In a pivotal Game 5 at Fiserv Forum, the Bucks were unable to defend home court and coughed up their third straight loss to the Raptors, falling 105-99.
This game would start out 10,000 MPH, and the Bucks took advantage. There’d be no slow start this time around. Instead, they’d immediately leap out to an 18-4 lead in the opening minutes. Toronto would fight back and get it within a few at times, but for the most part, the first quarter belonged to Milwaukee. The biggest sparks came from Malcolm Brogdon (8 points) and Eric Bledsoe (9 points). Moving onward to the second quarter, the Bucks groomed a 10-point advantage, 32-22.
Unfortunately, that double-digit lead would be short-lived. Midway through the second quarter, it’d be fully erased. In the first six minutes and change, Milwaukee would go just 1-of-10 from the floor along with several turnovers. Meanwhile, Toronto rattled off a 14-2 run. Milwaukee wouldn’t be down for long, as the pendulum swung back in their favor and they carried a 49-46 lead into the locker room.
Milwaukee would get the first step out of the half, and in a pretty speedy manner. Thanks to a more aggressive Eric Bledsoe and Giannis Antetokounmpo, they’d see their double-digit lead return. However, the Raptors would counter a few minutes later — led by Fred VanVleet. He’d sink not one, not two, but several threes that quarter that would get the Raptors right back in the thick of things. Transitioning into the fourth quarter, Milwaukee clung to a three point advantage, 75-72.
We’d reach code red status in the fourth quarter. A few minutes in, Kawhi Leonard would start to find his groove. His pair of threes would match Toronto’s largest lead of the night at four and force a timeout by Milwaukee with 7:56 remaining. Things really would turn south when Toronto earned consecutive offensive rebounds, which led to a Marc Gasol three — his first points of the game. A Brook Lopez triple would knot it all up, but be short-lived. In the end, the Raptors would outlast the Bucks and take a 3-2 lead back to Canada.
Giannis Antetokounmpo would be the leading scorer for the Bucks, wrapping up his night with 24 points on 9-of-18 shooting. Eric Bledsoe contributed with 20 points.
Kawhi Leonard registered yet another game-high of 35 points. He’d also tally nine assists, which were a career high. Fred VanVleet made an absolutely massive impact off the bench with 21 points — all threes.
Fred VanVleet was unconscious on the evening.
I mean, my goodness. Coming into this series, he couldn’t hit the broad side of the barn. In these last two games, he’s really found the mark and it’s been absolutely crucial for Toronto and their offense. Going from 1-of-12 in the Game 3 double OT thriller to a red-hot 7-of-9, he’s been the spark that really has given the Raptors bench the upper hand over the Bucks. To start this series, it was clear that Milwaukee’s defensive strategy was letting him (and other below average Toronto shooters) get their shots and play the numbers game. While that worked the first few games, it’s clear that FVV and others are taking advantage of what Milwaukee’s handing them.
These refs were...something.
I’m not one to usually blame the refs for a loss, and I’m not going to fully pin last night’s outcome on them. All I’ll say is that the variety of their calls were interesting. It felt as if the Raptors would get calls that the Bucks weren’t receiving at multiple times during the night. One of those instances would be on floaters to the hoop. If Lowry would go up, it seemed as if he’d create the necessary contact and get the whistle, while players on the Bucks had a difficult time earning the same call. There was also a time when Khris Middleton received a shoulder down on the baseline, but the ref remained mum. Mike Budenholzer made some interesting comments in his postgame about some of those calls, then muttered that they feel as if Giannis should be getting more free throw attempts. However, he’d follow that up by saying how tough the officials’ jobs are, so I doubt he’ll get slapped with any fines from the league.
It’s so disappointing to see Nikola Mirotic struggle like this.
It was another frustrating night out on the court for Mirotic, as he’d fail to find his shot right from the get-go, going just 0-for-3 on the night in just over nine minutes. He’d get pulled pretty quickly, as Budenholzer decided he had finally had enough and didn’t trot him out in the second half. It’s so devastating to not even see a single shot fall for him. We all know how crucial those threes can be for the team. That’s the reason Horst made the move to acquire him. However, when you can’t hit the broad side of a barn, it makes it that much more crushing. It’ll really be intriguing to see how much Bud relies on him in Toronto, but right now, I don’t anticipate much playing time.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- Aaron Rodgers and David Bakhtiari would have a beer chugging competition, resulting in Rodgers’ left tackle taking the championship belt in this one. However, Rodgers had something to say after:
Christian Yelich would later be featured on the jumbotron partaking in the fun and really earning his stripes as a Brewer. That’d probably end up being the highlight of the night.
- Eric Bledsoe would have somewhat of a bounceback game, finishing with 20 points on 6-of-14 shooting. It was so relieving to see him knock down a pair of threes, as we all know how well he needed that. However, there are still times where it seems as if he’s going too hard in transition, and it seems to really muck things up on occasion (the play where the ball went out on Brogdon after the review was the main one I’m referring to). Let’s hope he can slow things down in Game 6.
- The Bucks’ halfcourt continues to be woeful this series:
It wouldn’t get much better, and you can attribute that to Toronto’s length and overall defensive nature. It’s so difficult to get anything positive churning against this squad, and the Bucks need to find it out in the next 48 minutes, otherwise this season is done.
- Give credit to the Raptors and their ability to wall of Antetokounmpo. It’s crystal clear he’s not having the success he usually has, despite his 24 points. The easy way for the Bucks to outmatch that is to hit their open shots that the Raptors are surrendering when they immediately send two or three guys to Giannis — unfortunately, that’s not happening. Very concerning. Add in the fact that Khris Middleton only had six points tonight and it gets even more worrisome.
- Giannis continues to be putrid on his free throws, which grows extremely frustrating by the attempt. He’d finish the night just 4-of-9, continuing a sluggish stretch. All season long it felt like this would be something that could come back and really bite him, and it really has lately.
- Last, I have somewhat of an odd suspicion that the Bucks are going to pull out Game 6 and come back and win this thing in seven. I know many of you aren’t on board with me, but crazier things have happened. Imagine this: what would sports be without all the lows? Oh yeah, and also consider this:
Started to ask Giannis about watching the Celtics fold in Game 5 against the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals after the game. He cut me off.— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) May 24, 2019
"We're not going to fold."
I asked, "How do you know?" He responded: pic.twitter.com/sTQ0nTY0HP
Bucks in seven, baby.