Articles NBA Playoffs 2019

Playoffs Day 39: We the North

For the first time in franchise history the Toronto Raptors are heading to the NBA finals!

Milwaukee Bucks (2-4) v Toronto Raptors (4-2): 94 to 100

I have to be honest, that Kawhi Leonard trade looks pretty good for the Raptors right now.

Sure, he may leave after this finals run (to the Clippers), BUT for the first time ever the Raptors are in the NBA Finals.

In Game 6, the Raptors overcame a 15-point deficit to win the game (reminiscent of the Golden State v Portland Series). In reality, this series really came down to the two superstars.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard.

Giannis had a solid game, 21 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals and 4 assists but really struggled at the free throw line, hitting only 50%. His real issue was making plays. Giannis would often drive into a very clogged paint and have no where to go, only to kick out and try and get his teammates to make the three or create a play and they would miss. Alternatively, he was forced into long mid-range jumpers or threes, which he can hit but are both not his preferred shot.

Kawhi also had a solid game, 27 points, 17 boards, seven assists and 2 steals and blocks but shot inefficiently (9-22 from the field and 1-8 from three). BUT Kawhi completely controlled the Raptors offence. This was seen down the stretch when at the end of the third where the Raptors went on a run to get the lead, where Kawhi made or assisted on 10 straight points. He just looked more in control of their offence and when he kicked out, the shots generally went down (I’m looking at you Marc Gasol).  

So in the battle of the superstars, Raptors had the edge with the Claw.

Raptors also had the edge on defence with Gasol and Kyle Lowry really showing hustle and trapping their opponents, forcing worse shots (despite Gasol being taken out multiple times due to foul trouble). So often Lowry was diving to the floor, scrapping for the ball to secure possession and the Wall once again proved deadly against Giannis. Lowry also finally overcame his finals curse and had a terrific series, this game was no exception. He was 6-10 from the field with 17 points and 8 assists. He was the second in command.

The bench for the Raptors were also phenomenal with Fred VanVleet continuing his amazing shooting ways (4-5 from three with 14 points) and the three bench players outscoring the Bucks bench 32- 23. They also showed that when Kawhi was out, the bench was able to step up and generate offence.

There are still issues with the Raptors game, including Pascal Siakam being afraid to shoot. There were multiple occasions where Siakam would pass up open shots and look as though he would prefer to just run around the court than hit an open shot despite shooting 7-18 with 18 points on the night. Another issue is Danny Green missing open threes. He had four threes and missed them all, resulting in 14 minutes of play. If this happens in the Finals, don’t be surprised if VanVleet gets the start.

I have to say, the Raptors looked in control of this game, even when down double digits.

The main issue with the Bucks is that Giannis needs more help.

Kris Middleton was great from the three (4-8) but was only 1-5 from two-point range. Eric Bledsoe (whose value has greatly depreciated after this series) was 3-9 with 8 points and 7 assists but again really struggled in this game.

Brooke Lopez (18 points) seemed to be the only Buck who was willing to make his own plays and keep them in this game, which could be seen in the fourth quarter.

The conclusion: Giannis really needs more help.

The Bucks just seemed to really struggle to get open looks in this game and the Raptors defence seemingly played them like a fiddle to end the game.

With 9 extra free throws and both Gasol and Serge Ibaka in foul trouble, the Bucks should have used this to their advantage to take an even more sizeable lead, but they couldn’t. Maybe it’s inexperience (please don’t walk out on me Giannis), maybe it’s the fact that they struggled to hit their shots, either way, the Raptors deserved to win this game and were quite simply the better team with, at this moment, the better playoff superstar in Kawhi Leonard.

Now we head to the NBA finals: the Claw v the Chef, the Warriors v Raptors for a very exciting NBA Playoff Final!

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