National Basketball Association

Raptors aim to top Bucks for NBA Finals berth

nba1BUCKS (10-4) AT RAPTORS (11-5)
8:30 p.m. ET; TNT, SN1, SNE, SNO, SNW

TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors will be looking to move on and the visiting Milwaukee Bucks will be hoping to stay alive Saturday night in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.

The host Raptors lead the best-of-seven series 3-2 after winning Game 5 in Milwaukee 105-99 on Thursday night. Another win will put them into the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.

The Bucks have an immediate goal of forcing a Game 7 Monday night on their home court.

The Raptors are approaching Game 6 warily, not trying to get ahead of themselves.

“Listen, this is a great team we’re playing,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “They are really good and deep and athletic and long and all kinds of stuff. This was a super hard win (Thursday), super hard. And we have to play with a tremendous amount of effort. Again, I think our keys are this: We’ve got to play good offense, not turn it over and score the basketball, because if you don’t, they’re getting what they want, which is downhill basketball in a hurry.

“If we can score it, if we can take care of it, we can get our defense set up, for the most part we get down and guard them and make the shots a lot tougher. We have to rebound the basketball. They’re a great rebounding team.”

Bucks center Brook Lopez is aware of the task at hand.

“We’re just on to the next game,” Lopez said. “We’re not thinking about winning two right now, obviously. We just want to go out there and get Game 6.”

Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo was emphatic.

“I’m (ticked), I’m not going to lie to you,” Antetokounmpo said. “We’ve got two more games to go and we can do this. … We’re the best team in the league, man. We’re not going to fold. We’re going to go and give everything we’ve got. We’re not going to go there and even (if) they set a great tone and come out and hit us in the mouth first — we can’t fold. We’re going to come back to Milwaukee being (ticked), like, you cannot fold. You’ve got to go out there and give everything you’ve got. If we lose, we lose. OK, cool. But we’re not going to fold as a team. That’s not what we do.”

As usual, Kawhi Leonard led Toronto’s scoring Thursday with 15 of his 35 points coming in the fourth quarter. He also added seven rebounds and a career-best nine assists.

“Just got to give credit to my teammates,” Leonard said. “They knocked down shots (Thursday) when I gave it to them, and I’m not a guy that really controls the ball the whole game.”

The Raptors have an advantage in playoff experience over the Bucks, and that could have been a factor already in this series and could be again in Game 6.

“Experience helps a lot,” Leonard said. “You know, just from my input, I’ve been here before. I’ve been to the finals, and it’s pretty much nothing new that I’m seeing out there. You just have to have fun with it and enjoy it. Like I told them (Thursday), we were down 10, I told them to enjoy the moment and embrace it, and let’s have fun and love it. This is why we’re here.”

Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova said it’s a mental game.

“I think it’s going to be about us showing our strength — not just physically,” Ilyasova said. “Mentally, because we have to be ready. They will come out full force, and not just them — the fans and everything. We have to stick together and play our best game.”

–By Larry Millson, Field Level Media

Stats by STATS

• Toronto has won three straight games — the Bucks’ first three-game losing streak all season — to take a 3-2 series lead. Teams leading 3-2 in a best-of-7 series in the NBA all-time have gone on to win the series 84.4 percent of the time (78.3 percent I n conference finals).

• The Raptors made a franchise playoff-record 18 three-pointers in Thursday’s 105-99 Game 5 win. They made just 13-of-41 (31.7 percent) two-point field goals, however, and 36.9 percent from the field overall — their lowest percentage all-time in a playoff win.

• Kawhi Leonard has scored 35 or more points seven times this postseason, after having eight such games in the regular season. The Raptors are 13-2 when he scores 35 or more (6-1 in playoffs).

• Over his last two games, Fred VanVleet has averaged 17.0 points on 10-of-12 three-point shooting (83.3 percent). In his first 15 games this postseason, VanVleet averaged 4.0 points on 8-of-41 three-point shooting (19.5 percent).

• Milwaukee is the first team to lose Games 3-5 of a conference finals after winning Games 1 and 2 since the Heat in 2012 against Boston (Miami went on to win the series). The Bucks have lost 12 of 13 series all-time when trailing 3-2, coming back only in the 2001 conference semifinals against the Hornets.

• In Game 5, Khris Middleton became the first Bucks player with at least 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a playoff game since Paul Pressey in Game 5 of the 1986 Eastern Conference semifinals versus the 76ers.

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