A back-and-forth Eastern Conference first-round series between the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors now sees a clear favorite for Game 5. The squads have alternated wins and losses since Milwaukee took Game 1, and now the chance to go up 3-2 presents itself on Monday (7pm ET on NBATV).
The series has already taken plenty of twists and turns, so we should probably expect more of the same. After making zero field goals in eight attempts in a Game 3 loss, the Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan pumped in 33 points in Game 4 to give Toronto the win. Both squads’ three-point shooting abilities have come and gone at various points.
Will the Raptors, favoured by six points with the USA bookies, make a statement on their home floor, or will the Bucks continue with the back-and-forth win pattern the series has had so far? Let’s ask a few questions in this preview that will shape the outcome and then conclude with our Game 5 betting predictions and picks.
Can the Raptors Generate Any Sort of Ball Movement?
The Raptors’ biggest weakness as a team is their lack of ball movement. Their top two offensive players (DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry) are ball-dominant guards, and other key options are also hesitant to make the extra pass.
It is no coincidence that the Toronto offense has done better when it has gotten the ball moving. The Raptors had 24 assists in their Game 2 win, in which they scored 106 points. In the other three contests (average score: 83.7 points per game), Toronto averaged just 14.0 assists.
The Bucks have a quick and long defense, and the Raptors only play into Milwaukee’s hands when they settle into lots of one-on-one play. The ball moves faster than even the most athletic players in the NBA, so the Raptors need to take advantage of that fact.
Good ball movement also usually results in open three-pointers, which have been hard to come by for Toronto. The squad is just 30-of-96 (31.3 percent) is on its downtown looks in the series.
Who Wins the Matchup of Backup Bigs: Jonas Valanciunas or Greg Monroe?
Toronto made a move to counter the Bucks’ quickness in the frontcourt in Game 4 by inserting Norman Powell for Valanciunas as a starter. The move definitely worked, especially defensively.
The move opens up the matchup of post-up big men off the bench between Valanciunas and Monroe. Monroe has easily outplayed JV most of the series, despite them being similar in quality as players. You could argue that factor to be the key reason Milwaukee is tied in this series despite being an inferior squad during the regular season.
The two bruisers will match up against each other quite a bit in Game 5. Which guy will score more efficiently, rebound more and contribute more positively on the defensive end?
Can the Bucks Generate Enough Spacing for Giannis Antetokounmpo to Thrive?
The Bucks’ offense bottomed out in Game 4. After shooting 46.4 percent from three in the first three games of the series, Milwaukee drained only five of its 21 looks from downtown (23.8 percent). Tony Snell made all five of those shots.
Because of that incompetency from the outside, the team’s offense fell back into a problem it experienced for much of the regular season: Antetokounmpo, the squad’s best player, doesn’t have enough space on the floor to penetrate the middle of the floor and make things happen.
Not surprisingly, the Greek Freak shot just 6-of-19 for 14 points to go with four assists and seven turnovers. His performance is closely tied with how well his teammates can space the floor for him.
Our Preview’s Milwaukee Bucks vs Toronto Raptors Game 3 Picks & Betting Predictions
This has to be one of the toughest playoff games for this preview to predict in recent memory. Sure, Toronto being at home makes it the favorite, but Milwaukee has already surprised us plenty in this series.
I do expect somewhat of a breakout game for Raptors All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry, though. He has been poor so far in the series (14.3 points and 4.3 assists per game on 40.0 percent shooting), but he did contribute 14 points in the second half of Game 4.
- So the Raptors are favored by six points on the spread. I believe Toronto’s home crowd will be extremely raucous, which makes the odds of Toronto playing with energy and getting the benefit of the doubt on calls more likely. Pick them to cover that -6pts spread @ -110 with Bovada, MyBookie or 5Dimes Sportsbook.
- The over-under for this game is 192pts. This seems a bit too reactive to the rest of this series, which has been unexpectedly low-scoring. I expect at least one of the teams to get their three-point game going and make sure this number gets surpassed. My prediction is to bet the over 192pts @ -110 with Bovada, MyBookie, 5Dimes or BetOnline.