You know the woozy feeling you get when you stand up too fast? The Raptors had that for the first 14 minutes of the game against the Bucks last night. There was one exception, that being Kyle Lowry – the man who is never woozy, and by proxy of the size of his butt is always close to sitting down. Lowry, and his posterior, lifted the Raptors for all 38 minutes of his time on the floor, but that wasn’t enough to beat a Bucks team that came to play.
The Raptors are a good team, and whether or not you read outlets that seem to think that the Raptors are bereft of talent, they’re actually chalk-full of it. So, if you’re a team with a good amount of talent and you find yourself down 51-25 at any point, you have to take it on the chin and say: “Wow, we really didn’t bring it tonight.”
The game was lost in the first quarter. It wasn’t ideal when Pascal Siakam fouled out in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t ideal that the Raptors shot 27-percent in the fourth quarter and 1-for-8 from downtown. But the lack of creativity on the offensive end, that bled into transition points for the Bucks was what did it.
There’s a multitude of reasons for why the Raptors struggled early on, chief among them was the gameplan. From the outset, the Raptors were playing a very similar team to the one they played in the ECF, especially defensively. The Bucks are long and they packed the paint in on the Raptors, forcing the Raptors into long jumper after long jumper and running out in transition as soon as the rebound was collected.
The Raptors took one shot in the paint the whole first quarter. Even when taking into account the Raptors 10 free throw attempts, that’s a bit outrageous. There was little attempt to get Siakam the ball on the move, opting instead for straight post-ups against the outrageously long Giannis Antetokounmpo, with Brook Lopez playing help-side. The Bucks were happy to let Fred VanVleet handle the ball at the top of the 5-out offense, and even happier when the ball found the hands of Marc Gasol.
66-percent of the Raptors made shots in the first quarter came from two Lowry ‘PU3IT’s’. Siakam wasn’t particularly sharp, but the attempts to create offense for him were lacklustre. In a game like this, where VanVleet is having trouble creating against length, Gasol’s passivity is crippling, you have to run some actions that have a meaningful chance of succeeding for your #1 offensive option. The Raptors failed to do that, and dug a massive hole early on.
There were two bright spots in the first half, Lowry and OG Anunoby. Lowry for the obvious fact that he was in ‘KLOE’ mode and wasn’t messing around. Anunoby, because he did a terrific job defending Antetokounmpo in the half-court. One might look at the ‘Greek Freak’s’ stats and think he ran roughshod over his primary defender, but that wasn’t the case. Anunoby did a great job corralling Antetokounmpo into the help-side defense, and he was left to do most of his eating on the fast-break, which he did.
A decent night from three for the Raptors, and a waning interest in playing defense from the Bucks allowed the Raptors to slowly work their way back into this game. In most cases these games will work themselves into respectable scores, but it was the brilliance of Lowry that brought them within 4 points.
When the Raptors brought it to 96-100, Lowry had already spent such an outrageous amount of the game pulling the Raptors to that point, that it seemed like he needed a breather. The way it shook out, he didn’t get one with time on the bench – he was far too important – but rather Nurse opted to have him operate off-ball for a string of possessions.
On the other side, the Bucks leaned harder than ever on Antetokounmpo who poured in 7 of their final 15 points. The fresh tank that the Bucks star was working on was the difference at the end of the game. Lowry only took two of the Raptors 23 shot attempts in the fourth quarter, hitting one. Antetokounmpo attempted 6 of the Bucks 20, and hit 4 of them, 66.7-percent of their makes in the quarter.
When the game got gritty and defensive, the Raptors battled valiantly, but 26-points is a huge deficit to come back from, even for a team as good as these Raptors. Even for a player as great as Kyle Lowry.
Don’t expect the Raptors to play with that lack of energy or drive soon. This was one game of 82. It would’ve been nice to secure some more wins before heading out on a monster of a west-coast road trip, but not everything doesn’t always work out the way you’d like.
The Raptors will matchup against the dysfunctional Kings on Wednesday, as they look to get back in the winning stride of things.
Have a blessed day.