Kawhi Leonard scored 35 points — 15 in the fourth quarter — and added 7 rebounds and 9 assists as the visiting Toronto Raptors defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 105-99 on Thursday to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals.
The Raptors can reach the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history by winning Game 6 in Toronto on Saturday. Game 7, if necessary, would be played Monday in Milwaukee.
The two-time defending league champion Golden State Warriors will face the East champs in the Finals.
The Bucks led by as many as 14 points in the first quarter and were up by 12 in the third quarter before carrying a three-point edge into the fourth.
Reserve Fred VanVleet contributed 21 points for the Raptors, Kyle Lowry had 17 points, and Pascal Siakam finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 24 points to lead the Bucks. Eric Blesdoe had 20 points, Malcolm Brogdon added 18 points and 11 rebounds, Brook Lopez scored 16 points, George Hill had 12 points, and Khris Middleton had six points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
Toronto took a one-point lead on VanVleet’s 3-pointer with 8:57 left in the fourth quarter. Leonard’s 3-pointer one minute later put the Raptors ahead by 4.
Siakam’s dunk pushed the Raptors into an eight-point lead with 6:20 to play. The Bucks pulled back within 4 on Lopez’s driving layup with 5:31 left.
After Marc Gasol nailed the 3-pointer to make Toronto’s lead 7, the Bucks trimmed the deficit to 2 on Antetokounmpo’s 3-pointer with 4:04 left.
Lopez tied the game with a 3-pointer with 2:44 to play, but the Raptors regained a 3-point lead seconds later when VanVleet sank a trey. Middleton’s layup pulled the Bucks to within two with 59.7 seconds remaining.
The Raptors led by 3 when Gasol made 1 of 2 foul shots with 34 seconds to play. After a Milwaukee turnover, Siakam’s dunk increased the lead to five.
The Bucks led 32-22 after one quarter and 49-46 at halftime.
After Lowry opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer to tie the game, the Bucks pulled out to a 12-point lead on Antetokounmpo’s dunk with 7:43 to go in the period.
The Raptors answered with a 9-0 run, cutting the margin to 3.
The Bucks went ahead by 6, but the Raptors cut the gap to 1 on Leonard’s 3-pointer with 1:32 left in the quarter.
Milwaukee led 75-72 after three quarters.
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