Kawhi Leonard scored 19 points in the fourth quarter and led a comeback on the road for the Toronto Raptors against Greek Freak and the Bucks in Milwaukee to win Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals 105-99. The Bucks are now down 3-2 in the series.
The Raptors won three games in a row. The Raptors lost the first two games of the series in Milwaukee, but won Game 3 and 4 in Toronto. They stole huge win on the road in Game 5 and now have the opportunity to close out the series on Saturday in Toronto.
Leonard, who is a Canadian folk legend after his game winner against the Sixers, led all scorers with 35 points and he also posted 9 assists, 7 rebounds, and 2 clutch steals.
“He’s been really good,” said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse. “He gets stronger as the fourth wears on. He wants the ball and he wants to make the plays.”
Fred VanVleet came off the bench for the Raptors to hit seven three-pointers (on 7-for-9 shooting) and score 21 points. The Raptors bench once again outperformed and outscored the Bucks 34-15.
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 24 points in a losing effort for the Bucks, but he disappeared in crunch time after he rolled his ankle. The Freak’s poor free throw shooting haunted him this game. He missed five shots from the charity stripe. He shot 42.8 percent over his last three games after hitting 75 percent in his first two games of the series. He’s a career 74.2 percent free throw shooter.
For the first time since returning from a foot injury, Malcolm Brogdon started at point guard for the Bucks and Eric Bledsode moved over to shooting guard. They combined for 23 points in the first half and 38 points overall. However, the Raptors held Khris Middleton to only 6 points. He averaged 18.3 points this season for the Bucks and 17.1 ppg in the playoffs.
No Bucks Bounce Back
After losing two games in Toronto, the Bucks were expected to bounce back with a win in Game 5. The Raptors were 7.5-point under dogs heading into Milwaukee.
In 24 instances this season, the Bucks were 22-2 in games after a loss. After the Bucks lost by double-digits or more, they responded with a perfect 6-0 clip.
The Bucks got off to a sizzling start by jumping out to a 18-4 lead. They shot 55 percent in the first quarter to open up a 10-point lead.
However, the Raptors weathered the storm and chipped away at the deficit. The Raptors hunkered down in the second quarter and held the Bucks to 17 points. They trimmed the lead to 49-46 heading into the locker room at half time.
Kyle Lowry was not 100 percent due to a sprained thumb, while Kawhi Leonard gutted through a leg injury but seemed perfectly fine. By halftime, they combined for 22 points and 4 assists. Lowry finished the game 17 points on 4-for-11 shooting.
Big 4Q for Kawhi
After a deadlocked third quarter, the Raptors struck first blood in the fourth quarter with a 13-6 run. Leonard found Fred VanVleet on the perimeter and he knocked down a trey to put the Raptors ahead for the first time all game with under 9 minutes to go.
Leonard then hit back-to-back three pointers including a step-back trey to put the Raptors ahead 85-81.
“I’m not afraid of the moment,” said Leonard. “This is what I work out for in the summer. I’m just trying to win. It’s a matter of me being aggressive and don’t shy away from anything.”
Brook Lopez hit a huge three pointer with 2:42 remaining to tie the game at 93-93. However, the Raptors countered when VanVleet hit his seventh trey to put the Raptors back up 3.
The Freak scored six points in the fourth quarter, but he did not score a point in the final two minutes of action after he threw down an alley-oop dunk to put the Bucks within one point. That would be the closest they’d get the rest of the game. The Raptors outscored them 9-4 in the final two minutes to secure the win.
On Deck: Game 6
The series returns to Canada for Game 6. The Raptors and Drake host the Bucks in Toronto for the chance to advance to the NBA Finals. The winner will play the Golden State Warriors, who swept the Portland Blazers in the West Finals.
At the same time, Greek Freak and the Bucks must go on the road and steal a win north of border to stave off elimination.
“We’re not gonna fold,” said the Freak. “We’re the best team in the league. Gonna go in, give it everything we got. We can’t fold. We’re gonna come back to Milwaukee being pissed.”
According to the South Point Casino and Sports Book in Las Vegas, the Golden State Warriors are -275 odds to win the NBA championship for a third season in a row. The Milwaukee Bucks dropped to 7/1 odds to win the title. Meanwhile, the Toronto Raptors improved drastically to 4/1 odds to win the NBA title.
Heading into Game 6, the Raptors opened up as a 2-point favorite according to multiple sports books in Las Vegas and offshore.