Giannis Antetokounmpo insisted the Milwaukee Bucks will be "back stronger and better" after failing to reach the NBA Finals.

Top seeds the Bucks were beaten by the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals following Saturday's 100-94 defeat in Game 6.

MVP candidate Antetokounmpo addressed the 4-2 series loss in an Instagram post on Sunday.

"We'll be back stronger and better," Antetokounmpo's message read. "Milwaukee thank you for supporting my team-mates and I this entire season we couldn't have done it without you all!"

Milwaukee won the first two games of the series against Toronto. But, the Bucks then dropped four straight.

"Obviously when you're up 2-0, that doesn't mean nothing," Antetokounmpo told reporters. "You've got to learn how to come out and close out games, especially after Game 3. We've got to get better as a team, and we've got to get better individually. I think it's just the start of a long journey.

"We're going to get better. We're going to come back next year and believe in who we are, believe in what we've built this year, and hopefully we can be in the same situation and be the ones moving forward."

Antetokounmpo averaged 25.5 points and 12.3 rebounds throughout the playoffs for Milwaukee. The star, however, was the focus of Toronto's game plan and struggled at times during the series.

"What I did was trust my team-mates," Antetokounmpo said. "That's what I've been doing the whole year. If we lose by doing that, by trusting one another, by moving the ball, by doing what we've been doing all year, by trusting our habits, it's okay. I just tried to stay aggressive, tried to make the right play. That's what I've been doing all year, and that's what I tried to do tonight."

The 24-year-old is a finalist for the 2018-19 MVP award and has made three straight All-Star teams.

"I'm going to make sure I get in contact with the coaching staff and see what we can work on as a team and how can I get better individually," Antetokounmpo said. "It's something that I take pride in, getting better in the offseason. So hopefully now I can work on the right things, listen to my coaches and what they think I can get better on, work my butt off and come back next year and just be a better basketball player and a better team-mate."

Giannis Antetokounmpo acknowledged that Kawhi Leonard's playoff experience was key to the Toronto Raptors' Eastern Conference Finals win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

The series was billed as Antetokounmpo against Leonard - and the former gained the early advantage when his Bucks opened up a 2-0 lead with back-to-back victories at home.

However, Milwaukee could not build on their early advantage and lost the next four on the spin, finishing with Saturday's 100-94 reverse in Toronto that sent the Raptors through to their first NBA Finals.

While Toronto will be breaking new ground as a franchise, star man Leonard has won the title before with the San Antonio Spurs.

"You can tell [his experience] from the way he was playing - not just in this series but the previous series [against the Philadelphia 76ers], as well," Antetokounmpo told a news conference.

"The way he plays, he has so much patience. He knows what he's going to do, he has confidence in himself and he has the experience. He's been here before, he's been to the Finals multiple times.

"He played well and he did everything he could to help his team win. He was a tough guy to guard for our team."

Milwaukee appeared to suffer when their star player was stifled by the Raptors' defensive strategy, yet the MVP candidate had no frustrations with the way his team played.

"I don't think anything has to change," Antetokounmpo said. "At the end of the day, we just have to trust one another.

"The [Raptors'] game plan was to double-team me, make me not get a rhythm, but what I did was trusted my team-mates, which is what I've done all year.

"If, for us, we lose by doing that, by trusting one another, by moving the ball, by doing what we've done all year, that's okay."

Giannis Antetokounmpo and coach Mike Budenholzer are confident the Milwaukee Bucks will come back as a better team next season after their Eastern Conference Finals heartbreak.

The Bucks, who boasted the best regular season record in the NBA, led the Toronto Raptors 2-0 before losing the next four games to crash out on Saturday with a 100-94 defeat.

But Antetokounmpo suggested this could be "just the start" for Milwaukee, who won their solitary championship back in 1971.

"When you're out 2-0, that obviously means nothing," he told a news conference. "You've got to learn how to close out games, especially after Game 3.

"We've got to get better as a team and we've got to get better individually. I think this is just the start of a long journey.

"We're going to get better and we're going to come back next year, believing in who we are and believing in what we've built this year. Hopefully we can be in the same situation and be the ones moving forward.

"I've got to go back home and spend some time with my family. After that, I'm going to get in contact with the coaching staff and see what we can do as a team and how I can get better individually.

"It's something I take pride in, how I can get better in the offseason.

"Hopefully I can work on the right things, listen to my coaches on the things I can get better on, work my butt off and come back next year as a better basketball player and a better team-mate."

Budenholzer, who oversaw vast improvements in both Antetokounmpo and the team, similarly believes the Bucks can kick on once again.

