The No. 1 seeds in both conferences have not lost in their respective series. The Milwaukee Bucks head to Toronto leading 2-0, and the Golden State Warriors will attempt to close out the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday.
In Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, the Blazers jumped out to an early lead similar to the previous contest—this time up 18 points at the end of the second quarter. Once again, the defending champions switched into high gear after halftime to shift the momentum in their favor en route to a 110-99 victory.
In the Eastern Conference Finals, MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo looks poised to reach his first NBA Finals. He led the Milwaukee Bucks to a 125-103 victory Friday with a double-double (30 points and 17 rebounds). The three-time All-Star has overpowered Most Improved Player finalist Pascal Siakam in the paint.
Nonetheless, the Toronto Raptors can even the series on their home court. They've experienced some hiccups at Scotiabank Arena, losing Game 1 of their first-round series to the Orlando Magic and scoring a 2018-19 playoff-low 89 points in Game 2 against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Following a blowout loss in Milwaukee, Toronto must respond with a strong performance Sunday, specifically the supporting cast around Kawhi Leonard.
TV Schedule for Remaining Games
Game 3: Milwaukee at Toronto: Sunday, May 19 at 7 p.m. ET on TNT
Game 4: Golden State at Portland: Monday, May 20 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN
Game 4: Milwaukee at Toronto: Tuesday, May 21 8:30 p.m. on TNT
*Game 5: Portland at Golden State: Wednesday, May 22 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN
*Game 5: Toronto at Milwaukee: Thursday, May 23 8:30 p.m. on TNT
*Game 6: Golden State at Portland: Friday, May 24 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN
*Game 6: Milwaukee at Toronto: Saturday, May 25 at 8:30 p.m. ET on TNT
*Game 7: Portland at Golden State: Sunday, May 26 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN
*Game 7: Toronto at Milwaukee: Monday, May 27 at 8:30 p.m. ET on TNT
*indicates if necessary, Schedule courtesy of NBA.com.
Raptors Win Game 3, Lose Series in 5 Games
Leonard must question where his help is. Going into Game 3, he's one of four Raptors averaging double figures in points this series, but there's a deeper issue. Toronto's supporting cast doesn't have a consistent contributor.
The Robin to Leonard's Batman, guard Kyle Lowry scored 30 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the field in Game 1, but he struggled from the floor Friday, knocking down four of 13 attempts for 15 points. The five-time All-Star has been hot and cold throughout the 2018-19 postseason, converting on 43 percent of his field goals.
The Raptors have received little help from their big men. During the regular season, Siakam averaged 16.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per contest, but his numbers are down to 11.5 and 3.5, respectively, in this series. Marc Gasol has been a non-factor in two games, shooting a miserable 15.0 percent from the field.
Guard Norman Powell is averaging the most points (10) off Toronto's bench, and he only played 10 minutes in Game 1.
It's a completely different story for the Bucks. Even though guard Eric Bledsoe struggled through two games, converting on six of 22 shot attempts, Antetokounmpo has help with the heavy lifting on the offensive end.
Center Brook Lopez led the Bucks in scoring with 29 points in Game 1. Malcolm Brogdon has served as a consistent playmaker through the first two outings with 15 and 14 points, respectively.
Aside from Brogdon, Milwaukee's second unit had a quiet outing in the opening contest. George Hill and Ersan Ilyasova sparked the group Friday, converting on a combined 12 of 19 attempts from the floor for 30 points. The latter outscored all Raptors not named Kawhi Leonard:
Leonard took over the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Boston Celtics, and he's averaging 31 points in this series, but the three-time All-Star cannot win this matchup as a one-man show.
During the regular season, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse used a deep rotation that saw eight players average 20 or more minutes. More importantly, seven players produced at least 10 points per game—that depth has evaporated in the playoffs. Forward OG Anunoby's absence because of an appendectomy deals a hit to the second unit.
The starters alongside Leonard haven't been able to work off the attention of the team's star player. Milwaukee doesn't need to show too much concern for secondary and tertiary contributors. The Raptors may feed off home-court advantage in Game 3, but the Bucks will adjust and close the series in five games.
Warriors Sweep Blazers
We saw something of a replay from Thursday. The Blazers started quickly and then faded in the third quarter. For Portland, it's more troubling that guard Damian Lillard hasn't shot the ball well since Game 6 of the semifinals (.478). He talked about his offensive struggles after Saturday's contest:
The Warriors have double- and triple-teamed Lillard, and no one has stepped up for a big scoring night for Portland. Seth Curry and Rodney Hood have shown flashes off the bench. Meyers Leonard scored 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting Saturday. Nonetheless, his efforts didn't compensate for CJ McCollum and Lillard converting on 12 of 38 attempts from the floor. As a team, Portland shot 40 percent on field-goal attempts.
Is there more to the story?
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, Lillard suffered separated ribs in Game 2 of this series:
The Blazers have at least one more outing at home, but it's fair to wonder if we saw this team put forth their best collective effort in Games 2 and 3 to no avail. Portland's best player is reportedly battling through injury, but give props to the Warriors for their execution on both ends of the court.
Head coach Steve Kerr highlighted a strong defensive effort in the third quarter and forward Draymond Green's triple-double performance (20 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists) as the driving forces behind Saturday's victory:
Without Durant on the floor, Green has shown more aggressiveness with the ball in his hands. He's can dish 10 dimes, outmuscle his matchup for 10 boards and drive to the hoop for easy buckets.
Regardless of the missing pieces, Golden State's defense will be the key to a conference final sweep. Look for the Warriors to throw the knockout blow Monday to give their guys much-needed rest.