What should we expect the rest of the way in this compelling Eastern Conference finals?
Will Kawhi Leonard add another legendary performance to his double-OT effort from Game 3?
Do Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and his teammates have the proper game plan end a two-game losing streak?
Has Milwaukee bench boss Mike Budenholzer made key adjustments since Game 4?
Will the Bucks be able to push the pace against the agile Toronto defenders? (The Bucks’ mediocre 13 fast-break points was one of the deciding factors in Game 4.)
Raptors coach Nick Nurse doesn’t want to give the Bucks the opportunity to run at will.
“Anytime it comes off the rim, they’re at a huge advantage,” Nurse told reporters a few days ago. “Because they’re playing downhill on you … When you blow a layup or you get knocked down or something and the ball is still in play, they come at you in transition.”
Playing imposing defense is, of course, easier said than done. But credit the Raptors for how they’ve handled the Greek Freak in bouncing back from an 0-2 series deficit to even things up at 2-2. Holding him to 12 points in Game 3 and a hard-earned 25 in Game 4 was no easy task.
As Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star observed, “Toronto has been greeting Giannis with a multi-layered walls of coverage even he can’t quite seem to hurdle.”
With the high stakes of a trip to the NBA Finals on the line, expect great urgency and intensity from both teams in Thursday’s Game 5 in Wisconsin.
Will Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton come close to his 30-point, Game 4 performance in back-to-back games?
Will Raptors veteran center Marc Gasol continue to be a rock-solid offensive catalyst after a slow start in this series? (The burly big man had 17 points and seven assists in Game 4. What’s more, his 2.5 blocks per game is tops on his team.)
Can Antetokoumpo drastically cut down his turnovers? (He leads both teams with 21, nine more than Leonard.)
Impact of 3-point shooting
Can Kyle Lowry continue to give the Raptors a big boost from the perimeter? (He’s knocked down 15 of 31 3-pointers in the series.)
Will the Bucks regain their 3-point shooting rhythm? (There’s been a huge difference in their shooting success early in possessions and in the second half of the 24-second shot clock. As NBA.com’s John Schuhmann reported, “In the first 12 seconds of the shot clock, the Bucks have shot 34-for-96 (35 percent) from 3-point range. In the last 12 seconds of the shot clock, they’ve shot just 15-for-68 (22 percent) from 3-point range.”)
Furthermore, can the Bucks’ Eric Bledsoe rediscover his 3-point shooting touch? (He’s 2-for-19 through four games.)
Milwaukee’s long-range shooting affects everything it does on offense, including setting Antetokoumpo up to operate in the lane.
Will feisty forward Serge Ibaka be the X-factor for the Raptors in Game 5? (He provided 17 points and 13 rebounds off the bench in Game 4.)