WARNING: DO NOT let the Raptors get hot.
This team has put me through some major ups and downs these playoffs, but it has come down to this: Best of 3 series for the Eastern Conference Championship and a shot at the title against the defending Golden State Warriors. As many may know, game 5 takes place at 8:30pm on Thursday night and I cannot stress this enough, not only is this the biggest game of the season; it is more than anything a Must Win™. Losing game 1 in Milwaukee after Kyle’s 30 point performance was heartbreaking and I felt as though game 2 would chalk up to be the must win road game, but now that we have been put in this position, it is no doubt that game 5 is the make or break game of this series. I will go as far as to say the winner of game 5 will in fact be the winner of this round and I am hoping the Raptors roster can prevail as they did in games 3 & 4 to steal this one in Wisconsin. Below I will outline the 3 keys to success for the Raptors to not only steal game 5 but to lock up this series as well.
Obviously the reasons for the last two home wins came from a major boost out of Toronto’s depth players. Playoff Powell finally arrived with a 19-point outing on Sunday’s double overtime victory followed by an 18-point performance in Tuesday’s win. This comes in 30 and 32 minutes of playtime respectively while shooting a total 42% from the field and 80% from beyond the arc. I cannot remember a time where he has played this well all season, but I am glad to see him catching fire at the right moments. The other players that we need to see continued success from are Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet. Both players saw pivotal minutes, specifically in Tuesday night’s blowout win where they combined for 30 points in nearly 25 minutes each. Serge will be coming off a 17 point, 13 rebound double-double that featured 4 offensive boards and Steady Freddy a 13 point, 6 assist performance where he shot 5/6 from the field and 3/3 from the 3-point mark. If we want to have any chance in Milwaukee on Thursday night, depth scoring will definitely be the x-factor.
Although depth scoring is a major key, the Raptors also need a boost from their starters, specifically “Inconsistent P” (Pascal Siakam) and Danny “Monopoly Money” Green. We all know that Kawhi is a superstar and that he is usually good for 25+ points a game w,hile also being a lockdown defender but because he is the main focal point on offense, players like Lowry, Siakam and Green have to provide assistance in terms of secondary scoring. Kyle Lowry has actually been quite the surprise this series averaging just over 20 points per game in about 36 minutes of work while also shooting around 52.2% from the field. Where my biggest concern arises is from the inconsistent play by both Siakam and Green. Neither one has truly impressed me yet this series although Pascal did drop 25 in the Sunday night overtime thriller. Besides that, in the other three games, he has averaged about 10 points and 3.7 rebounds, which both fall well below his regular season averages. Danny Green on the other hand has been a much worse form of human garbage. The man that we’ve relied on for most of the year to be our go to 3 and D player has somehow forgot how to shoot 3’s. In the 4 games against Milwaukee he has shot an atrocious 4/16 (25%) from beyond the arc and has only averaged just over 5 points per game. To put that in perspective that is about half of his regular season PPG (10.3) and almost half his 3PT% (45.5%). I am not sure what is causing this slump but all I know is, he is due for a big game and if anything, he owes us one. With a balanced scoring attack and a formulated game plan there is no reason why we can’t steal game 5 and lock this series up in 6.
The Greek Freak or as some may call him the Travelling Tower (name is still in the works) is the biggest problem on the floor for the Toronto Raptors. He is literally a ‘walking’ double-double and can wreak havoc under the rim if not contained properly. It is clear Kawhi Leonard is not playing at 100% but he continues to grind on both ends of the floor as the series drags on. If the Raptors and their team defense can manage to not necessarily shutdown Antetokounmpo but limit his high efficiency opportunities then I am fine with forcing one of their secondary guys to beat us. Players like Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez can tend to heat up from time to time but I rather take my chances with them beating us than Giannis. Obviously if the Raptors can carry over the energy and intensity from games 3 & 4 this is their series to control.
I also wanted to get my word in on the Drake controversy and share my two cents for what it’s worth. Personally I think Drake’s antics are slightly out of hand, but I also think he is a loyal fan to this team and wants to be part of the winning atmosphere. All publicity is good publicity in his case and if it manages to distract our opponent, I am all for it. Buck’s coach Mike Budenholzer issued a statement basically saying that there is no room for fans on the court but personally I think he was just mad that his team was down 20 and he wasn’t getting a personal massage from October’s Very Own. As long as the Raptors don’t let it distract them from the task at hand then I have no problem with it. This is the type of stuff that happens when fans have a front row seat to these games and it will continue to happen as long as court-side seating exists.
RAPS IN 6 BABY!