"This hurts," he said. "But what they did in this playoffs tonight against a really good Toronto Raptors team - and to get to the Conference Finals - and in the regular season, a special season for us, we feel like we're just getting started.

"This is the beginning of our journey. I couldn't be more proud of our team."

Budenholzer added: "Giannis is going to get better. To think for us, we can be excited about his future at 24.

"It's the easy narrative that this is part of Giannis' stepping, but I think the thing that makes Giannis special and unique is that, in our minds, he's going to get a lot better.

"At 24, some guys are who they are. Some of the great ones were the same at 30. Giannis, we feel, has got a lot of room to grow."

Kawhi Leonard is unfazed about whether he is the best player in the NBA as he focuses on trying to lead the Toronto Raptors to a championship.

Leonard inspired the Raptors to a first NBA Finals appearance after they sealed a 4-2 series win over the Milwaukee Bucks with a 100-94 victory on Saturday.

The former San Antonio Spurs star contributed 27 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists in Game 6 as the Raptors moved into the decider against the Golden State Warriors.

Raptors president Masai Ujiri labelled Leonard "the best player in the league" after the win, but the 27-year-old's focus is on his team.

"I don't really judge my game like that. I'm more of a team aspect, see what my team is doing. I just want to win," Leonard told a news conference.

"I don't care about being the best player. I want to be the best team. I've always said that.

"Just before the season when we made the trade, Masai felt that way about me. He told me how he felt and why he made the trade. It's turning out well now.

"We're in the Finals - and we're not done yet."

Leonard was traded to the Raptors from the Spurs in July last year, having played just nine games during an injury-plagued final season in San Antonio.

The 2014 NBA Finals MVP was thrilled by Toronto's run, while praising team-mate Kyle Lowry.

"It's great. I worked so hard to get to this point with the season I had last year, just always betting on myself and knowing what I feel and what's right for me," Leonard said.

"I ended up coming here with a great group of guys, a lot of talent. And I just strived with them every day. I just kind of bought into their system.

"Kyle helped me a lot with my transition, on the court and off the court, asking him questions, him just pushing me on the floor as well and letting me know what to do in situations when he calls plays.

"All that hard work just put together, now we're here and it's exciting."

Game 1 of the NBA Finals is in Toronto on Thursday.

The Toronto Raptors are headed to their first NBA Finals after overcoming the Milwaukee Bucks.

Toronto's 100-94 Game 6 win over the Bucks on Saturday secured their move to the biggest stage, where the Golden State Warriors await.

Here are three takeaways from the Raptors' historic win.

 

The "others" made all the difference

Toronto's bench outscored Milwaukee's in three consecutive games during their four-game winning streak in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Raptors got valuable contributions from a variety of role players throughout the series. Among them were Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell and Serge Ibaka.

The Bucks did not have the luxury of a new face showing up each game, and it led to their downfall.

Kawhi Leonard's will to win is unrivalled

Leonard did everything possible to elevate his team's play against the Bucks. 

The Raptors superstar finished with a game-high 27 points on nine-of-22 shooting, but also grabbed a game-high 17 rebounds – 12 more than any of his team-mates.

Leonard logged 41 minutes and carried his team through critical moments down the stretch, like he has all postseason.

One of his more notable plays was a poster dunk on defensive player of the year candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Bucks' free-throw struggles came back to bite them again

Toronto's crowd seemed to have a serious effect on Milwaukee at the line.

The Bucks fell short by six points and left nine at the charity stripe. Antetokounmpo clanged five of his 10 attempts which clearly changed the outcome of the game.

But you have to give credit to the Raptors for their swarming defensive tactics and aggressiveness, forcing their opponents to earn their scoring the hard way in Scotiabank Arena.

The Toronto Raptors are going to their first ever NBA Finals after beating the Milwaukee Bucks 100-94 on Saturday. 

Golden State Warriors veteran Andre Iguodala may be contemplating retirement.

The 35-year-old missed Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals against the Portland Trail Blazers with a calf injury.

Iguodala has missed time each of the past few years with injuries.

"It just flared up real quick, and we've got a good training staff so they're on top of it. It's just, you've been playing for five long seasons, like long, long seasons so it's bound to come up," Iguodala told reporters on Saturday, via 95.7 The Game.

"It's very rare that you see it, so I feel like it's hard to be realised sometimes.

"My career is almost over, so I don't really care, you know, we've got a tough series ahead… I'm about to be done playing anyway."

Iguodala is coming off a year in which he averaged career lows in points, minutes, field-goal attempts and free-throw attempts.

He has not played a full 82-game season since 2009-10 and has played more than 76 games just once in the regular season over the past five years.

