clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

NBA Playoffs, Raptors vs. Bucks, Game 3: Toronto gets blown out 104-77

This is what bottom feels like.

NBA: Playoffs-Toronto Raptors at Milwaukee Bucks Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

In the fourth quarter of the Raptors soul-crushing Game 3, 104-77 loss to the Bucks, TSN broadcaster Jack Armstrong, having already veered from mystified to angry and back again, turned philosophical. “Do the Raptors believe they can beat the Bucks?” he asked, as the Raps clanged another jumper (I assume).

It was a difficult question to answer, coming as we watched Toronto’s squad get ripped apart in their every effort (or lack thereof) the entire night. The Raptors started slow (a 19-4 Bucks run closed the 1st quarter), couldn’t shoot (34 percent from the field), couldn’t stop anybody (Bucks shot 53 percent for the game), couldn’t find a lineup that worked, couldn’t finish at the rim, couldn’t hit threes (27%!), couldn’t hold onto the ball (15 turnovers), couldn’t meaningfully pass the ball (11 assists, to Milwaukee’s 29) — am I missing anything? The result felt like more than a loss. It felt like the kind of game that could have a jovial TV personality questioning whether there would even be Raptors games to watch past Monday. Things got dark.

A record of the Raptors’ problems has to start at the top. This was DeMar DeRozan’s worst showing of the season: eight points on 0-of-8 shooting, 2 rebounds, zero assists. There’s no way to sugar-coat it, DeMar was still in Toronto for this game. Whatever mojo he had working the previous contests, it was gone here. There’s no real explanation for it — we know he can, and will, take and make the shots he wants — there was just no urgency from him tonight. And with DeRozan listing, the tone of the evening was set.

To his credit, Kyle Lowry laboured to do what he could. He was bad too, but at 13 points (tied for highest on the team with Delon Wright), 2 assists, and a respectable 4-of-10 (ha) from the field, we can muster some small smattering of praise. (I’m grasping at straws here.) The rest of the squad was totally forgettable (minus Wright’s productive and encouraging 27 minutes of action). DeMarre Carroll and Jonas Valanciunas were once again blown off the floor. Serge Ibaka looked worn out, not even a technical and the potential for violence could get him fired up. Folk hero P.J. Tucker was a pumpkin. Patrick Patterson was in cruise mode. Cory Joseph is still getting outplayed by Matthew Dellavedova, his soul forever snatched.

The hilarious (hahaha) thing about these Raptors is it still feels possible for them to win this series. As the broadcast noted, they’ve been down 2-1 before. Back in 2014, it was a young Raptors team against coach Jason Kidd’s wizened Nets team. In Game 4, the Raptors went into Brooklyn and outplayed a bunch of Hall of Famers on their way to victory. Then they did it again, winning in Brooklyn in Game 6 to send the series back to Toronto. Yes, the Raptors ultimately lost, but the point here is that they didn’t quit. They were just a young upstart team then.

There will be much nervous discussion leading up to Saturday’s Game 4 (at, cue groan, 3pm). Many will have written the Raptors off by then, if they haven’t already. The team still does not quite have an answer for Giannis Antetokounmpo (after a “quiet” 19-8-4 with one elbow block, who does?), they’re still getting cut apart by Khris Middleton (who, quite frankly, made DeRozan look like a chump on his way to a 20 point, 7 assist night), they’re still getting pushed around by Greg Monroe (16 and 7 rebounds), bothered by Delly (Lowry was clearly flustered), and bottled up by Thon Maker (which seems insane to me; he’s a raw rookie!). Coach Kidd, meanwhile, made two modest adjustments — bringing in Michael Beasley in place of Mirza Teletovic, and banishing Spencer Hawes — and the Raptors looked even more scattered. Kidd still has the luxury of the best player in the series, but he’s also got all of his soldiers running through walls for him. The Raptors will have to dig deep.

So, do the Raptors believe they can beat the Bucks? I rightly don’t know. I know, on paper, that they should. I know they have the manpower and talent to do it. I know they’re the higher seed, and that should count for something, if only psychologically. And I know the Raptors, as they did all season and for much of the past four years, do not quit. As wild as it may seem to remember now, this Toronto team almost never got blown out this year. They would bend, sure, but not quite break.

As we sit and wait for Game 4, the Raptors, from DeRozan and Lowry on down, will have time to recall this fact of their collective character. Because a 3-1 series hole would spell disaster. In many ways, this is it.

Do they believe they can do it? We’ll see.