NBA Playoffs – Kawhi Leonard was in championship form on Thursday night as he powered the Toronto Raptors to a pivotal Game 5 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, 105-99. He looked fresh, showing no signs of being hampered by the leg injury that slowed him down in Game 4. This was the exact reason that the Raptors traded for Kawhi, to take them here, this far and hopefully, further into the NBA Playoffs.
The former NBA champ came through with 35 points, seven rebounds, nine assists and five 3-pointers in a team-high 40 minutes. Fellow forward Pascal Siakam double-doubled with 14 points and 13 rebounds with three blocks. Kyle Lowry struggled with his shot, going 4-for-11 from the field but still finished the night with 17 points, six rebounds and seven dimes.
The Bucks led by 10 points, 32-22 at the end of the first quarter. Things turned a corner in the second quarter as the Raptors were able to eat into the lead, cutting it to just three points (46-49). This was possible thanks to the superb play of Toronto’s Fred VanVleet. Coach Nick Nurse ran a tight rotation in this game, deploying just eight players over the course of the night. VanVleet proved him right in his decision as the guard exploded with 7-of-9 shooting from 3-point range en route to his 21 points, one rebound, one assist and one steal.
The Bucks’ perimeter defense was not cooking tonight and may have just hurt their chances at going to the NBA finals. They made an adjustment in this game, opting to start Malcolm Brogdon over Nikola Mirotic. Brogdon responded by dropping an 18-point, 11-rebound double-double with six assists. Giannis Antetokounmpo quietly put up 24 points, six rebounds and six assists in this one.
The Bucks need answers, a leader to rally around. That has to be Antetokounmpo. The series heads back to Toronto for Game 6 and he will need to come up with an MVP-calibre game and a legacy-defining moment in order to will his Herd to a win and force a Game 7 back home in Milwaukee. Kawhi Leonard’s experience and leadership have been key for the Raptors. Giannis will now have to mimic, if not outdo him, to be able keep their NBA playoff hopes alive.