And he is leaving his options open for his future as his contract with Golden State runs out after next season.

"I could sign a one-year deal if I want to," he said. "That's the beauty of sense of self."

He continued: "I felt like I had a good year, even though, like, I didn't take off as many games as in the past, so I played more this year, and then it was explosive minutes too, so I felt really good and hopefully I can continue to do it for however long as I choose."

Iguodala has made an All-Star team, two All-NBA defensive teams, won three titles and was named the Finals MVP in 2014-15.

It should be taken into account too that Iguodala has joked about his retirement before and did so before this year, saying in an interview with TNT that he would be officially retiring after this season.

He followed that up quickly though by saying, "I'm bull****ing".

Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer insisted the NBA Finals hopefuls will not overuse star Giannis Antetokounmpo against the Toronto Raptors.

The Bucks trail 3-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals following Thursday's 105-99 Game 5 defeat in Milwaukee.

However, do not expect MVP candidate Antetokounmpo to play all 48 minutes, or even 45, to try to get the Bucks a win in a Game 6 or potential Game 7.

"At the end of the day, you need to be able to produce and perform, including in the fourth quarter," Budenholzer told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on Friday.

"I don't feel any different about how we use him [now that the Bucks are down 3-2], how much we use him."

This comes one day after Budenholzer talked about doing his best to get "Peak Giannis", meaning he wants to keep him as fresh as he can with well-timed rest throughout the game so the three-time All-Star can be at his best down the stretch.

Antetokounmpo played 39 minutes in the Game 5 defeat to, which is as much as the Greek sensation has played in a regulation game this postseason.

Budenholzer said he would consider extending his time a bit though, he just will not take Antetokounmpo into Kawhi Leonard territory after the Raptors star played 43 minutes in the epic Game 7 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in the Conference semi-finals.

"Giannis, it's so impressive what he does and how important he is," Budenholzer said. "What did he play, 39 minutes last night? Are you talking 40, 42? I don't think it'll go there. If we have to, we can. I maintain getting him appropriate rest, appropriate chance to catch his breath, refuel [is necessary]."

The Bucks have lost the last three games of the Eastern Conference Finals as Antetokounmpo has not been at his best. The Raptors have done a good job of crowding the paint and taking away easy buckets from him.

And as that has happened, the Bucks' supporting cast have struggled to make open shots they are getting as a result. That is where Budenholzer sees his team needing the most improvement.

"Certainly, we need the bench," the Bucks' coach said. "We usually sprinkle starters with bench guys. If last night we weren't good, there's been other nights when he's been out we've been very good.

"People have said, 'Wow, isn't it great that you can do well when Giannis doesn't play?' Every night's a little different, every game's a little different and I think we'll stay the course."

Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry insisted the two-time reigning NBA champions will not miss a beat when Kevin Durant returns from injury.

The Warriors have the chance to claim a three-peat of titles after reaching their fifth consecutive NBA Finals in the absence of Durant.

Durant strained his calf in Game 5 of the Western Conference semi-finals against the Houston Rockets and the two-time Finals MVP missed the Conference Finals sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers.

During Durant's absence, there have been questions as to whether Golden State are better without the All-Star forward.

Curry does not read much into that. He has no doubt that when Durant gets back — assuming he does — the Warriors will continue to flourish.

"When KD gets back are we going to be able to transition? Yeah," Curry said. "We have that experience and that capability to do so. At the end of the day we are one group until we're not.

"And I don't think we're going to let any noise around us, as frustrating or entertaining whatever you want to call it is, on a daily basis we're not going to let it break us."

Curry also found out that no matter how the team are winning — with Durant or without him — someone will always find a way to take away from the team's accomplishments rather than calling attention to all the Warriors have done over the past five years and the last three with Durant.

"Nobody can say anything without it getting scrutinised or criticised," Curry told reporters. "Nobody can be happy when people are playing well, that's the part to me that's most surprising.

"If it's KD playing well it's 'Oh they're playing a different style and it's not as fun to watch' or if it's when he's out and we're winning games it's, 'Are we better, or are we more fun,' or whatever the question is, you hear it all the time.

"We are a great team because everybody who puts on the uniform goes out, competes at a high level, look out for each other, there's a little bit of sacrifice, but at the end of the day it's all about winning."

The Warriors will face either the Milwaukee Bucks or Toronto Raptors in the NBA Finals.

Kevin Durant said the idea that the Golden State Warriors are better without him is "not facts" as the superstar recovers from a calf injury.

Two-time reigning champions the Warriors are preparing for their fifth successive NBA Finals, however, Durant has not played since Game 5 of the Western Conference semi-finals.

