NBA / eric bledsoe
3 Keys to a Bucks' Victory in Game 5
Welcome back all, a great performance from the Raptors' supporting cast in game 4 has turned the Eastern Conference Finals into a series. After Milwaukee came out painfully flat in game 1, and were out-played for the first 3 quarters, but managed a 10-0 run to finish the game, and 'steal' the first game 108-100, many wondered if blowing one they "should have won" would lead to a quick exit for the Raptors. After completely annihilating the Raptors in game 2, the talk quickly shifted to how dominant the Bucks were, and their likely matchup with Golden State in the Finals, leaving Toronto as basically an afterthought. The Raptors responded by eking out a game 3 win in double OT to save their season, and then got a dominant game 4 win, where their supporting cast finally showed up. Chances are Toronto's role players and bench most likely got sick of hearing how inferior they were to the Bucks' role players and bench - and they played like they had something to prove in game 4. Now, the series shifts back to Milwaukee for the ever-important game 5, with things all knotted up 2-2. The Bucks have been very difficult to beat at Fiserv Forum all season long, including going 6-1 at home so far this postseason. So what do the Deer need to do to reclaim control of the series and continue to take care of their homecourt, and get a victory in game 5? Here are 3 keys to accomplishing exactly that: 1) Get More Creative on the Offensive End The Bucks are the most comfortable - and most dangerous of course when they are out running in transition. However, their half-court offense has been pretty archaic most of the time and was curtailed pretty well by Toronto in games 3 & 4. Having Giannis get the ball and attack off the dribble has been a wise strategy all season long. However, in games 3 & 4 the Raptors switched it up a bit and picked up Antetokounmpo closer to the 3-point line than sagging a big and waiting in the paint. They've been quick to collapse and have forced Giannis into more turnovers then usual in the two victories. While the scoring was better in game 4 - 25 for Giannis versus just 12 in game 3, he's only managed 12 assists versus 12 turnovers in the two losses. "The battering ram" strategy continues to create foul opportunities, but the 'Greek Freak' took a few hard ones on the chin in the two games in Toronto, and only shot 8 of 17 from the foul line. The shooters have yet to click fully in this series (albeit Khris Middleton finally woke up and turned in 30 in the game 4 loss). That being said, there is plenty of talent and plenty of shooters to get much more creative. Eric Bledsoe needs to play better (more on that in a moment), but there are other ways to get the O going. Having Giannis post up a bit more could be a bit of a refreshing interjection into an offense that has turned stagnant at times over the last two games. Antetokounmpo has proved more than capable of being a brilliant scorer & facilitator out of the post, let's see more of that. Eric Beldsoe & George Hill running a few pick n rolls with Brook Lopez and Nikola Mirotic would certainly help create some new looks for the Raptors to contend with as well. A few new wrinkles and points of attack in the half-court might be just enough to get the offense clicking like it was throughout game 2 & the second half of game 1. 2) Eric Bledsoe needs to reappear The quick point guard has all but disappeared as this series has went on. His shooting struggles have lasted all postseason long, but his struggles have been worse against the Raptors. After getting in some extra shooting ahead of game 4, Bledsoe still struggled and only managed 5 points on 2-7 shooting (0-2 3pt FG) in just 20 minutes of action. The Bucks still have the advantage of being the deeper and fresher team in this series. Taking advantage of that should be key - Bledsoe was at his best against Boston while attacking the basket and that would be very much welcomed against Toronto. However, the Raptors are better defensively as they have shown - especially in the half court. The best thing for Milwaukee to help get Bledsoe going would be to run some early pick n pops and try to get either an easy drive to the basket or an early triple from Lopez or Mirotic. From there? Work it into Giannis in the post from time-to-time as noted above, to give the Raptors a different look to contend with and most importantly get out and run! Yes, that is easier to do when the other team is missing shots (which Toronto didn't do much of in game 4), but regardless, the pedal should be to the metal for Milwaukee for all 4 quarters. The Bucks have still managed to win a game in this series while coming out horrendously flat (game 1) and nearly won a game where they played & shot absolutely awful (game 3). Time to settle in, and get back to playing their game - getting Bledsoe going off the drive - and finding creative ways to get Giannis the ball all while running, running, running full steam at Toronto throughout. 3) The Supporting Cast Needs to Flex Their Muscle Once Again The Bucks' supporting cast was magnificent throughout games 1 & 2, and really throughout this postseason, up until game 3 that is. Nikola Mirotic (3-11), Khris Middleton (3-16), and Eric Bledsoe (3-16) combined to shoot just 9-43 (20.9%) in the game 3 loss. Yes, George Hill stepped up yet again this postseason, and led the team with 24, but that in itself is a problem when Hill is the leading scorer. Brogdon was solid with 20 points on 8 of 17 shooting, but he went ice cold in game 4, finishing with just 4 points on 2-11 shooting. Erlan Ilyasova was held to just 9 points total in games 3 & 4 after scoring 16 in game 2. Mirotic (4-10) and Bledsoe (2-7) once again struggled in game 4 as well. Hill followed up his 24-point game 3 with just 5 points in 27 minutes in game 4. If Ilyasova can play more like he did in games 1 & 2 off the bench, Bledsoe can get it going, Mirotic can find his shooting a bit, and Brogdon and Hill can find better consistency again, then the Bucks are going to be incredibly difficult to beat in Milwaukee. Granted that is a lot to get going all at once, but the good thing is the Bucks' offense is built to withstand off games from any one or two of their key players. The Bucks have yet to lose three straight on the season, and the losses in games 3 & 4 was just the second time they dropped back- to- back games all season long. The shooting should improve, and a few new, fresh looks in the half-court could be just the catalyst to get them clicking at full-steam again heading into the all-important game 5 from Fiserv Forum.
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