Top News

Woz Blog: Bucks are excellent but caught Raptors on an off-night

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) goes to the net after taking a pass against Toronto Raptors forward Chris Boucher (25) at Scotiabank Arena. Milwaukee defeated Toronto. John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) goes to the net after taking a pass against Toronto Raptors forward Chris Boucher (25) at Scotiabank Arena. Milwaukee defeated Toronto. John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

— I’m not sure we learned a ton about the Raptors from their 108-97 loss to Milwaukee on Tuesday.

We’re just not going to see so many key players so off at the same time again, judging by how infrequently it has happened this year.

Serge Ibaka had his worst game as a Raptor. Kyle Lowry had his worst souting in ages. Fred VanVleet didn’t have it offensively (but was still awesome defensively) and they should have Marc Gasol back for the next two meetings (and maybe Norman Powell too), which should help quite a bit.

Ibaka’s just not going to be that bad again (he couldn’t even catch the ball in this one) and Gasol, simply put, is better than Brook Lopez and will make him work.

Lowry looked like the guy who struggled in a third of his previous playoff games before the Raptors broke through last season. Credit Milwaukee for some of that, but it wasn’t just what the Bucks were doing. Several Raptors had bad games because they just didn’t have it for whatever reason.

— I did learn some things about the Bucks.

Playing for the third time in four nights, and 24 hours after an overtime battle in Washington, they fought hard.

This was only the third time all year they have been underdogs (they are now 2-1 in those games). They overcame a slow start to take it to the Raptors.

Their defence was incredible, much like Toronto’s had been against Indiana in the previous Raptors game. But the Bucks do it a little bit differently. They aren’t everywhere in the passing lanes and don’t get a finger or even a hand on the ball frequently.

No, the Bucks lock down the middle with immense size and strength, daring you to try them. It usually doesn’t work. Like the Raptors, they’ll let you bomb away from three-point range, and they don’t challenge threes as well as the Raptors usually do (Toronto’s defence is a bit more mobile and less plodding, for the most part).

Nevertheless, the Raptors couldn’t hit shots (a few players aside), Lowry didn’t show his usual mental toughness (he melted down a bit against old thorn in the side George Hill) and the fans went away unhappy.

— I haven’t given Khris Middleton enough credit over the years. He has a great backstory (not quite as good as Siakam’s, but Middleton also used to toil in the G League and he even had a team give up on him).

Middleton is just a legitimate all-star. An excellent two-way player with few flaws in his game. I don’t love what the Bucks have after their Top 2, but Giannis Antetokounmpo is a walking landslide and Middleton is an able sidekick. Eric Bledsoe had a Jekyll and Hyde performance (awful at times, good down the stretch) and the jury is still out on him, along with head coach Mike Budenholzer (a master of the regular season, with tough playoff results), but this team is a valid favourite to win it all. Especially with Giannis appearing more confident and at ease whenever he lets it fly (and there’s nothing you can do to bother his turnaround jumper).

— Chris Boucher’s play was encouraging. He was tremendous. Boucher brought needed energy (as did Terence Davis and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson) in front of some pretty bright lights on a big stage. He took a charge on Antetokounmpo, blocked him in spectacular fashion, nearly threw down a huge dunk after already completing perhaps the best Raptors jam of the season, a jaw-dropping put-back over a pair of Bucks (including the reigning MVP, who will repeat as the winner of that award).

BRIEFLY

— The teams started a combined 2-for-17. Luckily the game got a lot better.

— A home winning streak has ended at nine games for the second time this season.

— Both Lowry and head coach Nick Nurse picked up their 11th technical fouls of the season. They’ll get a warning from the NBA if they pick up another, and 16 would get them a one-game suspension.

— The 52 three-point attempts were a season-high for the Raptors.

— It was great to see fan favourites Charles Oakley, Muggsy Bogues, Alvin Williams, Jose Calderon, Antonio Davis and Kevin Willis recognized as part of the night’s throwback celebrations. Putting Muggsy between two centres wasn’t nice, though.

— Toronto shot 34.4% in the paint after going 64.1% from there against Indiana. The NBA is different every night (the Pacers became the second team in league history to lose a game by at least 35 points and then win by at least 35 in the next game).

THREE STARS

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo

2. Khris Middleton

3. Chris Boucher

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

Recent Stories