Durant strained his calf in the clash with the Houston Rockets, which forced him to miss the Western Conference Finals sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers.

Amid talk the Warriors play better in his absence, Durant – who is unlikely to be ready for the start of the NBA Finals – told reporters: "It's been that way since I got here.

"It's been that way since I got here, 'it's the Warriors and KD,' I understand that and I felt like my team-mates and the organisation know exactly what I've done here off and on the court to become a part of this culture, stamp my flag in this culture and this organisation.

"I know what I bring to the team, but I also know a lot of people on the outside don't like to see us together and I get it."

Durant added: "It's hard to get away from that because I watch the game and you watch the lead up to the games and that's all everybody is talking about.

"My perspective is just like I want to focus on rehab, but I also want to be a fan of my team-mates. I want to enjoy my teammates from a different view. A lot of those guys sit in a chair and cheer for the rest of the guys, the starting guys, and now I get an opportunity to do the same thing. I turn the TV and since I can't travel with the team all I hear is the noise.

"As a player, I think about that – I'm just like, that's not true. That's not facts when it comes from a basketball perspective. The competitive side of me, I also like to talk basketball as well, so if you're going to say something like that, I'm going to engage in it – so it's all fun, it's all cool, but I know the real."

On the injury suffered against the Rockets, Durant said: "Once I came down from the shot, I pushed off to run back down court [and] I thought somebody tripped me up.

"And I looked back and I'm like, the first thing that came to my mind was like, Boogie said, Kobe said, Dominique Wilkins said, you know, it felt like somebody had kicked them or something tripped them or something.

"So that's the first thing that went through my mind, I was like, 'I've got to slow down and process it, what's going on' but once I started walking, I realized I can put some weight on it, it's not as bad as I thought."

The Milwaukee Bucks will not collapse despite their damaging defeat to the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday, Giannis Antetokounmpo has vowed.

Antetokounmpo finished with 24 points, six assists and six rebounds in the 105-99 reverse on home court, though he went off late on after suffering an ankle injury.

The Bucks took the lead in the series but have now lost three successive matches, with the Raptors 3-2 ahead, and able to secure an NBA Finals place should they win the sixth game on Saturday.

But Antetokounmpo insists the Bucks are still in the fight.

"We're not going to fold," Antetokounmpo told a news conference.

"We're the best team in the league. We're gonna go in, give it everything we got. We can't fold. We're gonna come back to Milwaukee being p*****.

"I just want to win. I think we had a chance to win it, but we didn't. Obviously, I'm p*****. I am not gonna lie to you. We got two more games to go."

Kawhi Leonard has urged his Toronto Raptors team-mates to "enjoy the moment" after they moved to within one win of the NBA Finals.

Leonard starred with a 35-point game on Thursday, as the Raptors took a 3-2 series lead over the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals after a 105-99 win at the Fiserv Forum.

A victory in the sixth game on Saturday would confirm the Raptors' place in the Finals for the first time in franchise history.

And 2019 All-Star Leonard - an NBA champion with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014 - says the Raptors must embrace the pressure.

"Experience helps a lot," Leonard told a news conference. "I've been here before, I've been to the finals, it's pretty much nothing new that I'm seeing.

"You've just got to have fun with it, enjoy it. I told them tonight, when we were down 10, to enjoy the moment and embrace it and have fun and love it, this is why we're here.

"It's a great opportunity. What you work for in the summer is to win basketball games. 

"The same mindset through the play-offs is to come in, have fun, try to execute as best as I can. Play confident and whatever happens will happen."

Leonard did not exert the same authority on proceedings as he has done in earlier matches throughout the series, but came up with a match-winning performance in the fourth quarter.

Having opened the Raptors' scoring in the final period with two jumpers, Leonard followed up with a pair of three-pointers to nudge his side ahead.

The 27-year-old also provided nine assists, but insists that he is not a player that aims to dictate the Raptors' play

"I'm not a guy that really controls the ball the whole game. I just try to give other people the opportunities to shine, and not try to be a dominant ball player," Leonard said.

"I try to stay with a consistent mindset throughout the whole game, trying to read the defence throughout the entire game, see what's working. 

"I'm not afraid of the moment, I enjoy it. You've just got to go and shoot the ball, that’s my mindset.

"Get to a spot, help my team win the game. If it's me scoring points or getting my team-mates wide open. I'm just out there trying to win, be aggressive, don't shy away from anything."

Toronto Raptors superfan Drake said his courtside antics during the Eastern Conference Finals have not been "disrespectful" as he continued to troll the Milwaukee Bucks following Thursday's Game 5.

