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2) Toronto Raptors
1) Milwaukee Bucks
What once looked like a quick series, has the possibilities of being a long series. The Toronto Raptors bounced back in Game 4 with a statement game that ended in a 120-102 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks are looking for the right key to unlock the defense that has stalled their offense while the Raptors are hoping that the play of their reserves travel back to Milwaukee.
Keys to the Game
The role players have stepped up in the two home victories for the Raptors. Even though they might not get the same production from the bench, the starters besides Kahwi Leonard must step up and take the pressure off Leonard. Slowing the game down and not rushing three-pointers can work in their favor, especially since the Bucks offense have been stagnant.
The “wall” on defense that the Raptors came up with to stall Giannis Antetokounmpo from getting to the basket has been golden. They should expect adjustments from the Bucks but that shouldn’t discourage them from keeping that up. Also, they can’t over-pursuit when closing out on the three-point shooters or that will lead to a better percentage shot and it breaks down the defensive wall.
As mentioned earlier, Milwaukee has to adjust to the defense of Toronto. If they can use the pick-and-roll and have the other players moving, this can cause some holes in the defense. Brook Lopez has been instrumental shooting three-pointers throughout the series, but maybe playing him inside and posting up might force the Raptors to switch out of their normal defense.
We all know that the offense runs through Leonard but making him take every shot might not be that bad. He’s had a noticeable limp and doubling him in Game 4 led to the bench having a field day. If they play him straight up and not let the role players get in a rhythm, Milwaukee should have a better chance at winning.
The x-factor for the Raptors is Serge Ibaka. The former NBA All-Defensive First Team player has been huge at home but on the road is where they really need him. Besides Leonard, he’s the only guy on the Raptors that can affect the game offensively, defensively and on the boards. The points will come but if he can concentrate on playing defense and protecting the rim and rebounding, then Game 5 is vey winnable.
The x-factor for the Bucks is Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe has been outplayed by his veteran backup George Hill. Although they’ve gotten away with it in the first two games, it’s hurting the rotation in the last two. It’s the playoffs, he has to be aggressive and get to the line to generate confidence.
Prediction- Although Milwaukee won the last two games, they have been outplayed in three of the four. Toronto wins in a nail biter.