After a winning pick on Game 3, Nick Ballistreri previews Game 4 of the Bucks v Raptors Series and picks out the best bet in Toronto
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Nobody said it was going to be easy.
The Toronto Raptors, against all odds, survived Game 3 at home to make the series 2-1, and give themselves a fighter’s chance going forward. In a game that was by no means pretty, regulation wasn’t enough. Hell, one overtime wasn’t enough, as this one went into 2 OTs. In the end, all that matter to the Raptors was that they survived, 118-112. Toronto by no means has any chance to relax, as they still must win another game at home to guarantee a return trip for Game 6. Draftkings Sportsbook has the Bucks listed as -2.5 favorites, and -134 on the moneyline, while the Raptors are +116.
I sound like a broken record, but Kawhi Leonard continued his stellar postseason play. Leonard filled up the statsheet again, with 36 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists. Early on, Leonard landed awkwardly, leading everyone watching to wonder just how healthy he was. Whether the injury was bothering him or not, he did a good job hiding it.
Starting point guard Kyle Lowry fouled out of the game with over 6 minutes left in regulation, the second straight game he struggled staying on the floor. As a veteran leader, he must do a better job picking his spots defensively to stay out of foul trouble. With one of their leaders down, and the Raptors facing a 3-0 hole, Leonard took matters into his own hands. In the 2nd overtime alone, Leonard had 2 key dunks, including an emphatic left handed-slam that brought the crowd at Scotiabank Arena into a frenzy. If you had any questions about whether Kawhi Leonard is a superstar, don’t question it anymore: He is a bonafide superstar.
For what seems like the first time all series, Kawhi had some help. Pascal Siakam had a solid game, tallying 25 points and 11 rebounds, on 9-18 shooting. This is what the Raptors have come to expect from him, but weren’t seeing in this series to this point. In a key spot with 8 seconds left however, Siakam was at the line with 2 free throws, up 2 with a chance to seal the game. Normally an impressive shooter at the line, he missed both, leaving the door open for Khris Middleton to tie the game and send it to overtime. Lucky for Siakam and the Raptors, they survived.
It took all postseason, but Giannis finally struggled. Although he finished with a ridiculous 23 rebounds, Antetokounmpo was not his normal self, finishing with only 12 points, recording more turnovers than made field goals. Much of this can be credited to Raptors coach Nick Nurse’s change in strategy, applying Kawhi Leonard to most of the coverage of Antetokounmpo throughout the game. Fighting injury, Kawhi played solid defense on the MVP candidate.
After scoring 54 points in Game 2, the Bucks bench showed up again. Many thought the return of guard Malcolm Brogdon from injury would help the Bucks, but nobody expected this. Brogdon was phenomenal in Game 3, scoring 20 points off the bench, and hitting timely big shots down the stretch. George Hill, playing the role of savvy veteran off the bench, had another impactful game. Hill scored 24 points, while also securing 5 rebounds. Without these two players off the bench, and with Giannis struggling, there’s a good chance the Bucks would’ve been blown out of the building.
Now, the focus shifts to Game 4. The Bucks still hold a 2-1 advantage, and are looking at Game 4 as a chance to essentially seal this series. Toronto has reason to feel confident as well. They took care of business in Game 3, and even though it wasn’t pretty, they survived, which in the playoffs is the only thing that matters. They will need another stellar performance from Siakam, and Kyle Lowry to stay out of foul trouble to win Game 4 as well.
I liked the Raptors to win and cover -2.5 in Game 3 which they did, but I’m finding it hard to feel confident in a repeat performance in Game 4. The Bucks are frankly just a much deeper team, with more players who can have a big performance in any given game. Giannis Antetokounmpo had one of his worst games in recent memory, and it still took the Raptors 2 overtimes to finish them off. I can’t see Giannis having another off game, and Leonard’s injury scares me as the adrenaline of Game 3 has worn off. I like the Bucks to win Game 4, and I see a ton of value in taking the 2.5 points, as I see a pretty resounding victory coming. The Bucks will go back to Milwaukee up 3-1, looking to close this one out at home.