Game 4 was supposed to be the game the Bucks built off the momentum they had roared forward with an absolute dismantling in Game 3 in Milwaukee. Well, that didn’t end up being quite the outcome. The Bucks shot poorly, and turned the ball over at an alarming rate. Giannis, for the first time all season, looked lost and ill-prepared. Instead of rising to the occasion, he seemed to shrink under the pressure. That’s not to say he’s the sole reason for the Bucks struggle, but the young Buck is certainly the tempo setter and he failed to deliver in arguably the biggest game of his career to date. The series ended up tied at 2-2 instead of a commanding 3-1 Bucks lead.
With their poor performance both shooting the ball and protecting it, there’s nowhere to go but up. A major positive for Game 5 is that Demar Derozen’s performance was pretty close to flawless, despite pretty reasonable defense. The odds of him having another great game like that against the Bucks length are not in his favor, especially if the rest of the series has been any indication. He was hitting tough shot after tough shot. Some times there is simply nothing you can do as a defender when a 25+ppg scorer gets in a zone like that. Do not expect that to continue.
Another major counter the Raptors made was moving Serge Ibaka to the center, and starting Norman Powell instead of their lumbering big man Jonas Valanciunas. This helped neutralize the Bucks athletic long starting lineup, but the bigger impact was honestly shown in the 2nd unit. Greg Monroe has feasted all series on the subpar depth of the big men on a Raptors team that most expected to be the biggest competition to the defending NBA champion Cavaliers. Instead, they have been given all they can handle by a Bucks team that features someone who should be in the top 3 of the 6th man of the year conversation. Valanciunas is a much more effective counter to Monroe, and is playing a physical style of play that has given the Raptors a bit more of a counter than they had in the first 3 games.
Game 5 is absolutely pivotal. Whoever loses will be on the brink of elimination, and when you’re playing a playoff-tested team like the Raptors you never want to be facing an elimination game instead of being able to close out the series in a Game 6 matchup coming up in Milwaukee. The Bucks need to come out and defend with tenacity, something they have been doing all series, as well as protect the ball. Giannis needs to come back strong for arguably his worst performance of the 2016-2017 season, and set the tone with what is now known as “Nasty Giannis”. Another swing factor should be Thon Maker. He has played fantastic all series in his limited minutes, and it’s inexplicable when he’s on the bench in the fourth quarter now. A month ago, that probably would have been a ridiculous thing to say. Now? He’s a floor spacing big man that has the ability to change a game on both sides of the ball. They need to win game 5, and to do that, some changes need to be made to counter the ones the Raptors made in Game 4.