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Numbers for Game 2: The Raptors get back on track

The Raptors tied their series with the Bucks 1-1. What did the numbers have to say about it?

Milwaukee Bucks v Toronto Raptors - Game Two Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

The Toronto Raptors evened their opening-round series with the Milwaukee Bucks at one game apiece on Tuesday with a 106-100 victory at the Air Canada Centre.

Now, we have a series. Thankfully, we no longer have to think about the implications of being down 0-2 in a series when the first two games were played in our gym (like the Boston Celtics have to).

It ain’t pretty:

So, let’s break down what went right for Raptors this time around, after having to spend so much of the post-Game 1 days talking about what went wrong after yet another opening game loss at home.

The Stars Aligned

After an abysmal Game 1, Kyle Lowry bounced back with a very efficient and impactful outing.

Despite his initial allusions that he would have to force shots in Game 2 in order to please his teammates’ pleas for him to be more aggressive, Lowry had a very controlled outing. He shot 50% from the field (6-for-12), 40% from deep (2-for-5), and 88.9% from the line (8-for-9), which was good for a blistering true shooting percentage of 68.9%. Compare that number with his paltry 17.5% mark from Game 1 (2-for-11 from the field, 0-6 from deep, 0-1 from the line) and it feels like you’re analyzing two different players altogether.

He finished with 22 points, four rebounds, five assists, three steals, and a block, and had the second-best plus-minus mark on the team with a +7.

Toronto’s other All-Star, DeMar DeRozan, also had an efficient game, matching Lowry’s 50% from the field (9-for-18) and hitting five of six free throws (83.3%). His true shooting percentage of 55.7% was also a shade up from his Game 1 mark of 49.7%, in which he shot only 7-for-21 from the field (but 13-for-14 from the charity stripe).

DeRozan finished the game with a team-high 23 points, while chipping in seven rebounds and three assists.

When Toronto’s two stars both put in solid days of work like that, the Raptors are tough to beat.

Supporting Cast

They’re even tougher to beat when they showcase their depth and their supporting cast contributes in big and meaningful ways.

Serge Ibaka was a revelation for the second straight game, despite a bum ankle, posting 16 points, seven boards, a career-high six assists, and two blocks, while hitting four of his seven three-point attempts and contesting a game-high 14 shots. He was also a game-high +13 in his 35.5 minutes and might even deserve the game ball more than Lowry for his impactful second half on both sides of the ball.

Down the line, Cory Joseph chipped in 11 off the bench (shooting 4-for-6 from the field and 3-for-4 from long range), Jonas Valanciunas registered a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double, and DeMarre Carroll and Patrick Patterson chipped in nine and eight points, respectively, while hitting two triples apiece.

Even if P.J. Tucker’s line of five points, five rebounds, and two assists doesn’t seem like much comparatively, he did manage to contest seven shots and had a big hand in holding Giannis Antetokounmpo to a rough 9-for-24 shooting performance.

The Raptors got something notable from every single member of their tightened playoff rotation and that was a big reason for the win.

The Kids are Alright

Rookie Jakob Poeltl got nearly four minutes worth of burn in the early going due to Jonas Valanciunas’ foul trouble in the first quarter, while head coach Dwane Casey looked to sophomore Delon Wright for roughly 8.5 minutes in the second frame as well.

Neither youngster made a huge splash in the box score (two points and a rebound for Poeltl, no points, two rebounds, and three assists for Wright), but both of them performed their jobs admirably when called upon.

Poeltl was a +4 in his limited minutes and his size and defensive presence made it hard for Milwaukee to go small. He contested three shots in 3.7 minutes, for a rate of 0.8 contests per minute. For context, Ibaka contested a monster 14 shots in 35.5 minutes for a rate of only 0.4.

Meanwhile, Wright’s length, mobility, and athleticism challenged the Bucks’ strengths and helped spark an important run in the second quarter. He might not have filled up the traditional box score, but in his 8.5 minutes of action, he managed to record a screen assist, amass three deflections, and contest four shots, according to NBA.com’s hustle stats.

It’s Raining Threes

After shooting a measly 5-for-23 (21.7%) from long range in Game 1, it felt like the Raptors couldn’t miss from deep in Game 2, going 14-for-29 (48.3%) and setting a franchise record for triples in a single postseason game in the process:

Serge Ibaka (4-for-7), Cory Joseph (3-for-4), DeMarre Carroll (2-for-3), Kyle Lowry (2-for-5), Patrick Patterson (2-for-6), and P.J. Tucker (1-for-3) all got in on the fun and contributed to the Raps outshooting the Bucks — which was necessary, considering the fact that they managed to go 11-for-23 (47.8%) themselves.

Had the Raptors not gotten so hot from deep, we might have been panicking over a 0-2 deficit today headed back to Milwaukee for Games 3 and 4.

Rotation Roulette

Dwane Casey got very creative with his rotations in Game 2 and it paid dividends.

The combination of Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, P.J. Tucker, Patrick Patterson, and Serge Ibaka is the new evolution of the famous “Lowry plus the bench” lineup that has killed second units in the past and it could be a big factor in the rest of this series. That lineup had a net rating (points scored minus points allowed per 100 possessions) of 33.6 in 8.4 minutes in Game 2 and covers a lot of bases in terms of defending and stretching the floor.

Within that, the four-man combo of Lowry, Tucker, Patterson, and Ibaka had a net rating of 23.5 in 16.7 minutes together, while the frontcourt trio of Tucker, Patterson, and Ibaka posted a 16.0 in 20.1. Whether you then use Joseph or DeMar DeRozan in the other guard slot with Lowry (depending on time of the game and situation), Casey looks to officially be onto something with the Tucker-Patterson-Ibaka frontcourt, at least for this particular series.

Limiting the Greek Freak

Giannis Antetokounmpo still had himself a game in this one with 24 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists, and two steals, but the Raptors made it much harder on him, holding him to 9-for-24 (37.5%) shooting from the field. That’s a far cry from the ridiculous 13-for-18 he managed to shoot in Game 1.

The difference? In Game 1, he shot a freakish 11-for-14 (78.6%) on contested looks, but went 5-for-16 (31.3%) on such shots in Game 2. It looks inevitable that Antetokounmpo is going to get his, but the harder the Raptors make it on him, the better the chance they’re going to have of winning this series.

Odds & Ends

In Game 1, the Bucks found advantages in fastbreak points (17-4), points in the paint (40-36), turnovers (5-11), and points scored off of turnovers (19-7). In Game 2, the Raptors neutralized each of those issues, tying the Bucks in fastbreak points (12 apiece) and points in the paint (30 apiece), keeping it close in turnovers (Bucks 12 to Raptors 13), and gaining a slight advantage in points scored off of turnovers (Raptors 19 to Bucks 18).