Last Updated: 2019-05-25
The second-seeded Toronto Raptors are on the verge of their first-ever NBA Finals appearance after a 105-99 victory at the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals. It was the Raptors’ third straight victory in this series to take a 3-2 lead ahead of Game 6 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto Saturday night. They will have huge support from the stands, but the Bucks will be determined to bounce back and force Game 7 on their court, so we expect to see a pure spectacle.
The Bucks will miss Donte DiVincenzo (heel) and Pau Gasol (ankle) who are both done for the season. The Raptors are still without OG Anunoby (appendectomy) who returned to practice but is far away from the real action.
The Raptors opened as 2.5-point favorites with the total at 212.0 points and the Bucks at +120 money line odds. For the second time in this series, the Raptors are listed as favorites after winning Game 3 118-112 as 2.5-point favorites in double overtime.
What’s at Stake?
The Bucks are in a win or go home situation and will be under huge pressure on this one. On the other side, the Raptors have a great opportunity to reach the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history with a victory on the home court, but they will also feel the pressure, as the eventual loss will lead to Game 7 in Milwaukee.
The Raptors are on a three-game winning streak which is a remarkable feat considering the fact that it is the Bucks’ first three-game losing streak this season. The momentum is clearly on the Raptors’ side, and the fatigue is obviously a non-factor, as the Raptors played three games more than the Bucks this postseason.
The Bucks had a 14-point lead in the first quarter and a 12-point lead with 7:43 left on the clock in the third quarter of Game 5, but they couldn’t finish the job. Mike Budenholzer’s boys were inconsistent in this series and showed weakness down the stretch Thursday night. They couldn’t cope with Kawhi Leonard who dropped 35 points on 11-of-25 shooting from the field and 5-of-8 from downtown along with career-high nine assists and seven rebounds. Also, Kawhi scored 15 points in the fourth courter including back-to-back threes to edge the game.
When it comes to inconsistency, Khris Middleton had another poor game despite posting ten rebounds and ten assists. Middleton scored just six points on 2-of-9 shootings, while he had 30 points in Game 4. Still, the one-time All-Star is averaging just 13.6 points per game in the conference finals. Malcolm Brogdon returned to the starting lineup with 18 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists, but Nikola Mirotic was scoreless off the bench in just nine minutes on the floor. Ersan Ilyasova was a huge factor in Game 2 victory, but he was also scoreless Thursday night in 11 minutes off the bench.
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 24 points in Game 5 along with six boards and six assists, and the Greek Freak has been struggling against the Raptors’ defense in this series. Giannis is averaging 23.0 points per game over the previous five contests, and he’s shooting just 56.6% from the free-throw line. If the Bucks want to force Game 7, Giannis will have to put on an MVP performance Saturday night.
On the other side, Fred VanVleet was an X-factor for the Raptors with 21 points off the bench on 7-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc. Kyle Lowry ha another good game with 17 points, seven rebounds, and six assists, and the veteran playmaker is averaging 19.6 points per game in this series while making 49.1% of his field goals.
Interestingly, the Raptors shot just 36.9% from the field in Game 5, but they nailed 18 triples out of 43 attempts (41.9%) and earned 31 free throws. The Bucks had just 18 free throws while shooting 45.2% from the field and 32.3% from beyond the 3-point line. The Bucks will have to be more aggressive offensively, and not just Antetokounmpo who struggles from the charity stripe.
After a tough loss in Game 5, both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Mike Budenholzer stated they will bring their best game to Toronto and pull off an upset to return the series to Milwaukee for Game 7. The Bucks had too many ups and downs in their game over the last two outings, so I expect to see a much better performance Saturday when they will play with their back against the wall. It’s a difficult wager, but I think the Bucks are capable of forcing another game in this series, so I’m backing them to cover a 2.5-point spread.
The previous duel had the fewest points in the total and was finished in the under after the over has hit in three straight contests. The over is 9-4 in the previous 13 head-to-head duels between Milwaukee and Toronto, and the Bucks’ best chance to win this clash is by playing an up-tempo basketball and pushing the ball in transition. The Raptors will try to slow the things down, but I’m still backing the over, hoping the Bucks will obtrude their style of play.
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