G5 – Raptors at Bucks

Predictions | Conference Finals Odds | Playoff Results

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Eastern Conference Finals – Game 5 -- Series tied 2-2
No. 2 Toronto at No. 1 Milwaukee (-7/216.5), TNT, 8:30 p.m. ET
May 21 – Raptors (+3, +135) 120 vs. Bucks 102 (Over 217.5)
May 19 – Raptors (-2) 118 vs. Bucks 112, 2OT (Over 221.5)
May 17 – Bucks (-6.5) 125 vs. Raptors 103 (Over 219)
May 15 – Bucks (-6.5) 108 vs. Raptors 100 (Under 218)

Jan. 31 – Bucks (+2.5) 105 at Raptors 92 (Under 232)
Jan. 5 – Raptors (+5.5) 123 at Bucks 116 (Over 227)
Dec. 9 – Bucks (+5) 104 at Raptors 99 (Under 229.5)
Oct. 29 – Bucks (+2) 124 vs. Raptors 109 (Over 222.5)

It wasn’t all that stunning that the Raptors got even at home against the Bucks on Tuesday night.

Toronto was one of the NBA’s top home teams, finishing in a tie for third with its 32-9 mark in its gym. Although both the Magic and 76ers got a game up at ScotiaBank Arena, each team saw their season end there. Game 3 saw the Bucks fight gamely, but ultimately fall short in double-overtime as their inconsistent shooting finally proved too much to overcome.

The surprising part about the Eastern Conference finals entering a Game 5 at 2-2 revolves around how Toronto managed to notch things up, putting together its most complete effort of these playoffs in securing a 120-102 result on a night where star forward Kawhi Leonard was off his game, visibly hampered by a nagging quad injury.

Everyone from the assistant trainer to the PA announcer to super fan Drake stepped up.

Kyle Lowry finished with a team-high 25 points, his second-largest output of this postseason, setting the tone early by attacking. Marc Gasol had a team-high seven assists, finishing with 17 points and knocking down three 3-pointers. Serge Ibaka relieved him and delivered 17 points and 13 rebounds in 24 minutes, while Norman Powell came in and ultimately fired up 13 shots from beyond the arc, knocking down four and often finding himself on the business end of a wide-open look as the Raptors manipulated Milwaukee’s defense with their ball movement.

Backup point guard Fred VanVleet hit five of six shots after entering Tuesday’s game 4-for-20 in the series, which was an improvement on shooting 12.9 percent in the 76ers series.

Toronto looked capable of winning a championship in Game 4, showing off its skill, length and depth.

Whether it can sustain that excellence remains to be seen, especially since the Eastern Conference finals shift back to Milwaukee, where the Bucks have only lost once in these playoffs and posted the top home record (33-8) in the East, finishing only behind Denver (34-7) in the entire NBA.

Depth was expected to be a major asset for the Raptors, but then the playoffs arrive and VanVleet and Ibaka went into a shell. Powell has been hit-or-miss and Nick Nurse has committed to solely using an eight-man rotation, so that perceived edge went out the window. No one who watched Toronto overcome Philadelphia’s talent would doubt the Magic of Leonard, but he’s clearly not 100 percent after aggravating a leg injury in the first half of Game 3. Considering he’s averaging 38.4 minutes per playoff game and has logged the fourth-most miles per game this postseason, per Second Spectrum, it’s unlikely he’ll be even 75 percent again in this series given the venue changes going forward before an Eastern Conference champion is decided.

Despite dominating the Bucks on Tuesday, the line opened with Milwaukee as a 6.5-to-7-point favorite. VegasInsider.com NBA expert Kevin Rogers points out that this critical swing game in a series has historically been a rough one for teams coming out of the visiting locker room, particularly this season.

“Backing the home team in Game 5 of the playoffs with the series tied at 2-2 has been money in the bank in 2019. Home squads in this situation are 5-0 SU and 4-1 ATS this postseason,” Rogers said. “The Warriors failing to cash as six-point favorites in a five-point win over the Rockets in the second round is the lone non-cover. Dating back to the start of the 2018 playoffs, home teams have won 10 straight Game 5’s with a series tied at 2-2, including five victories by 10 points or more.”

