The Milwaukee Bucks best season in over a decade ended in Toronto last night with a 100-94 loss in game six to the Raptors. The Bucks came out of the gates as the aggressor as they would lead by double digits for the majority of the first half. Things were looking even better as Milwaukee built a 15-point advantage late in the third, but once Giannis Antetokounmpo exited the game, Toronto went on a furious rally to close to gap heading into the fourth quarter. The way the Bucks “closed” the third period is really when the game was lost. They simply looked shook out there. Here are three observations from last night’s heartbreaker.
This series served as a great learning curve for Giannis Antetokounmpo.
After getting pretty much whatever he wanted in the first two games of the series, the Raptors made life increasingly difficult for him after that. They successfully walled off the paint and forced Giannis to make plays as a facilitator. We have yet to see a team successfully limit the effectiveness of Antetokounmpo on the offensive end, so kudos to Toronto for figuring out how to contain him offensively. He also had to deal with a multitude of double teams and his decision making out of those were suspect. Don’t get me wrong, he still made some fantastic passes, but he also made a handful of poor decisions...like trying to go to the basket 1-on-4. However, in game six, I thought Giannis really gave the Bucks a chance. He finished with 21 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, two steals, and three blocked shots in 41 minutes. He shot 7-of-18 from the floor and 2-of-5 from deep but his Achilles heel was at the free throw line (5-of-10). With how aggressive Toronto was defensively on him, it was a bit surprising to see him go to the line only 10 times. Again, this game was lost in the last few minutes of the third when he went for his typical rest. Let’s take a moment to remember that he is only 24 years old. What were you doing at that age?
Eric Bledsoe’s flop of a series will haunt the Bucks.
In the most important game since the early 2000s, Bledsoe was again a no show. I am such a critic of his play because we all know how athletic and talented he is on both ends of the floor. The “Bled Show” we were treated to in the regular season simply did not carry over into the 2019 postseason. In some ways, it was almost identical to the disastrous postseason he had last season. He ended game six with eight points and seven assists but got thoroughly outplayed by Kyle Lowry the entire series. For the entire ECF, he shot 29.8% from the field, 16.4% from deep, and 69.5% from the charity stripe. His lack of a jumper is really what contributed to Milwaukee losing four straight games as the Raptors would essentially not guard him from the perimeter which made everyone else’s job more difficult than it already was. We constantly saw Bledsoe dribble the air out of the ball and hoist up a contested jump shot throughout this series. We know he can get to the rim with the best of the which made him settling for outside shots all the more infuriating. While we did see “some” flashes in game six, the way he performed is simply unacceptable. The number of times he was caught sleeping on the defensive end was really shocking for a defender of his caliber. I guess some players are just regular season players?
Brook Lopez really stepped his game up in game six.
He finished with 18 points, nine rebounds, and three blocked shots in 34 minutes. Oddly enough, he failed to hit a three-pointer yesterday. This was a tough series for Lopez as Toronto did a good job at negating his impact after his game one explosion. It’s hard to be disappointed with how Splash Mountain played last night, specifically on the defensive end. He helped Milwaukee stay within striking distance in the fourth quarter when it looked like Toronto was about to put them to bed. On top of the blocked shots, he did a great job at contesting shots at the rim and not letting Toronto get easy looks. However, the amount of offensive rebounds the Raptors got late in game five and last night is just inexcusable. Milwaukee was the best rebounding team in the NBA during the regular season, and to see them get out-worked in that regard especially in crunch time made my stomach queasy. Not all of the onus falls on Lopez as rebounding is a team effort, but as the anchor of the defense, I doubt he’s too thrilled with his performance on the glass.
- Malcolm Brogdon was quiet in his 31 minutes of action. He made 3-of-6 shots for 10 points and really did not do much else. He also did not help his cause on the defensive end as he got blown by multiple times and also blew a few assignments on the perimeter.
- Khris Middleton scored 14 points and nailed 4-of-8 three-pointers in last night’s loss. Simply put, Middleton had arguably the toughest assignment out of anyone on the Milwaukee Bucks. Not only did he have to guard Kawhi Leonard for the majority of the series, but he also had to deal with being guarded by the Klaw and Danny Green. These are two of the best perimeter defenders in the game. While Middleton’s offensive game wasn’t as explosive, his facilitation throughout the ECF was on point. He was constantly looking at creating for his teammates and when you are struggling with your shot, that’s pretty much all you can ask of him. A cornerstone to the Bucks success here’s to hoping he’ll be in a Bucks uniform in the season opener next season.
- Ersan Ilyasova gave us a bit of a “vintage” Ersan game yesterday. He came off the bench and scored 13 points in 22 minutes. His shooting played a big part in Milwaukee building a double-digit lead in the first half. Without his contributions, this game would have been a blowout.
- George Hill shot 4-of-10 from the floor for 10 points and not much else. The way he played throughout the postseason was just phenomenal. He showed why he’s a leader and why the Bucks should hope he returns to the Bucks next season. Although game six was not his best performance, the Bucks would probably not have been here if it wasn’t for how he played against the Pistons and Celtics.
- In the last three games, Fred VanVleet nailed 14 three-pointers. For that to happen against the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals feels pretty #onbrand to me.
This officially marks the end of my first season covering the Milwaukee Bucks for Brew Hoop. I would like to thank all of you for reading and giving me feedback throughout this season. We would not be what we are today without the loyal fans of BH, so hats off to all of you in the comment section! Don’t cry cause it’s over, smile because it happened. Go Bucks!