Last Updated: 2019-05-22
We will see at least two more games in the Eastern Conference Finals after the second-seeded Toronto Raptors tied the series at 2-2 with a couple of straight wins over the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. Now, the series heads to Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee where the Bucks will welcome the Raptors in Game 5 Thursday, May 23, 2019. Whoever gets a win will get one step away from the NBA Finals where the reigning champions Golden State Warriors already wait for their rival.
The Raptors will miss OG Anunoby (appendectomy), while Kawhi Leonard (quad) is obviously playing through an injury but will be ready to go. The Bucks will be without Pau Gasol (ankle) and Donte DiVincenzo (heel).
The Bucks opened as strong 7-point favorites with the total at 217.0 points and the Raptors at +250 money line odds. Milwaukee has won the first two games of the series at home, covering a 6.5-point spread on both occasions. The Bucks are 14-3 straight up and 12-4-1 ATS in their last 17 outings at home as favorites, while the Raptors are 6-9 straight up and 7-8 ATS in their previous 15 showings on the road as underdogs.
What’s at Stake?
As I’ve mentioned, the winning team will push the loser to the brink of elimination, so both teams will be under huge pressure.
After escaping with a 118-112 victory in double-overtime Game 3, the Raptors routed the Bucks 120-102 in Game 4, so the momentum is certainly on their side. Also, the Bucks suffered just one loss in the total in their first two playoff series, and this is their first two-game losing streak since March 5 when the Bucks lost at Utah and Phoenix, and it was their only losing streak during the regular season.
The Raptors put on a strong performance on both sides of the ball in Game 4 to completely deserve the victory, while the Bucks had their worst display on the road this postseason. For the first time in this series, the Raptors won the battle on the glass (44-40), while they made 32 assists, two more than the Bucks. Toronto shot 47.1% from the field including 14 triples out of 41 attempts, while Milwaukee made 46.3% of its field goals and 11 treys out of 35 attempts, but the Bucks missed nine of their 26 free-throw attempts. On the other side, the Raptors shot 24-of-27 from the charity stripe.
Finally, the Raptors’ bench proved its worth. Norman Powell scored 18 points, while Fred VanVleet added 13 points and six assists. Serge Ibaka made his presence felt with 17 points and 13 rebounds off the bench, and the Raptors are 7-0 in the postseason when Ibaka posted ten or more points. Kawhi Leonard had a quiet game with 19 points, seven rebounds, and four steals, but Kyle Lowry stepped up with 25 points, six assists, and five boards, hitting all his ten free-throw attempts. Marc Gasol had another good game with 17 points, five rebounds, and seven dimes, making three of his six 3-pointers.
On the other side, Khris Middleton broke out of his slump with 30 points on 11-of-15 shooting from the field, while Giannis Antetokounmpo added 25 points, ten rebounds, and five assists. Alongside these two guys, only Nikola Mirotic scored in double figures, while the Bucks’ second unit combined for 23 points. Eric Bledsoe had another bad day in the office with five points, three boards, and a couple of dimes in just 20 minutes on the floor. Bledsoe is averaging only 8.3 points in this series, and the Raptors are literally begging him to shoot.
The Bucks need to improve on both sides of the floor if they want to win Game 5 even though they are playing at home. They need to be more aggressive and shoot the ball well, especially Antetokounmpo and Bledsoe. Brook Lopez was a non-factor in the previous two duels, failing to cope with Marc Gasol who’s improved his game. Also, the Bucks allowed 120 points in Game 4, while they were surrendering 104.2 points per contest in the previous 12 outings, so a much better defensive effort is a must.
On the other side, the Raptors’ second unit has to continue with a strong performance, especially Serge Ibaka who dominated the Bucks in the paint Tuesday night. Norman Powell was excellent in the previous two games in Canada, while Fred VanVleet also contributed a lot after some poor displays during this postseason. Kawhi Leonard’s injury is an issue, and we’ll see how the Claw will deal with it.
The Bucks were terrific at home during the regular season and dominated their rivals at Fiserv Forum in the postseason besides the opening game of the semifinal series when they lost the Celtics. On the other side, the Raptors dropped four of their last five contests on the road and are just 4-10 straight up and ATS in their last 14 playoff games away from home, so I’m backing the Bucks to win Game 5 and hopefully cover the spread. Milwaukee is 3-1 straight up and ATS in its last four home meetings with Toronto and 9-1 straight up and 8-2 ATS in its previous ten playoff contests on the home court.
When it comes to the totals, I expect to see an up-tempo game forced by the Bucks who shoot the ball very well at home, so I’m taking the over for the first time in this series. Both teams have adjusted to their opponents’ tough defense, and I think they will execute well offensively.
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