Powell's contributions help Raptors regain control vs. Bucks

TORONTO (AP) " At Norman Powell's Toronto condominium, a concierge named Tony likes to pass along favorable media coverage to the building's celebrity tenant.

"He's one of the sweetest guys I know," Powell said. "He's always giving me cutouts from newspapers every time I have a good game. He's like 'Read it, read it. It's so nice.' I'm like 'Thanks, Tony. I'll make sure my mom gets it.'"

The Raptors guard appreciates the sentiment, but prefers not to read the stories.

Powell's impressive playoff efforts have Toronto back in control of the series and on the brink of advancing in the NBA playoffs. The second-year guard is aware of the headlines about his performances, but Powell gets motivation from anyone who tries to tell him what he's not capable of doing.

"I look at negative stuff," Powell said Tuesday at the Raptors practice facility. "I love proving people wrong. I've probably read a total of four positive articles because my my mom told me 'Read this!' Other than that, I'm just focussed on proving people wrong and accomplishing goals."

Powell has accomplished plenty in the past few days after playing just 21 minutes in the first three games of this first-round series against Milwaukee. Inserted into the starting lineup for Saturday's Game 4, he delivered a much-needed jolt of energy at both ends of the floor. He also went 3 for 3 from 3-point range, opening up the paint for Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, as the Raptors pulled even in the series.

The 6-foot-4 former UCLA star was even better in Game 5.

Powell scored a career playoff-high 25 points. He finished perfect from long distance again, hitting four 3-pointers, but the highlight of his performance came in the fourth quarter. He drove past Giannis Antetokounmpo and dunked over 7-foot-1 Thon Maker, then flexed in celebration.

"I knew they were starting to run off my 3 so I waited a split-second because Giannis ran out super hard," Powell said. "I saw he was off balance and I was able to get a step on him on the baseline. Thon was a step late and I was able to get to the launching pad before he was. Once I was up there I was like 'All right, they're going to have to block it.'

"I went up with as much aggression and as much force as I could to finish it over him."

That aggression is what the Raptors needed.

Powell and the Raptors will try to finish the series in Thursday's Game 6. If they do, it could be Powell's last game as a starter for a while. With Cleveland waiting in the second round, Powell may have to relinquish his starting role to center Jonas Valanciunas.

"I know the playoffs is about matchups, its about what the series means," said the 23-year-old Powell. "They needed me in this series. If they need to go another way for the second round, if we get there, that's what it is. I give myself up for the team. When I'm called upon, I'm ready."

It didn't take him long to get ready once he got to the league after his four-year career at UCLA.

"He came in and was just a very physical and tough kid," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "And we needed toughness. He's a great example of a four-year young man that went through college, he's got his life together on and off the floor, he's mature. I'm glad we got him."

Ironically, the Bucks played a role in Powell being in Toronto.

Milwaukee selected Powell in 2015, then agreed to draft-night deal with the Raptors. The Bucks used their second-round pick on Powell, then sent him and a 2017 first-round pick to Toronto for guard Greivis Vasquez.

"It's cool how it played out," Powell said. "I'm playing against the team that originally drafted me, but it doesn't change my mental approach or my focus. I don't look at the other end of the spectrum like 'Oh, I could be playing with Giannis and those guys.'"

The Raptors, meanwhile, are happy to have Powell on their side. DeRozan called his teammate's journey from unheralded second-round pick to playoff standout "inspirational."

"To step up in big moments like that is a credit to the type of player he is," DeRozan said. "It's great to see. I love it."

Toronto would like to see more of it on Thursday.

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More NBA basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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