The Grammy Award-winning Canadian rapper has become a major storyline during the series, laughing at MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo when the Bucks star missed a free throw and rubbing the shoulders of Toronto head coach Nick Nurse in Game 4.

Antetokounmpo's former agent Georgios Dimitropoulos tweeted that he had "never seen anything as disrespectful as this before" in a now-deleted post, while Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said there was "no place" for the type of exuberant reactions Drake had been displaying courtside.

Drake, who is a global ambassador for the Raptors, was watching in Toronto when his team beat the Bucks 105-99 in Milwaukee to take a 3-2 lead in the series, and he defended his antics when speaking to reporters afterwards.

"We have the best player, we have the best fans in the whole NBA, in the whole world," he said.

"Look around you, look at this, we created this. This didn't exist before we were here, look around at the square, this didn't exist before we were here, we did this.

"It doesn't matter what anybody says. They can say it's disrespectful, they can say, it's this, it's that.

"Everybody's within the rules, everybody's doing their thing. All we are is proud and passionate. We are like a college sports team - the Toronto Raptors are a college sports team, I promise you.

"I love Toronto, I love this team and we're going to the NBA Finals."

While the 32-year-old was not in Milwaukee, the Bucks' owner's daughter Mallory Edens was sat courtside wearing a t-shirt of Pusha T, a rapper with whom Drake has had a feud with.

That was clearly noticed by Drake, who changed his Instagram avatar to a picture of Edens after the game.

He also uploaded a picture of Edens onto his story with the caption "All is fair in war and war and trust me I'll still get you tickets to ovo fest".

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo hurt his ankle during Game 5 against the Toronto Raptors, according to coach Mike Budenholzer.

Budenholzer told reporters after the game the forward tweaked his ankle on a defensive possession and did not come out in the final minutes of the game to get a breather.

It appeared Antetokounmpo hurt himself when trying to defend Kawhi Leonard off a rebound in the closing minutes of the Bucks' 105-99 loss.

He left the court soon after the play and came back in after a possession and a foul on one of his team-mates.

"He twisted his ankle in the backcourt," Budenholzer said.

He continued: "And he just looked like he was in a lot of pain and couldn't move and we had an offensive possession, just maybe get somebody out there that can move, make a shot and I think [the pain] kind of wore off or the adrenaline wore off and he was able to go back in."

The Bucks trail the Eastern Conference Finals 3-2 going into Game 6 on Saturday in Toronto.

Antetokounmpo had 24 points, six rebounds and six assists in the loss.

The Toronto Raptors are one win away from playing for the first championship in franchise history.

Toronto travelled to Milwaukee for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals and defeated the Bucks 105-99 at the Fiserv Forum.

The victory gave the Raptors a 3-2 series lead.

The Bucks appeared in control as they won each of the first two games at home. The Raptors, however, rebounded with two wins of their own at Scotiabank Arena before coming out on top on Thursday.

The series will shift back to Toronto for Game 6 on Saturday.

Here are three takeaways from the Raptors' road win.

 

Kawhi Leonard delivers again

Kawhi Leonard picked his spots on Thursday.

The Raptors star was not as aggressive attacking the rim and did not have the ball in his hands as often as he it had earlier in the series. But, that changed in the fourth quarter.

Leonard opened Toronto's scoring in the final period with a pair of mid-range jumpers and followed with two long three-pointers, the second of which put his team ahead with a little less than eight minutes to play.

In total, Leonard finished with 35 points on 11-of-25 shooting. He also added seven rebounds, along with nine assists, and was the main reason why Toronto came away with the win.

Fred VanVleet comes up big

Fred VanVleet will always remember his performance in Game 5.

The backup Raptors guard finished with 21 points and was plus-28 for the game. He also hit seven of his nine three-point attempts, including a huge triple late in the fourth quarter.

VanVleet was terrible to open the series as he was just four-of-20 shooting over the first three games and some were calling for his minutes to be reduced. But, he has reached double figures in each of the past two matchups and appears to have found his rhythm, which is a good sign for the Raptors.

 

Bucks' lineup change doesn't pay off

Early in the game, it seemed as if the Bucks were going to benefit from coach Mike Budenholzer's adjustments.

Budenholzer replaced Nikola Mirotic with Malcolm Brogdon in the starting lineup, which gave Milwaukee an additional ball handler and more shooting in their first unit. That change allowed Eric Bledsoe – who had struggled throughout the series – to focus more on creating his own offense.

For a time, that strategy worked and Bledsoe (20 points) was much improved in Game 5. The Bucks' bench, however, lacked scoring punch without Brogdon (18 points) – Mirotic did not score in nine minutes – and the move may have ultimately hurt the team.

It will be interesting to see who Budenholzer starts on Saturday.

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