On “Bowtie night” honouring the late Michael Goldberg, attorney and former beloved leader of the NBA Coach’s Association, the Toronto Raptors snapped their five game losing streak with a commanding 102-86 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
With DeMar DeRozan unavailable for his third straight game, the Raptors tipped off with a line-up of Lowry-Powell-Carroll-Patterson-Valanciunas. Led by first time All-Star starting forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks jumped out to an early 11-5 lead. However, Lowry, keenly aware of DeMar’s absence took it upon himself to score. He looked to push the tempo, make or miss, as the Raptors followed up their slow start with a 22-2 run. The catalyst to the Raptors’ run was an aggressive, swarming defense leading to 10 fast break points off of seven Milwaukee turnovers. Converting off of turnovers, coupled with Lowry and Norman Powell’s aggressive drives gave the Raptors a 36-19 lead after one, despite giving up 47 percent shooting.
Responding to Toronto’s run, the Bucks started the second quarter in 2-3 zone. While not stifled, the Raptors struggled to adjust and (I can’t believe I’m about to say this in 2017), led by Jason Terry’s spirited play, the Bucks went on a 9-0. Milwaukee got as close as seven points before the Raptors regained control through good ball movement, some solid minutes from rookie Fred VanVleet, and timely baskets including a pull-up three pointer from Lowry. The Raptors entered the half with a 53-39 lead.
The third quarter belonged to Milwaukee. Although Lowry and Powell kept the Raptors afloat, Toronto’s offense was inconsistent throughout the quarter. Meanwhile the Bucks found scoring from multiple sources. While Matthew Dellavedova scored 8 points in a little over a minute, and Giannis and Greg Monroe ran a nice two-man game, it was Jabari Parker who came alive in the quarter with 10 points including two open court and-1 drives.
The Raptors asserted themselves as the better team in the final frame. Lowry was everywhere, scoring off a pull-up while getting fouled, scoring off his own offensive rebound, and assisting on a Patterson three to put the Raptors up 15. Also, although it probably shouldn’t have taken 36 minutes to realize, the Raptors began showing no respect for Antetokounmpo and Parker’s jumpshots, daring them to shoot and clogging the lane. Despite some impressive drives, the Toronto defense, anchored by Lucas Nogueira, frustrated many of the Bucks forwards’ attempts. And then the Raptors pulled away for the win.
In the end, Lowry dominated, posting an impressive 32 points, 6 assists, and 3 rebounds outing on 50 percent shooting from the field, and from distance. Also deserving of a shoutout is Norman Powell and his 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting, including many timely baskets to keep Milwaukee at bay.
The Toronto Raptors return to action on Sunday as they welcome back Bismack Biyombo, and the Orlando Magic at the Air Canada Centre.
- Before every game, Matt and Leo announce the “Ford Key Matchup.” Today, they pitted Jonas Valanciunas against Miles Plumlee claiming that the Raptors had to win this matchup. I propose a new rule: a key match-up can’t involve a guy averaging less than 10 minutes, 3 points and 2 rebounds per game.
- What never ceases to impress me about Powell is how he attacks the basket relentlessly. As noted, Plumlee doesn’t play much, and Monroe is a slow, flat footed defender who often finds himself out of position. Almost on cue whenever Milwaukee was on the verge of a run, the Raptors would swing the ball around until it found Powell, who would catch the Bucks defense out of position, put his head down, and drive, often resulting in either a basket or a foul. It’s this kind of play that helps in DeRozan’s absence.
- Lost in the Greek Freak’s amazing season is the improvement of Jabari Parker. This guy is for real, and was a tough matchup for the Raptors. Although his jumpshot still needs some work, Parker (21 point, 13 rebounds) has developed into a terror in the open floor. The target of overweight jokes a la Raymond Felton early on in his career, Jabari has a surprising fluidity with the ball to match his brute strength. Fun question: at this point in their careers, would you rather have Parker or Andrew Wiggins?
- Kudos to Lucas Nogueira. I’ll be the first to admit that Bebe has been much better this season than I anticipated. That said, the next step in his growth will be better recognition of his opponents’ skill-sets. A great example of his room for growth in this area can be seen at the 8:28 mark of the second quarter. After pump-faking Patterson at the three point line, 39 year old Jason Terry drove. Even in his prime, Terry wasn’t known for his explosiveness, and yet, rather than jumping vertically to contest the Milwaukee veteran, Bebe defended him as if he were a threat at the rim with an aggressive block attempt, leading to a leading to two made free throws.
Anyway, it was great to see the Raptors snap their losing streak and get back in the win column. Share your thoughts in the comments section!