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Raptors’ Fred VanVleet says he sprained his thumb 2 weeks ago

Fred VanVleet, Raptors

One of the most defining qualities of the 2018-19 NBA champion Toronto Raptors pertained to their ability to incorporate role players and get big performances from the bench when called upon. Never was this more true than in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, when backup point guard Fred VanVleet scored 22 points and almost single-handedly kept the Raptors in the lead during the fourth quarter, drilling a trio of 3-pointers that ever so slowly inched the knife into Golden State.

The feat alone was amazing itself considering that the Raptors were on the precipice of their first championship in franchise history. But it was made more amazing by the fact that VanVleet was playing with a sprained thumb, in addition to his facial injury:

VanVleet had arguably the most polarizing postseason of any Raptor. He played poorly in the first round against the Orlando Magic, then struggled even worse in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers, playing all of seven minutes in Game 4 and scoring 14 points the entire series.

Things did not look much better in the Eastern Conference Finals, as VanVleet shot a putrid 1-of-11 from the field in Game 3 against the Milwaukee Bucks.

But VanVleet turned the corner after that. He scored 21 points in a crucial Game 5 victory for the Raptors, then helped key Toronto’s Game 1 victory in the NBA Finals before providing the heroics in Game 6.

Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam may have been the most notable names on this Raptors squad, but players like Fred VanVleet added that X-factor that helped guid Toronto to its first championship.