Despite the somber mood within the Milwaukee locker room after game four, they appeared confident in their approach to this series with their comments.
Asked Giannis something similar after the game. He seemed to think what they've been doing is just fine. pic.twitter.com/5VPDiaMVGw— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) May 22, 2019
Giannis mustered 25 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three blocks, a significant production upgrade from game three, but it wasn’t nearly enough as his teammates could not nail their shots from deep. Khris Middleton played his best game of the series by far, going for 30 points, six rebounds and seven assists. He looked to be the team’s best creator and playmaker, with a series of nifty passes including a beauty with some english on it from the top of the arc to an awaiting Eric Bledsoe in the paint. Speaking of Bledsoe, he continued to sputter. I doubt Mike Budenholzer will bench his starting point guard, but the Bucks need him to break out of whatever spell is keeping his shot from going in at the moment. For his career, he’s really only a 2% worse shooter from three than sharpshooter Nikola Mirotic, albeit on much lower volume. He just needs to see the ball get in the basket, and particularly continue to attack the Raptors defense.
Other than that, Milwaukee just played sloppily. The Raptors stole several inbounds passes, Milwaukee made foolish fouls and they couldn’t find a way to derail the Raptors from making scoring runs or chip effectively into their lead. The normally assignment sound Bucks defense appeared to be overhelping at points too, allowing for the Raptors passing machine to whir to life. No word yet on if Malcolm Brogdon will swap into the starting lineup, but I’d bet he will by the time the starters are announced.
This is, by far, the biggest game of this Bucks season. The biggest Bucks game in 18 years. Soak it in. By tomorrow, we’ll either be one win away from an NBA Finals trip, or staring down a terrifying uphill climb.
Player to Watch: Nikola Mirotic
If he does indeed come off the pine, Mirotic simply has to get going. Thus far, he’s just 6-28 (21.4%) from deep in the series. His propensity to shoot still draws plenty of gravity from opponents, and he’s been friskier than I thought he would on the boards, but his impact pales in comparison to Toronto’s deadline addition: Marc Gasol. Mirotic has a reputation as a hot sharpshooter, but his ~36% career percentage from deep is relatively average. Milwaukee needs him to get hot in one of these games, particularly with his defensive deficiencies on full display when he’s getting asked to guard some smaller defenders. Additionally, he looked disinterested defensively at points in game four, drawing shouts from a typically calm Khris Middleton.
They have to be feeling pretty content after many felt their odds were slim to none when going down 2-0 to Milwaukee. An uphill climb remains, but their role players shaking off whatever arctic frost hindered their game last round is an encouraging sign for Nick Nurse’s squad. Whether that confidence, and a 48-23 bench scoring advantage, continues in Milwaukee’s home arena is the question of this game. Kawhi Leonard looked like he wasn’t moving quite as nimbly, but it didn’t derail his ability to play smothering defense and hop in passing lanes. Kyle Lowry’s 25-point performance on just 11 shots likely won’t happen again in Milwaukee, but if I was a Raptors fan, I’d feel pretty encouraged the team won decisively despite just 26 combined points from Leonard and Siakam. The latter has yet to really get going this series, finding himself in foul trouble quickly. However, he has done an admirable job ignoring Eric Bledsoe defensively to roam around and cause havoc.
Player to Watch: Marc Gasol
Gasol’s looked like a completely different player in games three and four than the first two in Milwaukee, where he bricked shots and his passing didn’t stir Toronto’s drink. His 17 points (3-6 from deep) and seven assists were massive. When he’s working the ball around for the Raptors and playing well of the pick-and-pop, they’re tough to beat. Milwaukee has to hope he reverts back to Milwaukee Marc and play hesitantly.
Game 5: Against the Raptors, the Bucks will...
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