Milwaukee will be glad to have homecourt in what is now a best of three series. This is why you protect homecourt, so that in the case the other team does come back, you still have a chance in the series. With the series tied 2-2, Game 5 puts the pressure on both teams. Will Toronto be able to replicate their home performances on the road? Will Milwaukee be able to shake off its worst loss of the season? Dylan from Raptors HQ came by to answer questions like always!
Toronto’s bench outplayed Milwaukee’s bench convincingly in Game 4. Assuming Milwaukee keeps the starting lineup, do you see that continuing?
When Kawhi Leonard plays minutes with the bench, the Raptors have done an excellent job making their open looks. Milwaukee tends to swarm Kawhi in the midrange, leading to kick out and swing opportunities that result in open threes. The same can be said about Toronto swarming Giannis while the shooters that surround him are presented with open shots.
However, the biggest difference comes down to who receives the ball on the perimeter, and what these players do with the ball once they receive these passes. The Raptors tasked with shooting threes off the bench (Norman Powell and Fred VanVleet) are historically capable shooters (40% and 37.8% from three on the season, respectively), meaning there’s a decent chance these shots will fall when left open. Serge Ibaka isn’t a long-range threat, so most his shots come off pick and pops or rolls to the basket.
Meanwhile, the Bucks’ shooters off the bench (Malcolm Brogdon, Ersan Ilyasova, George Hill and Pat Connaughton) are collectively less adept from long range than Toronto’s options (42.6%, 36.3%, 28% and 33% from three on the season, respectively). Of course, Milwaukee got seriously unlucky last game with Brogdon having an unusually abysmal shooting night, an area from which he’s typically money.
Toronto played swarming defense all night, chasing skillful outside shooters after Giannis kickouts and leaving weaker shooters like Bledsoe open, welcoming drives into a packed paint. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if Milwaukee runs more screens for Malcolm Brogdon moving forward, who has the shooting proficiency to make Toronto pay from downtown.
Do you see Milwaukee making any adjustments after game 4?
In my opinion, Milwaukee’s defense should ease off Kawhi just a hair, getting ready to pounce on perimeter shooters after he runs into a wall in the paint. Kawhi is clearly battling an injury, limiting his explosiveness and creativity in finishing around the rim. Giannis, however, mentioned post-game that Milwaukee won’t change their defensive game plan, letting Marc Gasol, Pascal Siakam and company take open threes.
This strategy works to an extent; Norman Powell and Pascal Siakam combined for eleven missed threes last game. But, Ibaka, Kawhi and Kyle Lowry worked on positioning themselves closer to the net after their teammates took long-range shots, leading to more offensive boards.
I think Milwaukee should also consider supplementing some of Bledsoe’s minutes with Brogdon. Bledsoe is unable to provide real value off kickouts, either bricking his threes or driving directly into the packed paint with no purpose at all. Brogdon may have had a rough night, but he’ll bounce back assuming he’s healthy.
This becomes a best of three series, do you think Milwaukee having homecourt advantage will be an issue for Toronto?
Playing on the road has been an issue for the Raptors in this series. Toronto’s role-players struggled to hit their shots in Milwaukee, while the Bucks seemed more comfortable playing on their home floor. Games 1 and 3 could’ve seemingly gone either way, as they were both close near the end; however, the home team won both of those contests, and I don’t believe that to be a coincidence. A roaring crowd can boost a team’s confidence when they’re down and keep them focused when they’re up. As well, playing on your home court tends to remind players of their game plan, providing a comfortable setting in which they’ve seen success numerous times throughout the year.
While Toronto’s newfound shooting surely bodes well for the rest of the series, momentum can swing at the drop of a hat. It makes me nervous knowing the Raptors must win at least one in Milwaukee given the factors I’ve just described, but if they can hit the open shots that Milwaukee consistently gifts them, I’ll be able to sleep at night.
For more perspective from the Milwaukee side, check out Kyle’s answers over on Raptors HQ.