Posted on May 26, 2019, by Travis Pulver
When the Toronto Raptors decided to shake things up following what was a very good 2017-18 season, many wondered why. Why mess with a good thing? But after watching them beat the Milwaukee Bucks in Game Six Saturday night, the answer is clear.
Sometimes you have to shake up a good thing in order to help it become great.
There was definitely plenty of reason to doubt the Raptors heading into the Eastern Conference Finals. But their offense had been inconsistent throughout the playoffs while the Milwaukee Bucks had been the model of consistency and bulldozed over its opponents with ease. When they got out to an early 2-0 series lead, it looked like they were going to do the same to Toronto.
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Then the Raptors took Game Three and then also won Game Four. Even when they won Game Five in Milwaukee, there wasn’t much concern among Bucks fans. Surely, their team could take care of business in Game Six and force a Game Seven.
At first, it looked like they were going to do just that. Then, a relatively close game appeared to get blown wide open in the final minutes of the first when Milwaukee went on a 15-2 run to close the quarter and take a 31-18 lead.
The Bucks were able to push the lead out to 15-points early in the second, 38-23. But the Raptors slowly chipped away at it until they got within three, 46-43, with about a minute left in the half. Thanks to an Eric Bledsoe three-pointer and a free throw by Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks led by seven, 50-43, at the break.
Toronto wasn’t in bad shape heading into the third, but then things quickly took a turn for the worse. After the Raptors closed the gap down to five points, 57-52, Milwaukee took control of the game again and extended the lead back out to 15 points, 76-61, with 2:18 left in the quarter.
But then it happened.
It started as a 10-0 run by the Raptors to get back within five before the end of the third quarter. However, it didn’t stop there. It continued with a 16-3 run by the Raptors to start the fourth and take the lead, 87-79.
The Bucks were not about to go down without a fight though and answered Toronto’s run with a quick 7-0 spurt to get within a point, 87-86. But the Raptors could taste a trip to the Finals at that point and were not about to let it go.
They held the Bucks to just 18 points in the quarter while scoring 29 themselves. Toronto went on to win by six, 100-94.
Kawhi Leonard led the way for the Raptors with 27 points, 17 rebounds, and seven assists followed by Pascal Siakam with 18 and Kyle Lowry with 17. Fred VanVleet had another solid day off the bench with 14 points.
Antetokounmpo was one of six Bucks players to score in double figures with 21 points to go along with 11 rebounds. But when the Bucks needed to muster up some offense the most in the fourth quarter, they just couldn’t do it.
“Man, obviously when you’re up 2-0, that doesn’t mean nothing,” Antetokounmpo said after the game, via ESPN. “You’ve got to learn how to come out and close out games, especially after Game 3. We’ve got to get better as a team, and we’ve got to get better individually.”
Game One of the NBA Finals will be Thursday night in Toronto. Golden State has been installed as a one-point favorite to win Game One. But the Warriors are considered a heavy favorite to win the series (-280; Toronto– +235).