After holding Kawhi Leonard of the Toronto Raptors to just two points in the critical fourth quarter of Game 1, Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks revealed that their defensive strategy against Leonard was to make him ‘play 1-on-5.’
Per Michael Lee of The Athletic, Antetokounmpo detailed their defensive scheme against the former Finals MVP. The first plan was to make him go left. Once he in the lane, that’s the time to throw in more bodies to clog the path and view.
Giannis Antetokounmpo on the Bucks’ defense vs Kawhi Leonard, who went 0-5 FGs for 2 pts in the 4thQ. “We made him feel us the whole game.” Said the game plan was to make him go left, send bodies when he got in the lane & “try to make him play 1-on-5.”
— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) May 16, 2019
Given that the Bucks mounted a comeback in fourth and won 100-108, it was definitely an effective strategy. Though Leonard finished with 31 points and nine rebounds, he disappeared in the fourth quarter when his team needed him the most. As a result, the Bucks outscored the Raptors in the fourth, 32-17. Only Kyle Lowry had it going in the fourth but his efforts were not enough.
From Reggie Miller’s observation, fatigue may also have been a factor. Leonard played 42 minutes — way above his average of 37.3 minutes in the postseason.
Either way, Leonard and the Raptors should find a way to penetrate the Bucks’ defense. The Bucks, for their part, have to be prepared for Nick Nurse’s counter-attack. Leonard, as the best player of the team, cannot afford another mediocre fourth quarter in the next game.
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