The Raptors offense in this series has been anything but watchable, due to a ton of factors you already know about. The Bucks have smothered their opponents through aggressive trapping, switching and closeouts, while using their superior length and versatility to turn the Toronto offense on its head.
In the middle of the third quarter on Saturday afternoon, with the future of this group of players as a unit in jeopardy, Kyle Lowry finally broke out of his Buck-induced haze, and joined DeMar DeRozan (who had single handily carried the offense in the first half) in putting the Raptors in the driver’s seat for the eventual victory.
Following another Tony Snell off-balance three which you could only shake your head in disbelief at, the Raps were inbounding on the far side after a Thon Maker foul in the paint. Lowry came off a sturdy screen from Jonas Valanciunas and without any hesitation put up a bullet of a three. 52-52.
On the next possession, Lowry came off a baseline screen and had a mismatch on Greg Monroe. He cooked the Moose on the way to the bucket, and finished with a double clutch lay-in around Khris Middleton, who was oddly checked out on the defensive end for most of the contest.
Middleton had Norman Powell stuck to his hip coming down the other way, and hoisted a contested mid-range jumper that clanged off the rim and into the hands of DeRozan.
The Bucks defense was surprisingly lackadaisical getting back, and DeMar blew right past Malcolm Brogdon for an uncontested slam, much to the delight of Gus Johnson on the Milwaukee broadcast.
Brogdon missed on the other end, and the Raps pushed forward once again, with two quick passes from Lowry and DeRozan ending up in the hands of Norman Powell. Powell, who was summoned from the depths of the bench and thrust into a starting job, drilled a wide open triple right in front of the Milwaukee bench and had something to say as Jason Kidd immediately took a timeout.
At that point, the Raptors had pushed the lead to 59-53, and through the rest of the third and into the fourth, punished the Bucks on offense with quick and precise decision making from their All-Stars and shot making contributions from Powell on the perimeter and Valanciunas on the inside.
The second half of game four was the first time in the series that Lowry and DeRozan were engaged at both ends at the same time, and the team finally looked complete for the first time all series.
Toronto needs that play to continue from their All-Stars for all of their 35+ minutes per night. If that’s the case, this Raptors team can reach the potential of dark-horse Eastern Conference contenders they were touted as heading into the playoffs.