5 Reasons The Raptors Win Game 6
This isn’t the first time the Raptors have been in the Conference Finals but with their game five win in Milwaukee, they’ve reached uncharted territory. Following the lead of Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors have a chance to clinch the franchise's first NBA Finals. Thankfully, there’s been no LeBron in their path but they certainly haven’t had an easy route. First, they had to go up against the toughest of the bottom four Eastern playoff teams in Orlando. Next came a seven-game series against the Sixers that was decided by a buzzer beater which is still probably bouncing. Now, this. A matchup against a Bucks team and the MVP favourite who managed to win 60 games. Yes it's been a tough road but there's very little that can stop the Raptors. Here's what I think is going to help the Raptors win tonight's game 6.
1. Raptors Have The Edge In Experience
Despite saying this is uncharted territory for the team, a lot of the key players have been in this type of situation. They have three guys who have made it to the Finals (Kawhi, Danny Green and Serge Ibaka), two have a ring, and one won the Finals MVP. On top of that, there are three more guys who have made it to the Conference Finals (Kyle Lowry, Norm Powell and Marc Gasol). The Bucks, on the other hand, have only one player (George Hill) who’s made it out of the second round (not including Pau Gasol who is injured). The Raptors guys have not only made it much further, but all of them played major parts in their team’s success. A lot of times when push comes to shove in the playoffs, it’s the guys who have been there that are able to perform when it matters most.
2. The Raptors Have The Best Guy In The Series And Maybe The Playoffs
It’s no secret that Kawhi has been the best playoff Raptor but he’s also making a strong case that this is one of the best playoff runs EVER.
Just like with experience, the team with the best player in a playoff series generally wins. Kawhi has been that. Despite some struggles with injuries or soreness – whatever they want to call it –, Kawhi has still been better than Bucks star Giannis Antetonkoumpo on both ends of the court.
Giannis might win MVP of the regular season but Kawhi has definitely taken that title when it comes to this series.
3. Game 6 Is In The 6ix
Throughout the regular season, the Raptors dominated their home court winning 32 of a possible 41 games. Not much has changed in the playoffs. Milwaukee is much less intimidating on the road which we saw in games three and four. The fans (in and outside of the arena) are going to be going crazy adding even more pressure onto the inexperienced Bucks. In that 2016 ECF run, LeBron had to stop his interview mid-question to acknowledge how good the Raptors fans are. The atmosphere for game 6’s should top that. It is a closeout game and all.
4. Raps Have All The Momentum
Momentum in sports is a beautiful thing. The Raptors have won three straight games including their last one in Milwaukee deflating the Bucks and their fans. This is the first time this season the Bucks have dropped three in a row. Probably because it's the only time they've gone up against the Raptors three games in a row. The Bucks will surely come out of the gate swinging but as soon as the Raptors make their first big run they better watch out because the flood gates will open fast.
5. The Role Players Have Swapped
Coming into this series, the main issue with the Raptors was the bench. The main focus of said issues was Powell and FVV. Before game three, FVV hadn’t had 10 or more points in a contest since game one of the first-round series. He earned the name "Steady Freddy" back in games three and four of this series averaging 17 PTS on 63% FG and 83% 3PT. It’s hard to expect that same production in terms of his shooting but anything close in game six should be enough to put this team over the edge. Powell has forever been a notorious Bucks killer and that has stayed true in this series. He’s averaging a solid 13 PTS on 44% FG and 40% 3PT after struggling a bunch in the first two rounds. To go along with those two, Ibaka has continued his steady play and at times has looked dominant. On Milwaukee’s end, their role players have gone ice cold. It seems in the past three games some combo of Brogdon, Bledsoe, Middleton, Lopez, Mirotic, or Ilyasova have lost the ability to play to their strengths. Maybe it's the Raptors suffocating defence maybe, the stage is just a little too bright. Despite Danny Green and Pascal Siakam losing their touch, the other guys have been able to step up and contribute enough to help Kawhi grab a win.
Obviously, these aren’t the only factors that go into winning a series-deciding game but they will sway the outcome in Toronto’s favour. Building on the momentum of their past wins and the fans cheering them on, the Raptors role players and Kawhi should get that extra boost to put them over the top. I can’t say I would be disappointed if Saturday doesn’t end in a win but if there’s a game seven, the chances of moving on fall drastically. This is by no means a “must win” for the Raptors but it sure feels like the best opportunity to move on.
No matter the outcome, Raptors fans need to relish this moment because who knows? I’m not going to say it, but you know what I’m getting at. We could be witnessing history and this run will be something most will never forget. Imagine how much better this memory will be if on Sunday morning you wake up and the Raptors have made the NBA Finals.