5-on-5: Largest Bucks-Raptors surprises and collection predictions

The Toronto Raptors are one win away from advancing to their first NBA Finals in franchise historical past.

What do Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks have to do to drive a Sport 7 and doubtlessly advance to the following spherical? What’s the important thing for Toronto in Saturday’s Sport 6? Does Kawhi Leonard have any actual competitors as the very best participant in these playoffs?

Our NBA consultants dive into the massive questions, together with postseason MVPs, who has probably the most at stake and predictions for this collection.

1. What are you watching most carefully in Sport 6?

Kevin Arnovitz: How Giannis Antetokounmpo reacts to Toronto’s protection. How does he reply to the double-teams? How properly is he studying the assistance (the place, when and whom)? What’s the high quality of his decision-making with the ball? The extent to which Antetokounmpo performs these duties decisively and intelligently will largely affect whether or not this collection returns to Milwaukee.

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Tim Bontemps: The position gamers on each side. At this level it ought to be protected to imagine Kawhi Leonard and Antetokounmpo are going to play properly and produce numbers. As within the different 5 video games on this collection, who wins Sport 6 will come right down to which supporting solid is healthier. For the previous three video games, that edge has gone to Toronto. If it stays that manner Saturday, the Raptors might be going to the NBA Finals.

André Snellings: The Raptors’ Three-point taking pictures and their capability to get to the rim to attract fouls. These issues are associated, and so they’ve been the hallmarks to Toronto’s success towards Milwaukee this season. Within the Bucks’ 5 wins, the Raptors have shot solely 29.5 p.c from downtown and have averaged about one free throw per six area purpose makes an attempt. In the meantime, within the Raptors’ 4 wins, they’ve shot considerably higher from deep (39.Four p.c) and drawn twice as many fouls.

Malika Andrews: Antetokounmpo. For probably the most half, Antetokounmpo has been good — not nice — on this collection. The Bucks might be examined in Sport 6 in a manner they’ve but to be this season. If the Bucks need the collection to return to Milwaukee for Sport 7, like Antetokounmpo stated would occur after the Sport 5 loss, Antetokounmpo have to be distinctive. Sure, he’ll need assistance from Milwaukee’s shooters to house the ground, however Antetokounmpo will set the tone for his group. Additionally, he tweaked his ankle in Sport 5. His well being might be of curiosity.

Kevin Pelton: Whether or not the Bucks can get the stops essential to get out in transition. Groups usually rating higher after a defensive rebound, however Milwaukee’s offense has been caught within the mud after Toronto makes. Per Inpredictable.com, the Bucks have averaged 1.14 factors per possession after a defensive rebound and simply Zero.96 after a made shot. (Leaguewide throughout the common season, these averages have been 1.09 and 1.06, respectively.) So Milwaukee must get stops and run. The Bucks are 9-Zero within the playoffs when the tempo exceeds 100 possessions per 48 minutes (utilizing Basketball-Reference.com’s definition) and 1-Four of their 5 slowest-paced video games.

2. What has been the largest shock on this collection?

Snellings: Both the Raptors’ capability to seek out one other gear or the Bucks’ incapability to regulate. The Bucks received 5 of the primary six matchups towards the Raptors this season by beating them at their very own recreation, with Antetokounmpo having his manner inside regardless of the dominant Raptors defensive frontcourt. Up to now three video games, the Raptors have tightened the screws on Antetokounmpo, which ought to have opened up alternatives for the opposite Bucks — however they have not been in a position to take benefit. If head coach Mike Budenholzer cannot discover the appropriate counter for Milwaukee, this collection will finish Saturday.

Andrews: Fred VanVleet’s Sport 5 efficiency. As unimaginable as Leonard was within the fourth quarter of Thursday’s recreation, it’s laborious to think about a state of affairs the place the Raptors win with out VanVleet’s clutch Three-pointers. Time after time, he hit the deep shot that Toronto wanted to take care of its edge. That type of efficiency is predicted from Kyle Lowry or Leonard. However, as Nick Nurse stated earlier than Sport 5, what separates the great groups from the nice groups is how the “non-superstars” play.

Pelton: Antetokounmpo’s sudden incapability to make free throws. Since making 75 p.c of his foul photographs in Video games 1 and a pair of, each Milwaukee wins, Antetokounmpo is 12-of-26 (46 p.c) up to now three video games. That has made it tough for him to attain effectively towards a Toronto protection permitting nothing straightforward, and people factors are essential in video games which have largely been shut.

Arnovitz: The lack of the Bucks to seek out constant offense. Certainly not is it a shock that the Raptors are executing their defensive recreation plan, however the Bucks usually exhibit the spacing, penetration and circulate to unlock the half courtroom. Not so on this collection. Milwaukee has been thwarted on the level of assault, and its offense has lacked the order and rhythm we have been accustomed to seeing all season.

Bontemps: The sudden reemergence of VanVleet. It is laborious to overstate how dramatic his turnaround has been. Within the 10 video games from the beginning of the convention semifinals via Sport Three towards the Bucks, VanVleet shot 7-of-44 from the sector and Three-of-25 from Three. Over the previous two video games, VanVleet is now 12-of-19 from the sector — together with an absurd 10-of-12 from deep. If the Raptors proceed to get manufacturing from VanVleet and Norman Powell off the bench in Sport 6, they’re going to really feel nice about their possibilities of advancing to the NBA Finals.

