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Consider the Raptors impressed, but not intimidated after facing off again with NBA-leading Milwaukee on Tuesday night.
The Bucks came away with a 108-97 victory, despite trailing at the half, and held Toronto to one of its worst offensive performances of the season.
“They have guys that can do everything,” said all-star Pascal Siakam, one of the few Raptors who shot the ball well (5-for-9 on three-pointers).
“They can defend and they can shoot threes and they can space the floor. They’ve got Giannis (Antetokounmpo, the MVP favourite after winning the award last season) coming 100 miles per hour in the paint and can fire out to the shooters. So, definitely a tough team.”
Antetokounmpo had 19 points, 19 rebounds and eight assists and hit half of his four three-point attempts, a troubling sign for opponents.
“There’s an adaptation there,” said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse. “And he looks, to me, stronger, and more skilled in handling the ball. And his footwork, those things are continuing to improve.”
“He works, that’s evident,” said Fred VanVleet. “I think he’s more comfortable taking (three-pointers), make or miss.
“I thought we did a good job making it tough on them. The guy averages 30 points in 20-something minutes. What do you do? I thought the guys that were primary defenders did a great job. He made some tough ones. You tip your hat and throw it away.”
Antetokounmpo indicated after the game that he had drawn some inspiration from last year’s playoff loss to Toronto, which included four straight Bucks defeats, the last coming in the same building he had just won in on Tuesday.
“Of course. You always remember the last time you played here, the problems you had. It was definitely on my mind,” Antetokounmpo said.
“This is the second time we’ve played Toronto. We got the first one at home, you know they’re going to come out and try to set the tone, try to play hard. They’re a team that doesn’t stop playing hard. That’s why they win so many games and that’s why they’re so good, so you expect that. We have to come out and earn it.”
And that the Bucks did.
NOT ENOUGH ATTACKING?
The Raptors didn’t want to hear that they didn’t spend enough time getting into the paint against the Bucks (who happen to be the NBA’s best perimeter defending group).
“Well, I mean I think we did that,” Siakam said. “We shot threes (a franchise-record 52 attempts) and shots that we usually make. Most of them didn’t fall, but we’ve just got to continue to play our game.
“It was one of those nights where we couldn’t make shots. I think we did a good job just continuing to play and drive-and-kick and trying to do our best to take our shots and live with the results.”
Siakam conceded maybe the Raptors could have tried to attack again if the first foray didn’t work and get Milwaukee players moving. Nurse said more mid-range shots have to come into play against that defence (though Toronto doesn’t have many mid-range specialists and its best player from those areas, Serge Ibaka, had a horrific shooting night).
NO SECOND THOUGHTS
Ibaka looked way off for most of the night. He finished 2-for-15 from the field (1-for-10 from three), grabbed only five rebounds and had issues holding on to the ball. Reserves Chris Boucher and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson played well, but Nurse didn’t regret not sitting Ibaka more and extending their minutes.
“Serge had like 21 straight unbelievable, great games. Right? You know, I’m serious, you’re gonna have one once in a while,” Nurse said.
“Probably tonight wasn’t his night, but it’s all right. No big deal. He’s been amazing this year.”
Later in his post-game session, Nurse talked more about his reasoning for riding with Ibaka.
“Most of the time, you’re coaching for the moment, and sometimes you’re coaching for the future,” said the man with the best winning percentage in NBA history (.714, tied with Steve Kerr).
Canada Basketball announced on Wednesday that its protest of a controversial recent loss has been rejected by FIBA. A potential game-winning three-point shot by Conor Morgan against the Dominican Republic in a qualifying tournament game was changed to a two-pointer after video review. Both officials called it a three-pointer, which made the overturning all the more bizarre. Canada went on to lose in overtime.
A single judge assigned to oversee the proceedings ruled the protest did not fall “within the circumstances outlined” in FIBA’s protest procedures.
Canada Basketball president and CEO Glen Grunwald said in a release that Canada Basketball is still waiting for report from FIBA showing “clear and conclusive” visual evidence confirming why the call was overturned.
Canada won the first game against the Dominican Republic in Oshawa earlier last week.
AROUND THE RIM
Golden State signed Windsor, Ont., native Mychal Mulder to a 10-day contract. Mulder, who spent two years at Kentucky, is averaging 17 points a game for Sioux Falls in the NBA G League. A record 22 Canadians have been on NBA rosters this season … Kyle Lowry’s university jersey was slated to be retired by Villanova on Wednesday night.
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