The Toronto Raptors withstood several punches from the Milwaukee Bucks and stole a game on the road with a 105-99 win in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals on Thursday. Toronto is now one win away from the franchise's first-ever NBA Finals appearance.
Kawhi Leonard carried the load down the stretch, much like he has throughout the playoffs for Toronto. Leonard finished with 35 points on 11-of-25 shooting while also dishing out nine assists and securing seven rebounds. The All-Star swingman scored 15 of Toronto's 33 points in the final quarter.
The Raptors also received a huge lift from reserve guard Fred VanVleet, who added 21 points and knocked down seven of his nine attempts from beyond the arc. As has been the case throughout the postseason, Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way for the Bucks with 24 points to go along with six rebounds and six assists. Five different Bucks finished in double figures in a losing effort.
Now the series shifts to Toronto and the Raptors will have a chance to put the series away in Game 6.
Here are four main takeaways from Toronto's Game 5 victory:
Best player in the series
How many times have the Raptors, with a better team, lost in the playoffs because the best player in the series -- otherwise known as LeBron James -- was always on the other side? Well, now it's the Raptors, finally, who have the best player in a deep playoff series. His name is Kawhi Leonard, and we're seeing the difference that top-end talent makes at this level.
This is no disrespect to Giannis Antetokounmpo, who I think will rightfully win the MVP this season, but Kawhi is on another level. The guy looks like he's playing on one leg and he's still defending Giannis, getting to whatever spot he wants offensively and drilling 3-pointers all over the place. Kawhi finished Game 5 with 35 points, nine assists and seven rebounds on 5-of-8 from 3.
These back-to-back 3s, for my money, were the two biggest shots of the game, taking Toronto from a two-point deficit to a four-point lead late in the fourth. They never lost the momentum again.
Bucks' weakness finally being exposed
The Bucks' success, for all intents and purposes, is predicated on one thing: Giannis Antetokounmpo being unstoppable going to the rim. Suddenly, that's not the case. Not only is Kawhi defending Giannis straight up in many cases, but Toronto is just walling him off with multiple bodies and, over and over again, Giannis is battering his head against that brick wall. It's making the Bucks' half-court offense borderline unwatchable.
This is the problem when you can't shoot. You don't have that release valve. Have a look at what a Western Conference scout told CBS Sports back in November about what he felt was going to be Milwaukee's Achilles heel come deep playoff time:
"Nobody can guard Giannis [Antetokounmpo] right now, but when you get a playoff team for seven games in a row, they're going to have five guys basically defending him. Everyone shading, walling him off. He's going to be so frustrated. You just can't barrel through everybody every time in the playoffs."
This pretty much says it. Detroit and Boston weren't good enough to exploit this Milwaukee weakness, but it's catching them now against an equal foe. Problem is, their roster is their roster, and Giannis' limitations as a shooter are what they are. Perhaps they can get him in the high post more, use him as the screener in pick-and-roll rather than just as a one-man wrecking ball crashing into a wall from the top of the key, but there is only so much the Bucks can change about this.
In the end, they just have to get into the open floor more. When they're in transition and the defense isn't set, Giannis can still get to the rim. The half-court is the problem. They have to get stops and turnovers and get out and run as often as possible if they're going to come back and win this series, or even win Game 6.
Raptors bench travels
Toronto's bench was dismal for much of the playoffs, but they're showing up when they need to. Thanks in large part to Fred VanVleet's 21 points, Toronto's bench outscored Milwaukee's bench 35-15 in Game 5. So much for the "role players don't play as well on the road" theory.
In fact, it was too many of Milwaukee's role players failing to show up that did the Bucks in. Ersan Ilyasova and Nikola Mirotic went scoreless in 20 combined minutes. Pat Connaughton finished with four points. George Hill played well again, but with Malcolm Brogdon back in the starting lineup, Hill was just not enough in terms of bench support. Not with VanVleet getting it going the way he did.
Bucks defensive adjustments for Game 6
I'm again going to show you the same two Kawhi 3-pointers that are slotted above, the ones that were, in my mind, the two biggest shots of the game. Pay attention to who's guarding Kawhi one-on-one after getting switched onto him. It's Brook Lopez, who has no chance of defending Kawhi on the perimeter.
The Bucks did this for much of the game, switching ball screens and letting the Raptors attack one-on-one mismatches. On the other side, the Raptors were doubling and aggressively forcing the ball out of Giannis' hands with multiple defenders.
I would have to assume this will be one of Milwaukee's Game 6 adjustments. They just can't let Kawhi attack these kinds of mismatches. They have to make somebody else beat them. Whether that's with doubles or strong show-and-recovers or hedges or going back to dropping Lopez deep into the lane, that's for Mike Budenholzer to decide. But if they keep letting these mismatches play out in one-on-one fashion, they're toast.
CBS Sports was with you throughout Game 5 of the Eastern finals between the Raptors and Bucks. Check out a recap of our updates below. If you are unable to view the live application below, please.
Recap of Game 5 updates
Here's everything you need to know about Game 6:
How to watch Raptors vs. Bucks Game 6
- Date: Saturday, May 25
- Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
- Location: Scotiabank Arena -- Toronto, Ontario, Canada
- TV channel: TNT
- Live stats: GameTracker
- Online streaming: fuboTV (watch for free)
- Odds: Will be updated when available
Odds and Analysis
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