NBA Playoffs 2019: Remaining Schedule, Predictions for Conference Finals

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 22, 2019

TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 21: Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors handles the ball against the Milwaukee Bucks during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2019 NBA Playoffs on May 19, 2019 at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

The 2019 Eastern Conference finals is now a best-of-three series.

The Toronto Raptors held serve on their home floor, knocking off the Milwaukee Bucks 120-102 on Tuesday night. Six different Raptors reached double figures, paced by Kyle Lowry's 25 on 6-of-11 shooting from the field, 3-of-7 outside and a perfect 10-of-10 at the charity stripe.

The home team has won all four games in this series, which is perhaps the best news the Bucks can take back with them to Milwaukee after dropping consecutive contests north of the border.

After laying out the remaining schedule and taking a deeper look at how the teams reached this position, we'll predict what happens next below.

                  

2019 NBA Playoff Schedule

Eastern Conference Finals

Game 1: Wed, May 15, Bucks 108, Raptors 100

Game 2: Fri, May 17, Bucks 125, Raptors 103

Game 3: Sun, May 19, Raptors 118, Bucks 112 (2OT)

Game 4: Tue, May 21, Raptors 120, Bucks 102

Game 5: Thu, May 23, Raptors at Bucks, 8:30 p.m. ET on TNT

Game 6: Sat, May 25, Bucks at Raptors, 8:30 p.m. ET on TNT

*Game 7: Mon, May 27, Raptors at Bucks, 8:30 p.m. ET on TNT

*if necessary

                   

TORONTO, ONTARIO - MAY 21: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors high fives teammates during the second half against the Milwaukee Bucks in game four of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals at Scotiabank Arena on May 21, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO U
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

All due respect to the old adage about playoff series only starting when a road team wins, but Tuesday's contest opened things up for the first time.

The Bucks looked rusty in the series opener—they'd been off a week after dispatching the Boston Celtics by gentleman's sweep—but recovered in time to close the contest on a game-clinching 10-0 run. Game 2 was wire-to-wire dominance, as Milwaukee never trailed and led by as many as 28 points.

Even Game 3 didn't cast the rosiest outlook on the Raptors' chances. Sure, they scored their first victory of the series, but they needed two overtimes to survive, despite Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe combining for more shots (48) than points (32) and more turnovers (16) than assists (15).

Game 4 was different, though.

Middleton (30 points, 11-of-15) and Antetokounmpo (25 points, 10 rebounds) were razor-sharp. Conversely, Kawhi Leonard (19 points in 34 minutes) and Pascal Siakam (7 in 23) were almost silent by their standards.

This win was about doing something so many thought they couldn't—beating the Bucks with depth. Lowry and Marc Gasol combined for 42 points on 22 field-goal attempts and 13 assists against one turnover. Raptors reserves Serge Ibaka, Norman Powell and Fred VanVleet totaled 48 points, 25 more than Milwaukee's second team.

This was only the second time all season the Bucks dropped back-to-back games. While they certainly have the personnel to rally back, this is also the first time this nucleus has faced major adversity. No one knows how they'll respond, but the early mood apparently isn't great:

Of course, narratives can change in an instant this time of year. It was only a few days ago when Milwaukee's 2-0 lead felt almost insurmountable.

But there's no doubt momentum has shifted in a big way since.

Leonard tweaked his leg early in Game 3, which ended up being a 52-minute night for him. He wasn't quite himself two nights later. You'd have been forgiven for thinking that was the recipe for a Toronto loss.

And yet, here we are. As the series shifts to Milwaukee, so do the question marks.

Can Eric Bledsoe, 11-of-45 for the series, find his way out of this funk? Does this startup contender have the mental fortitude to put Tuesday's dispiriting loss behind it? Will Toronto's second-team awakening take away one of Milwaukee's top on-paper advantages?

Our crystal ball still likes the Bucksbarely. They were the better team this season, they've been the better team these playoffs, and their roster grades a pinch higher on the eye test.

But what felt like Milwaukee's series to lose now seems like a coin flip. As Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer put it, "It's going to be a hell of a series."

Prediction: Bucks in seven.

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