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Numbers for Game 4: Winning ugly is still winning

The Raptors weren’t that good, but they were just good enough to win Game 4.

NBA: Playoffs-Toronto Raptors at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Game 4 between the Toronto Raptors and the Milwaukee Bucks was an ugly game of playoff basketball. It may never be considered a classic, but the Raptors won 87-76, and that still counts, warts and all.

We’re here to take a look at some interesting numbers from this one, but be warned: they ain’t pretty.

Shuffling Starters

Raptors head coach Dwane Casey mixed things up with his starting lineup in this one, but not in the way many were expecting. While some pundits and fans have been calling for P.J. Tucker to replace DeMarre Carroll in the starting five, Casey instead went with Norman Powell over Jonas Valanciunas, with Serge Ibaka shifting to center, DeMarre Carroll slotting in at power forward, and Powell coming in at small forward.

The lineup itself (one that hadn’t seen a single second of action together in the regular season or playoffs coming in) wasn’t that impactful, posting a net rating (points scored minus points allowed per 100 possessions) of -2.6 in 15 minutes of action, but that was still an improvement over the -20.6 mark that the Valanciunas starting five posted over 31 minutes in the three games prior.

And at the very least, Norman Powell cracking the rotation ended up being a good thing. He scored 12 points (3-for-7 from the field, 3-for-3 from deep, 3-for-4 from the line), and added four rebounds, four assists, and a block in 34 minutes, while registering a plus-minus of +15, which was tied with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan for the game high. In fact, the three-man trio of Lowry, DeRozan, and Powell had a net rating of 25.0 in 31 minutes played together on Saturday, so that’s certainly something to keep an eye on going forward.

Stars Win Basketball Games

It’s not exactly deep analysis, but the Raptors’ two best players outplayed the Bucks’ two best players and that’s usually the difference in these types of things.

DeMar DeRozan had some pretty awful defensive possessions in this one, but he still led the team in points (33), rebounds (nine), assists (five), and steals (four), while shooting 12-for-22 (54.5%) from the field and 9-for-9 from the charity stripe, and posting a game-high +15. Kyle Lowry, although tentative at times, scored 18 points (8-for-17 from the field, 2-for-8 from deep, and not a single free throw even attempted), while adding four boards, four assists, a steal, and a block, and matching DeRozan’s plus-minus of +15.

Put simply, the Raptors’ two All-Stars have averaged a combined 48.0 points per game and shot 50.7% in the wins, while averaging 26.0 and shooting 26.0% in the losses. The team goes as they go.

Meanwhile, Giannis Antetokounmpo had his worst game of the series, scoring only 14 points on 6-for-19 (31.6%) shooting from the field, turning the ball over seven times, and registering a game-worst plus-minus of -16. He essentially disappeared in the second half of the game:

Yes, he still added nine boards, four assists, two steals, and two blocks, but forcing him into a poor shooting performance and many turnovers were still wins for Toronto, as it’s starting to look impossible to keep him from filling up the box score, even when he’s off.

Khris Middelton, meanwhile, shot a measly 4-for-13 (30.8%) for 10 points and failed to connect on a single three-point attempt. Everyone else on the Bucks looked perfectly mortal as well and the Raptors took advantage.

Well, kind of...

Disappearing Bench

Outside of DeRozan, Lowry, and Powell, not a lot went right for the Raptors. Serge Ibaka continues to be one of the best players in this series, filling up the box score with 10 points, eight boards, one assist, two steals, and three blocks (while contesting a whopping 20 shots and holding the Bucks to 2-for-10 at the rim when he was within five feet of it), but he simply didn’t have the range in this one, going 4-for-16 (25.0%) from the field and 0-for-5 from three-point range. The starting lineup was rounded out by the corpse of DeMarre Carroll, who scored two points on 1-for-6 shooting.

As for the bench? Well, there wasn’t much of one.

New sixth man Jonas Valanciunas put up 12 points (5-for-5 from the field, 2-for-2 from the line) and five rebounds, but not a single other Raptor off the bench scored a single point. That’s right, all four of Patrick Patterson, P.J. Tucker, Delon Wright, and Cory Joseph were completely shut out. The Raptors were lucky to win this one, all told.

Odds & Ends

It seems that for every positive in this game, there was a negative. DeRozan was a boss on offense, but a sieve on defense. Lowry had a great second half, but a very tentative first. Ibaka had his fingerprints all over the game, but his poor shooting loomed very large. The Raptors shut down the Bucks’ role players, but none of their own stepped up.

And these dichotomies persisted up and down the box score.

The Raptors held the Bucks to 37.0% shooting from the field and 23.8% from long range, but only shot 41.3% and 22.7%, respectively, themselves. The Raptors posted an amazing defensive rating of 80.0 (points allowed per 100 possessions) for the contest, but only managed an offensive rating of 91.6 (points scored per 100 possessions). They forced the Bucks into 21 turnovers, but only scored 17 points off them (whereas the Bucks scored 15 off 13 Raptors giveaways).

As Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star put it:

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Onto Game 5.