After the Toronto Raptors gutted out a double overtime win in Game 3, they have an opportunity to even the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Here are the biggest keys to Game 4.
Will Kawhi Leonard have enough recovery time?
Noticeably a step slow in Game 3, Kawhi Leonard still managed to log over 52 minutes and scored eight of his game-high 36 points in the second overtime period.
Leonard was asked about his apparent leg injury in a postgame interview with TNT's Kristen Ledlow, but didn't seem overly concerned. "I'm feeling alright. This is playoff basketball. Everybody is hurting. Just have to keep fighting."
Not only were the 52 minutes a career high for either the regular season or playoffs, it was the most by any player in a game in Raptors postseason history. Leonard and Pascal Siakam (51 minutes) became the first players to top 50 minutes in a playoff game for the Raptors and will only have one day off before stepping back onto the floor at Scotiabank Arena.
Given how the team has struggled whenever he's sat this postseason, Leonard likely won't have the luxury of a light load in Game 4 if the Raptors are to successfully hold serve at home.
Can the Raptors slow down Giannis again?
Entering the fourth quarter of Game 3, Giannis Antetokounmpo had six points despite playing a team-high 29 minutes up until that point. Through three quarters, the MVP finalist was Milwaukee's eighth-leading scorer and ended up finishing with just 12 points, his fewest in any game this postseason. He was airballing free throws (he finished 2-7 from the free throw line) and was not much of a threat on the fastbreak (he finished with five fastbreak points).
It's almost impossible to imagine that happening again. And yet even if Antetokounmpo bounces back, there are replicable things the Raptors can do to try and slow him down once again.
The most obvious trick is leaning on Kawhi Leonard. After Pascal Siakam drew the assignment in Games 1 and 2, it was Leonard that matched up with Antetokounmpo the most in Game 3. According to NBA.com's matchup data, Antetokounmpo shot just 2-12 when matched up against Leonard in Game 3.
|Kawhi Leonard||Pascal Siakam|
It's a lot to ask of Leonard to spearhead everything offensively while simultaneously guarding the 6'11" Antetokounmpo. It also might be their only real option.
Can Toronto stay out of foul trouble?
Kyle Lowry fouled out with six minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Norman Powell picked up his fifth foul in the third quarter and fouled out with just over one minute left in the fourth quarter.
Marc Gasol and Fred VanVleet both finished with five fouls.
In the case of Lowry and Powell, that robbed Nick Nurse of critical offensive options outside of Leonard that can orchestrate offense late in the shot clock or hit big shots themselves. While Milwaukee has lots of options to help carry the load offensively on any given night, the same cannot be said of Toronto.
Thanks in part to that foul trouble, the Raptors had key possessions in the final minute of regulation that ended with VanVleet taking contested shots after the Bucks successfully forced someone other than Leonard to beat them.
That's just not the type of look Toronto should get with its season potentially on the line and with a chance to put the game away. It's one that ultimately did not cost the Raptors, but one that's avoidable with more discipline in staying out of foul trouble.
Will the real Danny Green please stand up?
You can make the case that Danny Green had the best regular season of his career. In addition to shooting a sizzling 45.5 percent from beyond the 3-point line, he also finished with the fourth-best plus-minus in the entire league behind only Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Good things happened whenever Green was on the floor.
Heading into the playoffs, Green figured to be one of Toronto's most reliable postseason performers as he had 100 games of playoff experience under his belt including 32 in the Conference Finals or later, the most by any player on the roster. Outside of Leonard who is a former Finals MVP, there's nobody on the Raptors with as much big game experience as Green.
Which makes it all the more befuddling that he's really struggled so far in this series.
He's just 4-for-20 so far over the first three games and has not been a release valve option for Leonard as Green has failed to make a single shot off passes from the Raptors' superstar. Three of his four makes have come with no defender within even six feet while he's 0-for-5 on shots after he's had to put the ball on the deck. That's a fancy way of saying that outside of having shots served up on a silver platter, Green has not been able to put any pressure on Milwaukee on the offensive end.
Avoiding the 3-1 deficit
Toronto's work was already cut out for it after losing the first two games in Milwaukee.
MORE: Teams to come back from down 2-0
While not impossible, history says that the Raptors really do not want to head back to Milwaukee down 3-1. Only three of the 41 teams in NBA history to fall down 3-1 in the Conference Finals came back to win.
- 2016 Golden State Warriors rallied to beat Oklahoma City Thunder
- 1981 Boston Celtics rallied to beat Philadelphia 76ers
- 1979 Washington Bullets rallied to beat San Antonio Spurs
Those are the stakes for Game 4. Will the Raptors get back in the series? Or will the Bucks take a commanding and potentially insurmountable lead?
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