Milwaukee led the league in point differential this season and have managed to cover all 10 times it has walked off the floor a winner in these playoffs, but we’re about to find out whether it has the mental fortitude to overcome adversity. If you believe the Bucks have the talent to dethrone the Warriors, you’re going to need to see how they respond to their first losing streak since March 4. This is only the second time they’ve dropped consecutive games this season and they didn’t lose a third in a row, rebounding to blow out the Pacers at home.

After being the lone team to post 60 victories this season and largely coasting through these playoffs prior to Sunday’s loss, the Bucks are going to be confronted with some tough questions about Giannis Antetokounmpo’s ability to lead a team and adjust to being the focal point of an opposing defense that has been designed to take the ball out of his hands and keep him from getting comfortable. Milwaukee led the NBA in offensive and defensive efficiency this season. In the playoffs, their offensive efficiency prior to going to Toronto was at 113.5, while their defensive efficiency was 98.4 for a league-best differential of +15.1.

In their losses to the Raptors, their offensive efficiency registered at 99.1, while their defensive number came in at 110.2. The Bucks looked like a shell of themselves. Will getting back home change matters the way it did for Toronto? Will we continue to see the Raps figure things out on the offensive end after their second and third-largest scoring output of the postseason?

The ‘over’ is on a 3-1 run in this series and Thursday’s total opened as high as 219 but is now sitting at 216.5 as of Thursday morning. VegasInsider.com totals expert Chris David offered up his thoughts on the number for Game 5.

“I was very surprised that Toronto put up 120 points in Game 4 after coming off a double-overtime victory in Game 3. The Raptors have always been a tough out at home and their ability to avoid the fatigue factor in this series against a deeper team was very impressive. The question I have now is how much gas does Toronto have left in its tank? The oddsmakers aren’t expecting the offense to travel, listing their Team Total at 105 ½ for Game 5 and based on what we’ve seen, you have to agree with them. The Raptors are averaging 100.1 PPG in seven road playoff games this season, and their highest output was 107 in Game 4 at Orlando in the first round,” said David. “If you’re handicapping is going to stick with the home-away tendencies, then I would put more trust in the Bucks offense.

“Milwaukee has averaged 114.7 PPG at the Fiserv Forum in seven games and despite that production, the ‘under’ has gone 4-3 but that’s because the Bucks defense (99 PPG) has been great in those games. Their Team Total is 112 ½ for Game 5 and a close game could certainly keep that number in check. However, this club hasn’t dropped three consecutive losses all season and the one time they did lose two in a row, they rebounded with a clinical 117-98 win at home. I believe Thursday’s outcome will be in the same neighborhood.”

If you’re interested on getting in on an exact series price:

7 Games Bucks Win +135
6 Games Bucks Win +175
6 Games Raptors Win +450
7 Games Raptors Win +500

If you’re looking for an x-factor, Bucks point guard Eric Bledsoe may be worth targeting in props since the bar is so low due to his brutal play thus far. The length of Pascal Siakam, who is playing off him and conceding the 3-pointer, has played a major role in keeping him from even getting started. Bledsoe, a borderline All-Star this season, has been terrible in the series, shooting 24 percent from the field and averaging 8.3 points after scoring 16 per game over the first two rounds. He shot 12-for-43 from beyond the arc against the Pistons and Celtics but is just 2-for-19 against the Raptors.

Malcolm Brogdon’s return gave Mike Budenholzer another option alongside George Hill, who has been surprisingly steady in these playoffs, but he shot just 2-for-11 in Game 4. Perhaps getting back home to Fiserv Forum will be the remedy for him as well. Shooters Khris Middleton, Nikola Mirotic, Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova are all capable of making Toronto pay for the extra attention they’re paying to Antetokounmpo, but most of them struggled in Toronto and must rediscover their stroke before they’re put in the first must-win situation of this postseason.

From that standpoint, the Raptors have the edge in experience, having already survived an elimination game against the 76ers, who they also won Game 5 against when that series was tied 2-2. Although Toronto has famously never reached an NBA Finals in franchise history, its leader is a champion.

How effective will Leonard be after another flight and another stretch of steady treatment? Can he continue to make big shots and be a steady force for the Raps’ halfcourt offense? Will he still be able to physically hang with the “Greek Freak,” making him work for everything?

The books are making it awfully easy to back Toronto if you believe Leonard can hold up physically, yet two-thirds of the early public money has come in on the favored Bucks.

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA or e-mail him at mejia@vegasinsider.com