Breaking It Down

Breakdown: Bucks d. Raptors, Oct. 29

Bucks 124, Raptors 109


  • First loss of the Raptors season tonight against a well-rounded, tough Bucks team in Milwaukee. (No Giannis, Kawhi, VanVleet or Anunoby)
  • The Raptors really struggled defensively in this game. Up until this point in the season they have done a great job of making opposing teams feel uncomfortable, but they were unsuccessful in that regard tonight.
  • Their struggles defensively began with their inability to cover the ball, especially Brogdon and Bledsoe (Middleton as well) who consistently broke down their defender without much resistance.
  • The Raptors have been great defensively at the nail so far this year, but struggled there tonight. They have been very effective bluffing at the nail and running shooters off the 3 on the kickout, but tonight they allowed Milwaukee to get comfortable, and comfortable shooters make shots.
  • From an offensive perspective this was a very interesting game. The Bucks dared the Raptors to beat them with their bigs, and the Raptors bit. I’ll go into more detail below.
  • Without Kawhi in the lineup, the Raptors practically never posted up, except for 2 JV post-ups late in the game.


Covering the Ball

  • The Raptors really struggled in this game covering the ball in 1 on 1 situations.
  • Right off the start, Milwaukee was able to loosen up the Raptors stingy defense by blowing by their defender and finishing easily at the rim. Once a team as good as Milwaukee gets their confidence on the offensive end, it’s very difficult to take it away from them again.

As you can see, this is too easy for Bledsoe. Lowry can of course do better, but Danny Green and Siakam can be in the gaps and bluff more as well – but both are concerned that they are covering shooters.

Again, Brogdon able to easily blow by Siakam and get to rim without meeting any resistance.

This is the 3rd time in the opening minutes of the game that either Brogdon or Bledsoe were able to score 1 on 1. The Raptors were obviously concerned with the Bucks shooters (assuming this is the reason that they didn’t load up on Bledsoe and Brogdon), and the Bucks guards took advantage of it.

Note: For context of how poor the Raptors covered the ball tonight, these are 3 of 14 clips that I had to choose from for “not covering the ball”.

Problems at the Nail

  • The Raptors have been fantastic at the nail this year (the nail is the middle of the free throw line). They have done an excellent job of bluffing drivers who attack the nail, getting back to their man on the perimeter, and contesting 3’s.
  • The difference tonight was their inability to make Milwaukee uncomfortable on offense (likely the result the clips above). Once Milwaukee got comfortable, the success they’ve found bluffing and running shooters off the 3 went away.

The Raptors are setup perfectly in this clip to be effective at the nail – Green is waiting there, and Lowry is close enough to close out to both Bucks shooters who are poorly spaced at the top of the key. Green has been fantastic at this so far this year, but in this situation, he doesn’t put his body in front of Middleton, and allows him to get to the rim too easily.

In this clip here, the Bucks are the aggressors. The only noticeable fundamental issue here is that Powell closes out short on the shooter (the Raptors have been flying by shooters effectively so far). The issue is that the Raptors became tentative defensively, and the Bucks never felt uncomfortable shooting 3’s tonight, as this is a shot that the Raptors have made uncomfortable for all of their opponents so far.


Ball Screen Offense

  • Milwaukee effectively decided before the game that if the Raptors were going to beat them, it would be with Ibaka, JV and Siakam.
  • As you’ll see in the clips below, Ibaka is ALWAYS open. Initially, I thought the Raptors were just destroying Lopez in the ball screen, but as the game progressed, I realized that the Bucks not only weren’t concerned with Ibaka scoring 30 on 21 shots, but that was their plan. Take a look:

The Bucks guards are going over every ball screen, and Lopez is deep in the paint protecting the rim. Notice the wings on Milwaukee are not pinching in – they will let Lopez take care of them rim but want to limit kickouts.

Again, the Bucks are not panicking to the roll. Notice Middleton, who can easily dig on Ibaka in this situation but chooses not to. He would rather rather live with Ibaka shooting a 10 foot jumper than throw the kickout for a corner 3.

Lopez is responsible for the rim. As soon as Powell starts to put it down, Lopez does not concern himself with Ibaka and protects against the drive. Powell makes the obvious play – throw the ball to where the help came from, and Ibaka takes a wide open 3. Defending the ball screen this way gives Ibaka a 3, but also ends the possession with Ibaka shooting a 3. Do you see what the Bucks goal is? This is how they want the Raptors possessions to go, because if Serge shoots the equivalent of this shot 10 + times, than they successfully limit the opportunities that Danny Green, CJ Miles, etc., could get if they panicked to Serge and he started causing closeouts.

One last clip – I believe this is Serge’s 21st shot attempt of the game. If the Bucks were concerned with him about to score his 30th point of the night, we could expect to see some panic on the defensive side – but we don’t.

  • With the luxury of reviewing the film (and not having to make game time decisions), this presents an interesting situation for Nick Nurse. The Bucks just gave the Raptors great looks on offense, but not necessarily the looks that are best for the Raptors to win. With this experience behind him, I am interested to see how he handles situations like this going forward and what type of mid-game adjustments he will make to regain the upper hand on the offensive end.

Looking Ahead

  • The Bucks did a good job of taking Kyle Lowry away, but he still had many good looks tonight that just didn’t drop.
  • The Raptors have been featuring Kawhi Leonard in the post so far, and without him tonight, they were heavily reliant on scoring out of the ball screen.
  • The Raptors definitely can learn something about themselves after this game – any time an opposing team recognizes weaknesses and attacks them with success, it’s a great opportunity to address your weaknesses.
  • However, did the Raptors really get exposed? Or were they without 3 of their best players, who would without a doubt change the way the Bucks game planned for them? Either way, in game 7 of this young season, the Raptors learned what a contender in the East thinks about the Raptors strengths and weaknesses…and now we get to watch them respond!

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