Stakes are high as Bucks, Raptors meet in Game 6

Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43) blocks a shot by Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) during the second half of Game 5 of the NBA basketball playoffs Eastern Conference finals in Milwaukee on Thursday, May 23, 2019. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

By IAN HARRISON

Associated Press

TORONTO — There’s no escaping the reality of what’s at stake when the Toronto Raptors host the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals on Saturday night.

The surging Raptors have won three straight, putting them on the brink of the first NBA Finals berth in team history.

The Bucks, who finished as the NBA’s top team in the regular season and once led this series 2-0, have no more room for error after their first three-game losing streak all season.

These two teams have spent months trying to stay even-keeled, treating everything as just another game. That’s starting to get a lot tougher.

“It’s an elimination game,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said Friday. “It’s just a fact.”

Raptors coach Nick Nurse added to that, suggesting the outcome of the series could have franchise-altering implications.

“These are games that now have significance as far as one team’s going one direction, and one going the other, possibly,” Nurse said.

No doubt. Milwaukee starters Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez and Malcolm Brogdon are all headed for free agency, although the Bucks can match offers for Brogdon. Nikola Mirotic is also a free agent this summer.

The Raptors, meanwhile, have no bigger free agent than two-way star Kawhi Leonard, who can opt out of the final year of his deal. An NBA Finals berth, or better, in Leonard’s debut season north of the border would certainly be a boon to Toronto team President Masai Ujiri when free agency opens on June 30.

MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks need a win to prolong their hopes of reaching the finals for the first time since 1974.

COMMENTS