Raptors' VanVleet out for Game 5 vs. 76ers with hip flexor strain

Watch Fred VanVleet break down Scottie Barnes's special season for the Toronto Raptors, culminating in his Rookie of the Year win.

PHILADELPHIA — If the Toronto Raptors are going to make NBA history, it will be without Fred VanVleet.

"I’m out. You can stop holding your breath. I’m out tonight," VanVleet said at the Raptors' morning shootaround before Game 5 of their first-round series Monday night. "I was able to get an MRI. Nothing too major, thank God. Definitely showing a hip flexor strain.

"I’ll be out tonight, kind of take it day by day and go from there."

VanVleet took a foul to sub himself out of the game at the 4:57 mark of the second quarter in Game 4 and tore his jersey in frustration as he left the floor and headed for the locker room.

“It was in the first quarter. I was making a defensive slide laterally. I just felt like a little pop, click in my hip," VanVleet said. "I finished the quarter, went to the bench, put some heat on it.

"Once I checked back in, it was all locked up. Couldn’t really move, can’t really lift my leg or anything like that. It was difficult to move around, and that’s when I took the foul — after it didn’t warm back up."

The Raptors are trying to become the first team ever to come back from trailing 3-0 in a best-of-seven series — 143 other teams haven’t been able to do it. The Raptors got one step closer when they won Game 4 even with VanVleet out.

The hope is that some of what worked for them in the win — head coach Nick Nurse played without a guard for long stretches of the second half, turning point guard duties over to Pascal Siakam — will be effective in Game 5.

"Well, it’s going to be similar to the way we played the majority of the game the other night,” said Nurse. “I think the options are that we use Scottie [Barnes] and Pascal [at point guard]. [And] probably Malachi [Flynn], since he’s been in the series, could see some time as well.

"And I think a lot of it just depends on how everybody else is going. I think if Thad [Young] and Chris [Boucher] are having a game then we probably stay bigger. And we just feel it out as we go from there."

VanVleet said he was hopeful he could be available for Game 6, which is scheduled for Thursday if necessary, but he wasn’t making any promises.

“I don’t know, I really don’t know,” said VanVleet about a possible return for Game 6. “I’m always going to leave that window open, it’s not one of those things where I’m out for four weeks. It’ll probably take some time, hopefully, we can extend this thing and I would feel great about maybe playing in the next round.”

VanVleet’s injury is in keeping with a frustrating finish to what had been a breakout season for the sixth-year guard.

He was named an NBA all-star on the strength of a spectacular first half where he averaged 21.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 7 assists with a True Shooting percentage of 57.2, to go along with elite defence.

But after suffering a bruised knee prior to the all-star break, VanVleet was only available for 15 games and his production dipped dramatically, as he averaged just 16 points, 3.9 rebounds and 5.7 assists on a True Shooting percentage of 47.9. Defensively he seemed to lose a step as well.

Prior to leaving in Game 4, his struggles had continued in the playoffs. He shot the ball well in Game 1 but converted just 28.6 per cent of his shots in Games 2-4.

He’s hoping he gets another chance to contribute – if not this series, then in the next.

“Nobody believes we can do it, but I think we can, so I would feel good about that,” he said. “I’m going to stay positive and get as much rehab as I can, and recovery and take it a day at a time.”

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