Three in a row. The Milwaukee Bucks have now lost three games in a row for the first time all season. They chose the absolute worst time to fall into a slump and the Toronto Raptors are taking full advantage, winning 105-99 in Fiserv Forum to take a 3-2 series lead. Toronto finds themselves one win away from the NBA Finals, something that didn’t seem likely less than a week ago.
The Bucks have completely choked away their opportunity. Just a few days ago they had a 2-0 lead and were heavily favored to represent the East in the Finals. Now Toronto can get there with just one more win. This was yet another frustrating example of the Bucks’ lack of focus that has led them from top of the league to a source of sadness in Milwaukee.
There’s not much more to say other than they didn’t have it in game five. Sure, they built a double digit lead early and hit 45% from the field. But what came in the second half isn’t characteristic of what we’ve seen from the Bucks this season. They lacked energy, clearly weren’t communicating in time, and didn’t collectively know the plan down the stretch. A number of opportunities arose in the final quarter but no one stepped up for the Bucks and it resulted in a 14-2 run from Toronto that ultimately sunk Milwaukee.
This is the first game this series where there was no question the coaching wasn’t the difference in the final score. Both coaches played their best players and made adjustments throughout the game. Danny Green has been having an awful series and as a result he played only 19 minutes compared to bench guard VanVleet who saw 37 minutes with 21 points on 7-9 from deep.
On the Bucks side, only George Hill saw more than 12 minutes off the bench which seemed like the correct adjustment given how the series has played out. With the coaches out of the way, all that’s left to look at is the players. Simply put, Toronto outperformed Milwaukee during starter and bench minutes. Kawhi continued to be better than Giannis in this series, which is unusual considering how we know the ceilings of each player at this pint and Giannis is nowhere near it in the most important games of his career.
Bottom line, the Raptors have just proven their better than the Bucks are in their current states. Giannis and Khris haven’t been able to lead the team through thick and thin like Kawhi and Siakam have. When the fling has gotten tough, Toronto has almost always found a way to make the situation work while Milwaukee has often folded in crunch time. Luckily, the season isn’t over and they still control the narrative around this season.
Will we think of the Bucks season as a success? A failure? All of that will be decided by thousands of fans when the season comes to a close, whenever that may be. If I were to look at season goals before the season had began, the ECF would have been the goal. But we have seen this team play over 90 times now and we know they are capable of more. That’s what has made the last three games so tough to stomach. Given all the uncertainty that the offseason will bring, a series win would put a lot of Wisconsinite’s worries to rest.
Again, this series is not over. The Bucks will need to take game six in Toronto as well as game seven in Milwaukee to get their chance at the throne. Tip for game six will be at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night.