stained by his vocal anti-Semitism, and comments that he was pleased with the terrorism on Sept. 11, among other things. But in his chess prime, he carried the U.S. on his back while sitting at the board, having taught himself the game, largely alone, in a shabby Brooklyn apartment. And he won.While this year’s championship lacked the colorful characters and Cold War narrative of Fischer’s title run — although some journalists tried to revive them — it did have some of the controversy.Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the president of the game’s international governing body, FIDE, was absent from the match, having been sanctioned by the U.S. for business connections with the Assad regime in Syria. Ilyumzhinov is no stranger to controversy. He insists he was abducted by aliens. They were wearing yellow spacesuits and nabbed him from his Moscow apartment in 1997, taking him away to a distant star. He considers chess “a gift from extraterrestrial civilizations.” But despite the controversy and the finances, what’s really missing from chess is a character.The U.S. has three players in the world Top 10, any one of whom could have a shot at challenging Carlsen for the title in two years. They’re undeniably fantastic players. But they seem less like compelling national characters — and less like artists — than Fischer did. They’re technicians, raised in a computer-chess age. Carlsen ended the match and extended his world championship reign with a beautiful move on Wednesday evening — whether he’d admit its beauty or not — sacrificing his queen to entrap Karjakin’s king. But in one of the postgame press conferences, Carlsen said chess was a sport and a science. For art, he said, you’d “have to look elsewhere.”
In many ways, Thursday’s pivotal Game 5 between the Raptors and Bucks embodied the topsy-turvy nature of this Eastern Conference finals series as a whole. Milwaukee, the winner of the first two games, dominated the early portion of the contest, only for Toronto, which took Games 3 and 4, to come storming back.But down the stretch, three things broke what had been a stalemate in both the series and the game: the Raptors’ ability, once again, to grind Milwaukee’s fast-paced offense to a halt in the half-court; Leonard’s playmaking reaching new, impressive heights; and Toronto’s knack for repeatedly winning a handful of key 50-50 plays during the final five minutes. Those factors lifted Toronto to a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series as things head north for Game 6 on Saturday.Early on Thursday, it looked like the Bucks might run Toronto out of the gym, with Milwaukee taking an 18-4 advantage before closing the first quarter with a 10-point lead.But even in winning that quarter, the reality was that the Bucks still hadn’t solved their biggest issue. While Milwaukee generally scored at will when it managed to get out in transition — where Giannis could have his way, Eurostepping around people like a Lamborghini making aggressive lane changes — the club still wasn’t productive enough when forced to run its half-court offense.According to advanced stats site Inpredictable, Milwaukee’s offense is scoring a dismal 96 points per 100 possessions when forced to take the ball out after a basket in this series — way worse than the 114 points per 100 plays the Bucks get following a defensive board, and way way worse than the 132 points per 100 plays they score after forcing a Toronto turnover.The Bucks can score in the half-court much of the time, but it has been far more of an uphill climb when Toronto throws down its trump card by deploying neutralizer Kawhi Leonard on Giannis. The Bucks have been almost 29 points less efficient per 100 possessions this series1From 114.4 points per 100 possessions to 85.6 points per 100 possessions. when Antetokounmpo is guarded by Kawhi, according to data from Second Spectrum. (There were hints in the regular season that Leonard — a break-in-case-of-emergency defensive option because of all the offensive weight he shoulders for the Raptors — could limit the Greek Freak. According to the NBA’s matchup data, the likely MVP took just three shot attempts in the 31 regular-season possessions Leonard guarded him.)Milwaukee again got nothing out of Nikola Mirotic, who’s been ice cold this series at just 19 percent (6-for-31) from deep and is a -37 through five games. (The Bucks are +37 in the series with Mirotic on the bench.) It also didn’t help to get a bad shooting night from Khris Middleton, who finished with 10 rebounds and 10 assists but had just 6 points after scoring 30 in Game 4.By contrast, the Raptors got another great performance from reserve Fred VanVleet, perhaps feeling less burdened now after the birth of his child; VanVleet hit seven triples, all uncontested.If Toronto comes back from its 2-0 hole to win this series — something that’s only happened five times in 72 tries since the conference finals moved to a best-of-seven format — VanVleet will have played a huge role in the feat. In the last two games alone, he’s hit more threes than he did over his first 15 games of this postseason. And after shooting just 28.6 percent from deep in last year’s playoffs, and 20 percent from three over the first two rounds of this year’s playoff run, he’s hitting better than 52 percent of his attempts (12 of 23) in the Eastern Conference finals.Speaking of 3-pointers, Kawhi hit five Thursday night, including a couple late, where he punished the Bucks for switching (something they don’t often do) center Brook Lopez onto him at the top of the key.More noteworthy than Leonard’s triples, though, were the career-high nine assists he logged — every single one of which led to a Raptors’ 3-pointer. (Toronto finished with a franchise playoff record 18 threes on the night.) Those nine threes he assisted are tied for the most by a single player in a playoff game over the last 20 years, according to ESPN Stats & Information Group.2With Steve Nash, Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams and Blake Griffin.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/KAWHI-2.mp400:0000:0002:17Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.On some level, that assist total — along with VanVleet’s scoring — is perhaps the toughest box-score stat for Milwaukee to swallow, given that Leonard’s play-making for others was the one area that seemed safest to test. He also finished with 35 points of his own, making him just the sixth player in NBA postseason history to log seven 35-point games before the NBA Finals.Despite all this, though, the Bucks still had a chance at the end. But Toronto seemingly made every big play down the stretch. Over the last five minutes alone:The Raptors nabbed two offensive rebounds before capitalizing on the extra chances with a Marc Gasol triple, which put Toronto up by 7 points, 92-85, with 4:54 left.VanVleet hit a wide-open 3-pointer that Middleton couldn’t contest because of a great back-screen Gasol set on him during a kick-out pass from Kawhi. The shot broke a tie game with 2:21 left.Kawhi missed a three but then raced in to get his own board while Gasol was grappling with Antetokounmpo. The play resulted in Kawhi getting fouled and getting two free throws out of it.Confusion between Lopez and Malcolm Brogdon on who had VanVleet in the corner. Middleton, guarding Kawhi in a 1-on-1 scenario, pushed Leonard to his left, thinking he had sufficient help behind him at the rim. But because Lopez had moved toward the corner to cover VanVleet, the help wasn’t there, and Leonard got to the line again, where he made one of two.Kawhi missed an end-of-clock jumper, which glanced off the rim and somehow ended up in the hands of Gasol, who was subsequently fouled by Lopez with about 35 seconds left in the game. (It’s worth mentioning here that the Raptors were elite at coming up with loose balls all season.)Down by 3 points, the Bucks blew their last opportunity to tie things up when Brogdon dribbled the ball off his leg, and out of bounds, with just under 27 seconds left.The result, of course, was the 60-win Bucks — who hadn’t had a three-game losing streak all year, and entered Thursday 33-0 when leading going into the fourth quarter — snapping both those streaks at the worst possible time. Now they’ll head north, with their backs against the wall, while the Raptors seek to make history by clinching a spot in the NBA Finals on their home floor.Check out our latest NBA predictions.