The Raptors are back in business. After dropping the first two games on the road in Milwaukee, the Raptors played desperate in Game 3 to pick up a win in double-overtime. It was a thriller of a game, with Marc Gasol getting it started and Kawhi Leonard bringing it home. There was missed free throws, big steals, limping players, and everything else that you would expect from a double-overtime game. That emotional roller-coaster is over though. Game 4 is here, and the Raptors are looking to even up the series at two games apiece.
The key points haven’t changed much. The Raptors are confident in their half-court defense against Giannis Antetokounmpo, but they aren’t as strong defending transition. Milwaukee scored 29 fast-break points in Game 3 (to the Raptors 18) and Antetokounmpo grabbed 23 rebounds. Not a good recipe when both teams get on the move.
Besides that, the Raptors will need to get their offense going. Can Danny Green, Fred VanVleet, and Pascal Siakam make some threes? Can the Raptors keep the offensive flow they had in the first half of Game 3? What will Kawhi Leonard be able to do after logging 52 minutes in Game 3?
The Raptors, as a franchise, have only been here once before. That was back in 2016 when the DeMar DeRozan-led Raptors took Game 4 from the LeBron James-led Cavaliers. Can they do it again?
Here are your details for tonight’s game.
Where to Watch:
TSN, 8:30 PM EST
Toronto - Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol
Milwaukee - Eric Bledsoe, Khris Middleton, Nikola Mirotic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez
Toronto - OG Anunoby (appendectomy - out), Patrick McCaw (personal - out)
Milwaukee - Donte DiVincenzo (heel - out), Pau Gasol (foot - out), D.J. Wilson (ankle - questionable)
It has been a struggle on offense for Fred VanVleet and Danny Green this series. In three games against Milwaukee, VanVleet has shot 4-of-20 with two made threes in 68 minutes. Green has been just as poor, shooting 4-of-20 with four made threes in 91 minutes.
Despite the poor shooting, VanVleet and Green are still solid options for Nick Nurse in Game 4. They have provided solid defense all playoffs long and have a track record of above-average shooting. Danny Green lit a Finals on fire in 2013 and Fred VanVleet is a career 37.7 percent three-point shooter (regular season and playoffs). Who else can Nurse play? One potential stop-gap, Patrick McCaw, is not available for Game 4 and Jodie Meeks, a plug-and-play maestro, rarely cracks the rotation anymore.
It is important that VanVleet and Green get off to a good start tonight. As we saw in Game 3, three-pointers will be available to shoot in the flow of the offense right away. The Bucks want you to prove it before they adjust their defense. The Raptors shot ten threes in the first quarter, a lot of them uncontested, and 45 for the game on a whole. Let’s see how many they shoot tonight.
Defending the Bucks
The Raptors are bringing it on defense. They posted their fourth best defensive rating of the playoffs in Game 3, holding Milwaukee to 93.3 points per 100 possessions.
The Raptors strategy, for the most part in Game 3, was to send hard doubles at Giannis Antetokoumpo in the post and sag off him at the three-point line. In the post, Antetokounmpo was a beat late finding the right pass, often turning the ball over (he had eight turnovers on the game). And when the Raptors (usually Leonard) sagged off Giannis, they were able to corral him effectively. (Leonard might be the best defender in the league retreating on ball handlers going into the paint. Seriously, check out this video from Coach Mike’s Youtube channel that shows the upright defensive stance Leonard uses. Skip to 1:55).
For tonight, the Raptors can once again rely on their stingy half-court defense. It will be their transition defense, however, that is the wild card. The Raptors are trailing the Bucks in fast-break points this series 83-to-51. Giannis can grab rebounds and go wild. Let’s see how Nick Nurse and his team deals with that tonight.
The Raptors, obviously, aren’t feeling one hundred percent. A few players looked pretty beaten up in Game 3. Kawhi Leonard was favouring his left leg, which he landed on awkwardly after a transition layup in the first quarter. Pascal Siakam had trouble reaching his top-gear, maybe still feeling the effects from his calf and hamstring injuries sustained last series. And finally, Kyle Lowry, who fouled out with six-minutes to go in the fourth quarter, was bothered by his left thumb, which had been previously dislocated.
If you were to go back and watch the first game of the Raptors playoffs, versus Orlando, the athleticism on the court would look a little different. The team was fresh. Boy how time flies. Tonight is the Raptors 16th playoff game. How much do they have left in the tank? Which team will be able to compete the hardest, for the longest amount of time? Tip-off awaits.