All right folks, I may have proclaimed game five the biggest Milwaukee Bucks contest in 18 years, but THIS do-or-die game six is actually the biggest game yet. Win, and we will have another game to trump this one in terms of importance. Lose, and we’re staring at a long offseason full of difficult questions, potential roster turnover and reckoning with a blown 2-0 lead in the Conference Finals.
Bud went with the adjustment most expected and slotted Malcolm Brogdon into the starting lineup. They looked spry off the tip, running roughshod over a Toronto Raptors defense that was getting decimated in transition. Then, the shooting went dry. The Raptors hit timely triples and jumpers, getting themselves back into the game methodically. By midway through the second quarter, it was already neck-and-neck and would stay that way the rest of the game. With Nikola Mirotic relegated to the bench, Bud trotted him out with Ersan Ilyasova to spell the starters, a lineup that’s basically been a death knell for the Bucks defense this whole series. Eventually, Budenholzer placed Mirotic on the bench permanently, even dusting off Sterling Brown for some spot minutes. The new starting unit made hay in its time though:
Bud is straight drawlin.— Law Murray (@LawMurrayTheNU) May 24, 2019
Bledsoe/Brogdon/Middleton/Antetokounmpo/Lopez lineup outscored Toronto 45-26 tonight in 15 minutes, shooting 69.2%.
All other Bucks lineups got to mess around and get outscored by 25 points in 33 minutes, shooting 34.4%. That's malpractice
At this point, there’s nothing to lose with Budenholzer’s rotations. He’s stuck to his guns this entire series, opting for keeping folks fresh with a deeper bench. With so many of their stalwart bench guys stuck in massive shooting ruts, his hand will likely be forced in this win-or-go-home game six. I’m fascinated to see how long he runs his starters in this series after a season’s worth of staunch load management. That’s really the only card left to play at this point, particularly with their halfcourt offense continuing to play at Knicksian levels against the Raptors impressive defense.
Player to Watch: Giannis Antetokounmpo
I love Giannis. You love Giannis. We all love Giannis. He’s the only reason the Bucks are even at this point in the season where they have a chance at making the NBA Finals. But the Bucks simply will need more from their superstar in this one. These types of back-against-the-wall situations are what make up massive swaths of a star’s tapestry. Kawhi Leonard shouldered a massive scoring load in game five and dished out nine assists that each led to 3-pointers. Giannis doesn’t have nearly as much control over his teammates suddenly finding a groove from deep, but he’ll need to be superhuman on the road for the Bucks to force a game seven.
If Fred VanVleet or Norman Powell could start to miss some triples, or at least start missing them in big spots within the context of a game, that would be just fine by me. Toronto’s bench, which withered on the vine in the second round, suddenly blossomed against the Bucks, nailing triples at prolific rates and even hurting them off the bounce at points. Kawhi Leonard is the engine that makes them go, but Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka have made some massive offensive rebounds while Kyle Lowry keeps doing annoying Kyle Lowry stuff that inevitably helps his team win. Leonard is still having some difficulty shooting, but he seems to always hit the triple when Toronto needs it. Milwaukee’s defensive effort was much-improved from game four, but it still wasn’t up to their season-long stingy work. Simply put, they need to put the clamps on Toronto to get this series shifted back to Milwaukee.
Player to Watch: Fred VanVleet
The man has to miss at some point...
FVV was 8 of 28 last year in the playoffs from 3.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) May 24, 2019
He was 6 of 30 in the first two rounds.
He is 12 of 23 in this series.
JR’s 77% has come to FVV
Game 6: Against the Raptors, the Bucks will...
This poll is closed
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)