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Raptors can’t slow down Bucks three-point shooting, fall 104-99

Kyle Lowry struggled again, and the Raptors found themselves on the losing end for the third time in four games.

Game recap: Raptors can’t slow down Bucks three-point shooting, fall 104-99 John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Two of the East’s best teams came into Sunday night hoping to answer their struggles. The Raptors had lost two of their last three games — their lone win coming over a tough Sixers team — with their bench and three-point shooting still at the forefront of their problems. On the other hand, the Bucks had lost four of their last seven and were looking to answer their road woes (4-5 on the road this season).

The first half was a tale of two quarters, in which the Raptors’ two problems mentioned above persisted and the Bucks squeezed a 51-49 lead to the locker room. The Bucks continued their momentum in the third quarter, but late in the fourth the Raptors found a lineup that was finally in sync offensively, only to fall apart at times in the final 1:06 of the game.

And thus the Bucks would get their second win of the season versus the Raptors, 104-99.

It wasn’t exactly who you thought would shoot 5-of-7 from three leading the Bucks, as the sharp-shooting Brook Lopez scored 19 points. Giannis Antetokounmpo added 19 as well to go along with 19 rebounds. Malcolm Brogdon scored 18 and turned out to be an important piece with two late threes to give the Bucks their final lead of the game

For the Raptors, Serge Ibaka shot a career-high 11 three-pointers, making four and leading the team with 24 points. When playing off-ball, Fred VanVleet looked much better than his previous few outings, scoring 19 on 5-of-7 shooting. Kawhi Leonard didn’t look himself at times, although he still scored 18. And Pascal Siakam got back to shooting above 50 per cent — after two rough nights versus Brooklyn and Philadelphia — scoring 17 on 7-of-12.

In the first quarter, the Raptors starters were able to slightly out play the Bucks, thanks to a mid-quarter 15-5 run. They also shot 62 per cent from the field and had an 11-6 rebounding edge, leading to a 30-25 first quarter in favour of the Raptors.

The second quarter is where the Raptors’ problems showed up again. The bench started the quarter with three possessions ending in late shot-clock situations and were a combined 2-for-11 from the field before Nick Nurse went back to Leonard, and eventually his other starters.

Lopez and the Bucks couldn’t miss from three during the first half, as they hit 11 in the first 24 minutes (but only four in the second half). The Raptors shot 6-of-19 from beyond the arc for the first half.

Shooting woes continued for the Raptors, shooting 38.5 per cent for the third quarter compared to the Bucks 48 per cent. The game also saw the Raptors fast break offense be slowed down as the Bucks led that category 24-16 for the game and were 8-0 in the third.

Nurse stuck with his bench for as long as he could in the fourth quarter before turning to a lineup of VanVleet-C.J. Miles-Leonard-Siakam-Jonas Valanciunas. That lineup showed some life with a couple solid possessions, cutting into the Bucks lead, but it was the go-to lineup that really got going.

Coming into the game with a +70.3-point differential, the lineup of Lowry-VanVleet-Green-Leonard-Ibaka finally strung together solid offensive and defensive minutes. Again, VanVleet looked his best when playing off the ball and Leonard was much calmer in the final quarter. The Raptors shot 5-for-11 from three in the final frame before Kawhi missed a long game-tying three with seven seconds left.

A Kawhi three at 2:09 gave the Raptors the lead, but back-to-back three-pointers by Brogdon in the span of 23 seconds allowed the Bucks to seal the game. VanVleet would hit a layup with 29 seconds left, but a failed attempt to get a steal or to foul the Bucks allowed Giannis to get an easy dunk to seal the game.

A Raptors two-game losing streak (and dropping three of the last four) is being highlighted by the offensive shooting woes of Lowry. In this contest, Lowry was held scoreless, missing all five field goals, though he looked good in other aspects of the offense.

The Raptors now look to a stretch of games on the road that feature some of the Western Conference’s best: Clippers, Warriors, Trail Blazers and Nuggets.

This was a game the Raptors needed after a tough loss to the Nets and the upcoming stretch of games, but now stand at 21-7 with a lot flaws still needing to be solved. They need a way to get Lowry and the bench (13 points versus the Bucks — not including VanVleet) feeling good again for this team to be in a better rhythm.