Both the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks knew that Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals Thursday night was a big one. The winner would go up 3-2 with an opportunity to close this series out Saturday.
In the end, Toronto pulled off an amazing road comeback in Milwaukee. Led by Kawhi Leonard, the team came out on top by the score of 105-99. The Raptors can now earn a trip to the NBA Finals with a win this weekend.
On the other hand, Milwaukee choked this game away in front of its home crowd. Giannis Antetokounmpo didn’t have his head in the game from the start. He struggled and eventually departed after a phantom injury late in the fourth quarter only to return to irrelevance a few plays later.
Here’s what we learned from Toronto’s stirring and potentially franchise-altering Game 5 win over Milwaukee in the Easten Conference Finals.
Bucks couldn’t maintain momentum
Up by 10 after the first quarter, it seemed like the Bucks were prepared to build off that in front of their home crowd. Instead, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Co. scored just four points in the first five-plus minutes of the second quarter. It led to the game being within three at halftime.
This was a somewhat surprising development given that the Bucks had a strong home crowd behind them. But struggles from Giannis an Co. kept the road-tripping Raptors alive.
Marc Gasol was borderline unplayable
After stepping up big time in Game 4, this future Hall of Famer did not have it on either end of the court Thursday night. Gasol played in a grand total of 29 minutes, scoring four points on 1-of-6 shooting in Game 5.
Not only did Gasol struggle on offense, his defense was an absolute disaster. Brook Lopez drove by the veteran multiple times throughout the game. If Toronto does indeed move on to the NBA Finals, Gasol might find himself out of the rotation against the Warriors. It’s something to watch.
Lineup change helped the home team
Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer made the obvious decision to insert Malcolm Brogdon in the lineup in lieu of Nikola Mirotic Thursday night. This was his way of lighting a fire under the former NBA Rookie of the Year after some struggles in Game 4.
With a two point guard lineup consisting of Brogdon and Eric Bledsoe, the Bucks were able to get out in transition more. It led to the two combining for 38 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists. Milwaukee was also plus-seven on the fast break. Expect more of the same in Game 6.
Kawhi Leonard in complete takeover mode
At one point late in the third and early fourth quarter, Leonard had scored 17 of 22 points for the Raptors. This enabled the team to come back from a four-point deficit to eventually take a six-point lead midway through the final stanza.
Still not anywhere near 100%, Leonard did a lot of his damage from the outside. He connected on 5-of-8 shots from distance. This just goes to show us how good of a player he is. Adapting to take into account the leg injury and dominating the Bucks in Milwaukee in an absolutely huge game. Leonard finished with 35 points, seven rebounds and nine assists.
What is wrong with Giannis Antetokounmpo?
Much like we saw in Game 4, the Greek Freak was nowhere near as aggressive as he should be. At one point late in the third quarter, Giannis had put up just one more shot than Malcolm Brogdon. That’s not going to cut it for the MVP candidate.
As the game went into the fourh quarter, Antetokounmpo struggled even more. He committed three costly turnovers and had an easy lay up blocked by Pascal Siakam. Giannis eventually exited the game for a brief minute late in the fourth quarter with Milwaukee in position to win. It looked like he might have turned his ankle. But the broadcast on Turner Sports was right to point out that he simply looked winded. We’re not 100% sure what’s happening. But it wasn’t a great look.
Another huge performance from Fred VanVleet
Just a few days after the birth of his second child, VanVleet made the trek from Illinois to Milwaukee by car just in time to take a nap prior to Game 5. He responded by putting up a career-best performance in every possible way.
The guard dropped 21 points on 7-of-9 from distance — giving Toronto a much-needed secondary scorer. VanVleet’s shooting in the second half helped keep this game close after Milwaukee had opened up a double-digit lead early in the third quarter. What a great performance from the reserve in Game 5.
Bucks just choked
It’s not that Toronto played great basketball down the stretch. Sure Leonard and VanVleet made some shots. The team also put some defensive pressure on Milwaukee. Even then, this game has to be a shock to the home fans.
The Bucks did not come to play when it counted the most. Antetokounmpo struggled in every facet. Khris Middleton (2-of-9 shooting) was a complete disaster on offense. Milwaukee now needs to win two consecutive to take the series. Based on what we’ve seen the past three games, it’s not going to happen.