A couple key storylines through the five games of this series.
What a strange, yet compelling series this has been. After Lowry’s 4 points showing in game 1, and the Raptors utter collapse and demolishment in game 3, NBA fans - and certain pessimistic Raptors fans - had completely counted the Raps’ out.
But Toronto took the punch, suffered the blow (maybe grabbed onto the ropes a little bit) and was able to keep fighting - albeit staggered. They ducked a right hook, landed a body-blow and may have just scored a series-clinching uppercut. With the series at 3-2, the Raptors will be marching into Milwaukee on Thursday in search of a much-needed win. If Toronto can stick to their game plan, and keep their foot on the gas pedal, they can knock Milwaukee out, and down for the count.
Unleash the Powell
I’m not one to bash coaches. There’s so much going on that we - as the NBA fan - don’t have access to. I don’t act like I know more than an NBA coach, and I don't claim that any coach is wrong by doing "X", or not doing "Y". But I’m about to completely contradict myself for a split second.
What has taken so long to give minutes to Norman Powell?
Powell didn’t see the light of day until the light of the Raptor’s playoff hopes were dimmed.
I mean, seriously? At this point, anybody but Carroll. Jokes aside, this is the move Casey needed to make. I can’t be the only one who wishes he made it earlier, but I’m glad it’s been made nonetheless. Powell is a really freaking good basketball player. He shoots the three, defends at a high level, can play as a 2-guard or a wing, he’s a freak athlete and has a “beyond his years” feel to the game. Between him and Westbrook, I think there’s something in the water at UCLA.
In his two starts (and two games of solid minutes), he put up a 12/4/4 and a monstrous 25/4/4 with 3 steals on 73% shooting! The best part about his play has come beyond the stats. He is a truly versatile defender, and he gives the Raptors a much-needed jolt of energy when he sets foot on the floor.
The Raps’ have won both games since starting Powell, and his spot for Thursday’s game will be guaranteed. For once, Norm is on a long leash and is playing freely; not worrying if he’s going to play 25 minutes or get a DNP. The insertion of Powell into this match-up has caused all kinds of problems for Milwaukee (especially Middleton), and his contribution may just be the right hook that helps Toronto send Milwaukee into submission.
Fear the Dear: Swarm the Freak, Respect the Moose
From the bottom of my heart, Giannis is going to be the MVP one day. He has arguably been the best player in this series, and he's only 22! In fact, here are the ONLY other players in this series who are YOUNGER than the Greek Freak.
Rashad Vaughn: Two years younger
Thon Maker: Two years younger (also quite mind-boggling)
Bruno Caboclo: One-year younger
Jakob Poeltl: One-year younger
Off topic, I know, but these are the kind of Giannis facts that truly blow me away. He is so very young. To think that he could be in his senior year of College is insane. Imagine what kind of havoc he could wreak in a College game?
Over the past two games, the Raptors have done a better job at containing the Freak. When his immense, seven-foot frame bounds towards the Raptors paint, they’ve done a much better job at clogging the lane and making him dish it. He’s a willing passer, and a good one at that, but this game plan change going into game 4 forced him to cough up seven turnovers. He’s still good enough to hit his teammates in the chest whilst on the run, but it’s a pick your poison kind of situation. In this case, I’d rather take my chances with a Brogdon three than a Giannis rim attack.
Greg Monroe is 26 years of age, seeing his first ever playoff series action. He’s been a handful. I’ll admit it; I greatly underestimated his impact on the series. His back-to-basket game has been a force to be reckoned with. When he’s on the court, he adds another element to Milwaukee’s offensive arsenal, and he’s had such a great series so far.
It turns into a chess match between Casey and Kidd. Thon will be on JV, and Casey will go smaller with Patterson at the five for some floor spacing. Kidd will match Casey, and raise him one Greg Monroe; a body much too big for most power forwards.
The Raptors were able to keep him to only 11 points in game 5, but he’s been deadly and equally efficient in games 1 through 4; 14/15, 18/4, 16/7 and 14/9, all on extremely efficient shooting. Greg Monroe has a player option for $17 Million this summer. If he helps to force a game 6 along with a strong showing in a potential game 7, there’s a chance that he may even decline the option for a bigger, long-term deal, and a starting spot somewhere like Phoenix, LA, Sacramento, Dallas, New York, Charlotte etc.
Marching into Game 6
Casey and his squad have a huge game coming up this Thursday. A collapse and a reliance on a game 7 could send the fans into a spiral. There are levels to it, you and I know.
For games’ 4 and 5, the Raptors have looked like the much better team without a doubt. As they should - they’re so much deeper and experienced then this Bucks team. The Raptors massacre on the 20th seemed to wake them up. They’re too good to need a wake-up game, but you have to roll with the punches.
The last time they left Milwaukee, they left with a win. Hopefully, they can do the same in game 6 - but leave with the series as well. Coming Thursday, if the Raptors can pull off the win, it will be the first time in the Casey/Lowry/Demar/JV-era, that they’ve won a playoff series, and had it not go to game 7! Through the ups and demoralizing downs that they’ve suffered this series, they’ve bounced back, and they will continue to bounce back. They always do.