With game three officially in the rear view mirror, the Milwaukee Bucks hope to rebound and put a stranglehold on this series if they can pull out a game four win in Toronto.
Heavy is the heart that endures a double overtime playoff loss. That’s felt like the attitude among Bucks fans, although many have maintained their confidence in the hometown team pulling this series out inevitably. Many will point towards the horrid shooting of their big three, with Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe combining to go 11-48 (22.9%), as something that will come back to earth this time around. And it should. Giannis will not play that poorly. As for Middleton and Bledsoe, their matchups have changed pretty severely from the series start.
The Raptors matching Kawhi Leonard on Giannis led to Pascal Siakam tackling Bledsoe and Kyle Lowry on Middleton at points. The latter means Middleton should be able to shoot over the feisty guard, but Lowry is a stout post defender if Midds tries to get his midrange mambo on. Bledsoe will have trouble finishing if Siakam recovers quickly enough, but he should have the speed advantage if he can catch him wrong-footed defensively with some dribbling acrobatics. Giannis will need to cut down on the turnovers and look for the easy pass over the perfect pass too. Plenty to clean up, with plenty of stellar Raptors defense they have to overcome. We’ll see how it shakes out for them in what could be a huge swing game.
Player to Watch: Malcolm Brogdon
He’s returned from injury like a bat outta hell. His sweet stroke hasn’t missed a beat and Milwaukee has needed his dribble penetration and finishing skills as the Raptors key in on Giannis wherever he drifts on the court. Hitting 43.5% of his 5.8 3-point attempts per game will keep defenses honest, and Milwaukee needs that to continue given the shooting struggles of his fellow Bucks. Budenholzer said he’d like to keep Brogdon off the bench for now, and I think that makes sense at this point to keep that bench crew potent against the Raptors thinner second unit.
Budenholzer said for now, he likes the “punch” Malcolm Brogdon is providing coming off the bench. He said he doesn’t see that starting line up changing in the immediate future, but says he will continue to assess.— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) May 20, 2019
Toronto has to be feeling relieved after their superstar helped pull out yet another thrilling victory for them late. It effectively saved their season. Now, he’s just gotta do the same thing in this one. Nick Nurse had to feel good about the defensive matchup changes he instituted, not to mention the ability to try and score off 20 sloppy Milwaukee turnovers. They ranked in the top ten in turnover rate this season, so not a huge surprise there. The Bucks hold onto the ball well, but sometimes a lockdown defense is going to force you out of a typical game. Pascal Siakam really was the guy who finally found success for Toronto, pouring in an efficient 25 points on 9-18 shooting.
Meanwhile, Norman Powell continues on his tear, going 7-13 for 19 points in game three. With Milwaukee’s bench showing up game after game, the Raptors need their bench contributors if they’re gonna compete with Milwaukee. They also have a little mean reversion coming their way with one of their worst midrange shooting contests in game three, hitting just 30.3% from an area they averaged 43.5% in the regular season.
Toronto is tough. Their defense has turned Milwaukee’s halfcourt offense to mush for much of this series. I guess I keep come back to this when thinking about game four:
Both Lowry and Green in response to Bucks saying they didn’t play well: “We didn’t play well, either."— (((Eric Koreen))) (@ekoreen) May 20, 2019
Those are the two Raptors players partially calling out their own play from game three. Potential bounce back games from Green and Lowry for Toronto versus the trio of Bledsoe, Middleton and Giannis? I’ll take the latter.
Player to Watch: Danny Green
Green has looked like he can’t quite boast the same defensive athleticism to hang in this series at points, but he’s still a capable rangy wing who can switch and get to the proper spots. He also shot just 1-9 in game three and could be due to dump in some triples in volumes. Someone on Toronto is going to have a random hot shooting night, my bet is on Green.
Green has gone from 40.6% on contested 3s — ones with defender within 6 feet, according to https://t.co/R14Zbp7pHt — to 22.7% in the playoffs.— (((Eric Koreen))) (@ekoreen) May 20, 2019
Game 4: Against the Raptors, the Bucks will...
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Win big (by 10 or more points)
Win close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose big (by 10 or more points)