Three takeaways from Raptors' Game 5 road win over Bucks
The Toronto Raptors are one win away from playing for the first championship in franchise history.
Toronto travelled to Milwaukee for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals and defeated the Bucks 105-99 at the Fiserv Forum.
The victory gave the Raptors a 3-2 series lead.
The Bucks appeared in control as they won each of the first two games at home. The Raptors, however, rebounded with two wins of their own at Scotiabank Arena before coming out on top on Thursday.
The series will shift back to Toronto for Game 6 on Saturday.
Here are three takeaways from the Raptors' road win.
Kawhi Leonard delivers again
Kawhi Leonard picked his spots on Thursday.
The Raptors star was not as aggressive attacking the rim and did not have the ball in his hands as often as he it had earlier in the series. But, that changed in the fourth quarter.
Leonard opened Toronto's scoring in the final period with a pair of mid-range jumpers and followed with two long three-pointers, the second of which put his team ahead with a little less than eight minutes to play.
In total, Leonard finished with 35 points on 11-of-25 shooting. He also added seven rebounds, along with nine assists, and was the main reason why Toronto came away with the win.
@kawhileonard (35 PTS, 9 AST, 7 REB) scores 15 in the 4th, lifting the @Raptors to a 3-2 series lead with the Game 5 road W! #WeTheNorth#NBAPlayoffs— NBA (@NBA) May 24, 2019
Game 6: Saturday (5/25), 8:30pm/et, TNT pic.twitter.com/P9LbfQExmk
Fred VanVleet comes up big
Fred VanVleet will always remember his performance in Game 5.
The backup Raptors guard finished with 21 points and was plus-28 for the game. He also hit seven of his nine three-point attempts, including a huge triple late in the fourth quarter.
NEVER STOP BETTING ON YOURSELF! pic.twitter.com/FEitpKwEVe— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) May 24, 2019
VanVleet was terrible to open the series as he was just four-of-20 shooting over the first three games and some were calling for his minutes to be reduced. But, he has reached double figures in each of the past two matchups and appears to have found his rhythm, which is a good sign for the Raptors.
Bucks' lineup change doesn't pay off
Early in the game, it seemed as if the Bucks were going to benefit from coach Mike Budenholzer's adjustments.
Budenholzer replaced Nikola Mirotic with Malcolm Brogdon in the starting lineup, which gave Milwaukee an additional ball handler and more shooting in their first unit. That change allowed Eric Bledsoe – who had struggled throughout the series – to focus more on creating his own offense.
For a time, that strategy worked and Bledsoe (20 points) was much improved in Game 5. The Bucks' bench, however, lacked scoring punch without Brogdon (18 points) – Mirotic did not score in nine minutes – and the move may have ultimately hurt the team.
It will be interesting to see who Budenholzer starts on Saturday.