Fred VanVleet was the hero we needed during the Raptors' heated game against Milwaukee last night. VanVleet’s dazzling performance in Game 5 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals would be enough to put any player on cloud nine. But it’s the story behind the point guard’s epic night that really takes the win to the next level.
VanVleet gave his teammates the push they needed, racking up a stunning 21 points on Thursday night. It was the performance of a lifetime and it boosted Toronto to take down the Bucks with a 105-99 victory, moving them inches closer to their first-ever appearance in the NBA Finals.
To top it all off, the victory isn’t even the biggest thing to happen to VanVleet this week. According to CP24, Shontai Neal, the player’s long-time girlfriend, welcomed their newborn son, Fred Jr, on Monday. Just one day after the Raptors pulled together a 118-112 double-overtime win to push back the Bucks’ lead in the series.
VanVleet was kicking back on his day off in Toronto on Monday when he got the news that Fred Jr. was coming. The player quickly hopped on a plane and made it back to his hometown of Rockford, Illinois. Thankfully, he made it in time.
"Monday morning, I thought I had a nice day off at home in Toronto, I got the call that her water broke, and I started running around trying to find if I could get on a plane," VanVleet said after Thursday's game, according to CP24.
"So, made it to Rockford at about 3:00 PM and spent the day at the hospital, and the baby boy came Monday night at 9:30,” he continued
After spending some quality time with the newest member of his family, VanVleet flew back to Toronto just in time to be a part of the Raptors 120-102 win in Game 4. The player then flew to Milwaukee with the rest of the team on Wednesday and drove to Rockford to spend one last night in the hospital with his newborn son and girlfriend. The family was discharged on Thursday, giving VanVleet just enough time drive back to Milwaukee in the afternoon, have a quick power nap and hit the court for Game 5, which is nothing short of a miracle.
Despite the pressure from his personal life, VanVleet rose above his hectic week, becoming a whole new man during Game 5. It seemed like the birth of his son gave the player all kinds of swagger to bring the house down and that’s exactly what he did. The player had previously been struggling. In 10 games, he managed to hit just 7-of-44 shots. Now, since the birth of Fred Jr., VanVleet has been shooting 83%.
"You guys know it's been a rough playoff stretch shooting the ball for me," VanVleet said. "Everything else has been fine in my opinion, but just shooting the ball has been a little rough,” said during an interview with USA Today.
He may have been running on fumes Thursday night, but he didn’t show it. The only thing VanVleet did show was that he can drain three-pointers like a boss and step up to ranks of other star players like Kawhi and Lowry, so long as he keeps having babies. “That's the formula, no sleep, have lots of babies and let it fly,” VanVleet said in a post-game interview.