Sitting down on a red couch in my living room, my family and I watched as the Boston Red Sox began their three-game series against the Houston Astros. Meanwhile, another series was well underway as the Toronto Raptors faced off against the Milwaukee Bucks in Eastern Conference Finals, a preliminary series before the NBA championship.
The Raptors came into the Eastern Conference finals after finishing off a grueling seven-game series against the Philadelphia 76ers. A series that ended with a Kawhi Leonard game-winning shot, certainly a sporting moment that instilled great confidence for this team. My family and I sat on the edge of our seats as we watched the ball dance around the rim and eventually fall into the hoop as the buzzer sounded signifying the end of the game.
Heading into the Eastern Conference Finals as a two seed and taking on the number one seed Bucks, this was destined to be a tough road ahead. The first game started out in a bit of a shock, with the Raptors leading by 11 points in the first quarter. They held Milwaukee off for the first three quarters, but the Bucks held the Raptors to just 17 points in the fourth quarter to take game 1. As expected, they won game two as well, finishing the game 125-103. Kawhi Leonard had 31 points, but that still was not enough to even the series.
In game three, the Raptors were up nine points to end the first quarter. By the end of the first half, the Raptors were up 58-51. With a seven-point lead to start the second half, anything could happen. And sure enough, something did happen with the game ending in a tie. The game would head into overtime. Both teams scored just seven points in the first overtime and the score was all tied as the buzzer sounded. Double overtime had approached. The Raptors dug down a little deeper and were able to pull this one out.
Game four of the Conference finals. For the fourth consecutive game, the Raptors were winning at the end of the first quarter. With the help of Leonard's 19 points, Norman Powell's 18 points, and Kyle Lowry's 25-point game, the Raptors evened the series and won the game. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 25 points and Khris Middleton had a 30-point game. Nikola Mirotić had only 11 points. These three players were the only people who scored in double-digit points for Milwaukee.
With game five being played back in Milwaukee, the Bucks fed off their home court's energy and jumped out to an early lead, ending the first quarter up 10. However, home court advantage was simply not enough, and the Raptors resurged back to steal a win and take the lead in the overall series 3-2. Kawhi Leonard put on a show, ending with 35 points, seven rebounds, and nine assists. Fred VanVleet, a shooting guard for the Raptors finished with 21 points and Kyle Lowry had 17. Meanwhile, for the Bucks, Antetokounmpo finished with 24 points, and Eric Bledsoe with 20 to end the night.
Back in Toronto, the Bucks came in fully aware that their season was on the line. As game six tipped off, the Bucks came out to a hot start, ending the first quarter on top 31-18. But they were held to less than 20 points in the second quarter. The game was close throughout. The Raptors scored just two points more than the Bucks in the third quarter, and once again, the Bucks were held to less than 20 points in the fourth quarter. Kawhi, once more, for the sixth time, showed off his athletic skills and dominance on the court as he coasted to 27 points, 17 rebounds, and 7 assists. Pascal Siakam ended with 18 points and four rebounds, and Lowry dropped 17 points, grabbed five rebounds, and gave eight assists.
The Bucks performed well on their offensive side as well. Giannis had 21 points and 11 rebounds. Brook Lopez had 18 points and nine rebounds. It was their defensive side that was lacking.
Closing the game 100-94 Raptors, it was truly an incredible series that unfolded. The Raptors started out the series down two games to none, but they showed their true offense and defense for the Bucks and for the fans. They swept the Bucks in four straight games, advancing to the Championships for the first time in their teams' history.
Their competitiveness and drive both on and off the court were vital in how the Raptors were able to overcome a two-game deficit. They deployed a strategy and fought back against their foe in Milwaukee. Life is about making adjustments and overcoming adversity and that's what they were able to do.