Raptors star Kawhi Leonard led all players in scoring and rebounding with 27 points and 17 rebounds, including a clutch offensive rebound in the final seconds of the game that was essentially the nail in the coffin of the Bucks.
Kawhi Leonard hustles over 4 Bucks players to get the offensive rebound on Siakam's freethrow miss pic.twitter.com/rSYZFvQYWY— The Render (@TheRenderNBA) May 26, 2019
The Bucks were actually in control for most of the game, having a 15-point lead in the third quarter. However, the Raptors started to hit their stride late in the third quarter, led by former Finals MVP Leonard and his quiet will to win.
MIL led 76-61 with 2:18 left in the third quarter. It's now 87-79 for TOR with 6:46 left in the fourth.— Jeff Siegel (@jgsiegel) May 26, 2019
2019 NBA MVP candidate Giannis Antetokuonmpo led the Bucks with 21 points and 11 rebounds, but shot only 7-for-18 from the field — consistent with the Bucks’ shooting struggles as a team, Antetokuonmpo shot just 1-for-5 from the field in the fourth quarter. As a team, the Bucks shot just 36.8% from the field and 0-for-7 from the 3-point line in a disastrous fourth quarter offensively that will no doubt be dissected by fans in the days to come.
The Raptors now advance to face the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals, perhaps deriving confidence from the fact that they a) have home court advantage and b) beat the Warriors twice in the regular season. Yet perhaps the Raptors should chat with the Rockets about how much those advantages mean when playing the Warriors in the postseason: the 2018 Rockets, among the best teams in NBA history to miss the NBA Finals, had the same advantages against the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals and lost. The 2019 Rockets, still hungover and irritable from last year’s loss, won the regular season series with the Warriors and still lost.
As Jared Dubin of FiveThirtyEight wrote in a recent roundtable, “...I’d be more inclined to give those things weight if this were the first year of the Warriors’ run and not the fifth, and if we didn’t know that the Warriors essentially treat the regular season as an extended preseason.”
Nevertheless, this is an impressive accomplishment for the Raptors and their home crowd will no doubt be hyped for Games 1 and 2. The Finals will begin in Toronto on Thursday at 6 p.m. PST.