Quick Thoughts: Game 5 of Bucks-Raptors
The Toronto Raptors won their third straight game against the Milwaukee Bucks Thursday night, to take a commanding 3-2 lead in the series headed back home. The game was neck and neck throughout its entirety. The turning point, in my opinion, occurred at the 8:30 mark of the fourth quarter. With the Raptors down 79-81, they ran a high PnR with Kawhi Leonard as the ball-handler and Pascal Siakam as the screen setter. The Raptors ran 3-4 PnR in this scenario because the Bucks came out in Game 5 with Giannis Antetokounmpo guarding Marc Gasol and Brook Lopez guarding Siakam. The Raptors went to the 3-4 PnR in this case to get Lopez switched out onto Kawhi Leonard, and it worked. Kawhi hit a step-back three to end that possession and make it 82-81 Raptors. The next Bucks' possession Eric Bledsoe attempted a pull up mid-range jumper, missed, and the Raptors came back down in semi-transition and got the ball right back to Leonard, who was being guarded by Lopez again due to the fact tbe Raptors pushed the ball down court and Milwaukee couldn’t set their defense correctly. Once Kawhi saw he had Lopez on him it was over, and the Raptors superstar hit his second step-back three in two possessions over Lopez. 85-81 Raptors, 7:56 to go. Giannis was able to hit a three to make it 92-90, but Kyle Lowry came right back down and drew a foul, hitting both free throws and giving the Raptors a 94-90 lead.
This game was won on the defensive side, and the Bucks have been simply shut down in the half court by the Raptors in this series. The Raptors are holding the Bucks to 83.6 points per 100 possessions in half court sets. That is an astounding number. The New York Knicks finished with the NBA’s worst half court points per 100 possessions with 88.0. The Raptors have done this by walling off Giannis Antetokounmpo every time he touches the ball, especially in transition. In Games 1 and 2, the Raptors were sending their double teams at Giannis right when he caught the ball. In Game 3 they made an adjustment and are now doubling him once he turns his back to the help side to either start his post move or look to pass. Their new doubling strategy, along with having Kawhi Leonard check Giannis, has really made him look uncomfortable and vulnerable for the first time all season.
Game 6 is going to be quite a test for the Bucks. The Raptors have the chance to advance to the franchise’s first NBA Finals appearance and I know their team will come out looking for the kill. The keys for a Bucks victory remain the same; they have to get out into transition early and often. On multiple possessions last night Eric Bledsoe was able to create initial penetration on Toronto’s defense and get deep in the paint, but didn’t have a plan of attack and ended up either throwing a tough pass or just dribbling out and resetting the offense. Bledsoe needs to be more aggressive attacking the rim. Giannis also must take more chances in transition. Numerous times he was crashing down and making an awkward pass out to the perimeter instead of just putting his head down and trying to draw a foul. I understand that the entirety of the Raptors defense is keying onto him as soon as he crosses half court, but that is no excuse to be timid in the paint, in which Giannis shot over 70% during the regular season. The Bucks have many incremental adjustments they have to make to ease the pressure that the Raptors are heaping onto the presumptive MVP and try to even up the series in Toronto.