Will the Raptors end off this collection on Saturday? Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Pictures

Three. Truth or fiction: Kawhi Leonard is the postseason MVP to date

Bontemps: Truth. At this level, I am unsure how anybody may argue in any other case. Leonard has been a one-man wrecking crew in these playoffs, following up on his historic output towards the 76ers within the Jap Convention semifinals with a stellar exhibiting towards Antetokounmpo on this collection. Anybody who forgot simply how nice Leonard was in San Antonio, or thought he could not attain these heights once more after his misplaced season a yr in the past, has been given a crystal-clear reminder of simply how good he has been.

Discover every part that you must know concerning the playoffs right here.

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• Kawhi unlocks Raptors’ greatest model
• Giannis: ‘We’re not gonna fold’
• How Golden State reclaimed juggernaut fashion
• What’s subsequent for eradicated groups? Insider

Snellings: Truth. This ought to be unanimous. Leonard has put collectively a storybook run to date. He is the main scorer amongst all convention finals gamers (31.Four PPG), he has the enduring second with the immortalized crouch within the nook and his defensive play on Antetokounmpo has helped swing this collection.

Andrews: Truth — however the Finals reveal all.

Arnovitz: Truth. All postseason lengthy, the Raptors have been variable of their shot-making with one exception: Leonard. Whether or not he is rattling in one of many extra historic photographs in latest league historical past to shut out Philadelphia, or embracing the project of Antetokounmpo, he has been each probably the most dependable and most memorable performer throughout each conferences. The person numbers are astounding: 31.Four factors, eight.Four rebounds and three.6 assists, with a real taking pictures share of 63.1 — and that is earlier than you consider his defensive work.

Pelton: Truth. I do not suppose it is notably shut. Lengthy-eliminated Nikola Jokic is the one participant inside one win above substitute (WARP) of Leonard within the postseason by my metric. Antetokounmpo and Leonard fee comparatively equally on a per-minute foundation, however given how rather more the Raptors have wanted from Leonard — averaging 38.5 minutes within the playoffs to Antetokounmpo’s 33.eight — and his Sport 7 heroics towards Philadelphia, this looks like a simple alternative.

Four. Who has probably the most at stake on Saturday?

Pelton: It must be the Raptors, who with a loss would flip from heavy favorites to very large underdogs to achieve the NBA Finals for the primary time given the significance of residence courtroom in a Sport 7. The Bucks cannot take further alternatives as a right, however with Leonard, Kyrie Irving and two 76ers starters all free brokers, the East might be much less difficult subsequent season. It could be now or by no means for Toronto.

Snellings: Clearly, it is Drake. However among the many precise entities on the courtroom, the Raptors have probably the most at stake for 2 key causes. First, that is their second after years of heartbreak. However, extra importantly, there may be Leonard’s looming free company. A win Saturday night time and a visit to the Finals may seemingly go a good distance towards convincing him to remain this offseason.

Bontemps: The Raptors, on a number of ranges. That is their probability to shut out the collection. In the event that they do, they go to the NBA Finals for the primary time and turn into the primary worldwide group to take action. President of basketball operations Masai Ujiri might be given much more vindication for his resolution to commerce for Leonard final summer season — and doubtless may have a greater probability of retaining him as a free agent this summer season. For veterans like Lowry and Marc Gasol, this presents the very best probability of their careers to achieve the league’s championship spherical.

Certain, Toronto may nonetheless win this collection if it loses Sport 6. However with a house recreation and an opportunity to shut out this collection, the Raptors can’t afford to let it slip away.

Arnovitz: The Raptors. No person is aware of the exact standards Leonard will apply when figuring out whether or not he’ll make Toronto his long-term residence. Nevertheless it’s truthful to say the chance of his staying North will increase if the Raptors are enjoying in June. The Bucks might be crestfallen in the event that they lose, and although it is going to influence a busy offseason, we will count on them to be contenders for the foreseeable future.

5. Who wins the collection and advances to the NBA Finals?

Andrews: I predicted the Bucks would win in six video games earlier than the collection began. There isn’t any state of affairs now that enables the Bucks to satisfy that prediction. Though groups that win Sport 5 in a fair collection go on to win the collection 82 p.c of the time, in keeping with ESPN Stats & Info, I might be constant and persist with the Bucks. For that to occur, Milwaukee wants its bench to step up the way in which it did in Video games 1 and a pair of. Additionally, Eric Bledsoe should play at the very least in addition to he did in Sport 5.

Arnovitz: Toronto, as a result of it’s far simpler to win as soon as than win twice.

Snellings: At this level, the Raptors must be the favorites. They’ve received three straight and been the higher group for almost all of the collection. They’re enjoying at residence and that is their window to win. With that stated, I picked the Bucks in the beginning of the collection as a result of if Antetokounmpo is in MVP kind, and his supporting solid performs to its degree, they’ve the upper upside. So if Toronto would not win Saturday, the Bucks turn into the favorites once more shifting into Sport 7.

Bontemps: Toronto. I assumed coming into the collection the Raptors have been the higher group, and all through nearly all of the primary 5 video games they’ve proved that. With home-court benefit, an edge in expertise and having Leonard on their aspect, the Raptors ought to win Sport 6.

Pelton: Toronto in 6 is now the almost definitely consequence given residence courtroom, adopted by Milwaukee in 7 with Toronto in 7 the least probably remaining outcome.

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