Redemption for Gasol as Spanish big man helps Raptors rally against Bucks

TORONTO — Marc Gasol threw himself on his sword after the Raptors' lopsided Game 2 loss in Milwaukee, offering the kind of mea culpa that is all too rare today.

"I played really bad and that set the tone," he said.

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Game 3 proved to be redemption for the Spanish big man, helping the Raptors pull one leg out of their Eastern Conference final hole.

Gasol was a combined 3-for-20 in the first two games (2-for-9 from three-point range) for just eight points, telling TNT he was feeling "pretty much sick to your stomach for 48 hours" in the wake of the Game 2 debacle.

Gasol was a far happier man when the double-overtime 118-112 nail-biter was over Sunday night, with Toronto now trailing the Bucks two games to one in the Eastern Conference final.

"Especially because of the win," he said. "If you play like crap but your team wins, it's a lot easier to sleep. Obviously the last 48 hours, you felt pretty crappy.

"I'm happy we won tonight. Now we've got to have the same mindset for Game 4 (Tuesday in Toronto). There's no other way to beat this team ... You've got to do possession by possession by possession. You've got to continue chipping away."

At seven foot one and 255 pounds, Gasol is a man-mountain. Meeting him you are reminded of the trademark line from "The Friendly Giant," a CBC TV show for a past generation of pre-schoolers — "Look up ... way up."

While not exactly fleet of foot, the 11-year-veteran with the US$24.1 million salary has a deft passing touch.

He showed it again and again Sunday. There was the no-look pass to Pascal Siakam under the basket and the fake shot-turned-corner feed to Siakam for a three-pointer.

In Game 2, Gasol took four of the Raptors' first five shots, missing all four with two of them blocked — one in spectacular fashion by Giannis Antetokounmpo. He finished with two points on 1-of-9 shooting with five rebounds, one assist and one blocked shot in 19 minutes.

On Sunday, Gasol set a different tone by making his first two three-pointers and pulling down two rebounds within the first four minutes. He went on to play almost 45 minutes with a final tally of 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting with 12 rebounds, seven assists and five blocked shots — despite five fouls.

"Tonight Marc was unbelievable," said guard Kyle Lowry.

"He's a pro. He's a great player ... He's a big reason why they were able to win," said Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer

It didn't all work. Gasol lost the handle on an attempted circus-like pass under the basket in the third quarter, resulting in an Eric Bledsoe bucket at the other end.

It didn't faze him. With 74 playoff games under his sizable belt, this is not Gasol's first rodeo.

"That's the beauty of basketball," Gasol said, when asked about another blunder — Siakam's costly missed free throws near the end of regulation time. "You can't hang your head about a play because there's another play coming right back at you."

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