VanVleet to wear mouthpiece after hit to face

TORONTO — It’s been an eventful 24 hours for Raptors guard Fred VanVleet.

In the wake of getting his head cut open and his tooth chipped following an inadvertent elbow from Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, VanVleet made multiple doctor visits to make sure everything was OK, and that he’d be ready to go for Game 5 here at Scotiabank Arena Monday night.

“I got back home, went to the hospital, got a CT scan to make sure that no bones were broken in my face,” VanVleet said Sunday afternoon. “Then [I] went and made a visit to the dentist, and went home and went to sleep.”

It was unclear VanVleet would be able to joke about what happened Friday night when he was laying on the ground with his arms outstretched, blood pouring from his face and a piece of his tooth sitting in the lane. But after being cleared to return to Friday’s game (though he never did), everything checked out all right Saturday, and his tooth was able to be repaired.

“I’m not going to smile for you though,” he said, “but I’m back to normal, so that was a good moment, and now I’m back.”

VanVleet said he’s never wore mouthpieces before because he doesn’t like the feel of them while he’s playing. But after suffering the injury Friday night, he will be wearing one in the biggest game of his life Monday, when the Raptors have a chance to claim their first-ever NBA title with a victory over the Warriors here at home.

“I hate wearing mouthpieces,” VanVleet said. “You know, I’m a gambler, so I gambled and sometimes it comes back to bite you on the butt. But all kids out there, you should wear mouthpieces.

“It was a weird play, and I took an unfortunate shot. And so now I will be wearing a mouthpiece for as long as I can manage it. I’ll probably throw it at some point during the game, but I’m going to try.”

He also said he’s been cleared from having a concussion, and hasn’t suffered any symptoms of one since the hit. The only thing that is bothering him is some of the swelling in his face from the direct hit from Livingston’s elbow to his right eye.

“It’s a little blurry, just my eye’s watering a little at random points, but it’s not too bad,” he said. “I’ve actually had worse before, so I’m doing all right. I was more upset about the team than the eye.”

VanVleet added it will be up to him to let Toronto’s medical staff if there are any further issues as a result of the hit.

“We have great doctors and great staff,” he said. “We followed the [concussion] protocol, and we made sure that we’re in a right state of mind before we go out there. So if anything, it will be on me to make sure that I report everything and tell them how I’m feeling.”

VanVleet may be Toronto’s backup point guard, but he’s been a crucial part of the team’s run to the brink of a title. He went 14-for-17 from 3-point range over the final three games of the Eastern Conference finals against the Milwaukee Bucks to help the Raptors make the NBA Finals, and has gone 8-for-23 from beyond the arc and played tremendous defense on Warriors star Stephen Curry during this series to help Toronto take its 3-1 lead.

The Raptors will need more of VanVleet’s work at both ends to close this out and deliver this city its first championship since the Toronto Blue Jays won their second straight World Series in 1993.

“I know how important I am to this team, to this franchise and I know what I bring to the table,” VanVleet said, “so that’s never in question, never in doubt. For me, just try to focus on maximizing my potential each night and giving my team the best chance to win and like I said we got to go out there and do it again tomorrow.”

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