This will probably be the toughest week of the Raptors regular season, with a brutal four-game west coast road trip kicking off Tuesday night in Los Angeles against the Clippers, but it began with a game Sunday evening against the team chasing the Raptors for first place in the East, the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Bucks had taken the first game of the season series back in October, when each team came in undefeated and Milwaukee picked up the big win with Kawhi Leonard sitting the first night of a back-to-back, and the Raptors had their chance for revenge with Kawhi in the lineup. The Raptors controlled the energy in this one early as well, as Nick Nurse chose to go back to Serge Ibaka in the starting lineup and the team was able to get out to a slim first quarter lead with the front-court leading the way as Danny Green and Kyle Lowry managed just two points and two shots between them in the first frame.
Going into halftime, the Bucks got the lead back thanks to 16 points from Brook Lopez, who seemingly couldn’t miss his jump shots, while the Raptors managed to shoot just 30% from long distance.
In the second half, it would be more of the same, really, as Malcolm Brogdon came alive with 15 points in the half and Lowry’s struggles continuing, managing just five shots and no points in this game. While once again, the non-shooting stuff from him was solid, he was strong defensively, played tough and made some brilliant passes to help the Raptors remain in the game late, at some point Toronto needs him to be a willing shooter and scorer, and that part of his game has been missing of late.
Down the fourth quarter stretch the Raptors had several slim leads, but when it came down to it, the Bucks found shots and the Raptors didn’t, with Lowry missing a three-point attempt up three with a minute and a half remaining, followed by two makes for Brogdon to give the Bucks a three-point lead they didn’t surrender in the closing minute.
With a compressed schedule this week and tough opponents, there isn’t much time for the Raptors to address these issues and get their offense sorted, but they also need to find answers, or there’s going to be a lot of unhappy endings to games like this one. It’s unclear whether Lowry is completely healthy or not, or if there’s other issues holding him back at present, but whatever the solution, the Raptors need to find it, because they need their point guard. When Lowry struggles, the Raptors do, because he’s the backbone of this team, and right now, he’s having some of his worst struggles in his Raptors career.