The Toronto Raptors have defended their home court and evened the Eastern Conference finals at 2-2. After an ugly Game 3 win, they came out and delivered one of their best performances of the postseason in Game 4, taking down the Milwaukee Bucks, 120-102.
Giannis Antetokounmpo got off to a great start after his terrible night in Game 3, scoring 11 points in the first quarter alone. But Kyle Lowry was just as hot early on, and was key in helping the Raptors withstand the Bucks' initial burst. In the second quarter, the Raptors put Kawhi Leonard on Giannis which slowed down the Greek Freak, and on the other end they started carving up the Bucks' defense. They controlled the frame and opened up a double-digit lead at the break.
The second half followed in similar fashion, save for a brief surge by the Bucks in the third quarter to cut the deficit down to six points. Kawhi Leonard and Co. were ready with a response, though, and soon regained control of the game. They took a 13-point lead into the fourth quarter, and were never challenged. A banked-in 3-pointer from Fred VanVleet that turned into a four-point play after Giannis fouled Serge Ibaka while battling for the rebound put the Raptors up by 18 and effectively ended the game.
Leonard put together a gutsy performance while still battling some sort of leg injury, finishing with 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while playing excellent defense. Lowry had a strong game as well, going for 25 points, five rebounds and six assists. Meanwhile, Ibaka, VanVleet and Norman Powell combined for 48 points off the bench. For the Bucks, Khris Middleton led the way with 30 points.
Here are a few takeaways from the Raptors' crucial win:
Raptors' bench steps up
The Raptors' entire supporting cast been inconsistent in the playoffs, but their bench, in particular, has been downright bad at times. That wasn't the case at all in Game 4. The trio of Serge Ibaka, Norman Powell and Fred VanVleet, who, for the most part, have been the only reserves to play meaningful minutes in the postseason, combined for 48 points, 19 rebounds and 11 assists. Powell, in fact, took to the most shots of any player in the game with 18. The question now, is can they translate that kind of performance to the road? With Leonard clearly not 100 percent, the Raptors are going to need their bench to keep playing well if they want to steal a game on the road -- which they'll need to do in order to win the series.
Bucks in unfamiliar position
Heading into Game 3 in Toronto, the Bucks had lost just one game in the entire postseason. Now, in the span of just a few days, they've lost twice that amount. In addition to the series now being tied at 2-2, this is just the second time all season the Bucks have lost consecutive games. You have to go all the way back to March 2 and 4, when they lost back-to-back games to the Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns on the road. Now, they'll have to deliver an emphatic response in Game 5 back at home on Thursday night. All season long they've responded well to any sort of setback, but this is by far the most serious one they've dealt with. Will they be ready?
What's up with Kawhi?
In the first quarter of Game 3, Kawhi Leonard had an awkward landing on the fastbreak and appeared to suffer some sort of leg or knee injury. Ever since he's been seen wincing when he really needs to accelerate or explode, and has even been limping at times. He was tremendous to close out Game 3, but clearly wasn't himself in Game 4. He still gave a gutsy performance, finishing with 19 points, seven rebounds and four steals, but it didn't appear that he was able to carry the same type of burden on the offensive end that he has been for much of the postseason. He took only 13 shots, second fewest only to Game 5 of the first round when the destroyed the Magic. It wasn't a problem on Tuesday night because of the effort from the bench, but that's not always going to be the case. Leonard's health will be a key factor to watch heading into Game 5.
How to watch Bucks vs. Raptors Game 5
- Date: Thursday, May 23
- Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
- Location: Fiserv Forum -- Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- TV channel: TNT
- Live stats: GameTracker
- Streaming: fuboTV (try it for free)
- Odds: Bucks -7 (Over/Under 218)
All Eastern Conference finals games will air on TNT.
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