A tale of two halves: Raptors defeat Bucks, win fourth straight

9 mins read
Courtesy: Aaron Gash/Associated Press

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Be honest, nobody thought Milwaukee would end up with only 111 points after what happened in the first half.

Despite missing Giannis Antetokounmpo (non Covid related illness), the Bucks and Raptors participated in an offensive onslaught for the first two quarters where scoring was nearly guaranteed and defence was highly optional. Fred VanVleet did most of his damage draining five more threes which helped keep Toronto in the game. Team wise, the Raptors made 12 in the half and the Bucks countered with 13. Jrue Holiday spearheaded a 15-0 Bucks run in the first quarter while the Raptors were trying to figure out Milwaukee’s 2-3 zone. It was fun to see those two battle again with all-star spots up for grabs at the end of the month.

Then there was Pascal Siakam, who already entered this game on his on hot streak with averages of 23 points, 13 boards and seven assists over his last four games.

Sticking to the same script of late, Pascal has destroyed defences in all ways. He’s more comfortable with his midrange game than ever, and there was Justin Champagnie once again sliding into the right spot at the right time which he is prone to do. Toronto scored 68 points in the first half but still found themselves down nine due to slow rotations, open shooters galore and lack of intensity on the defensive end.

So what happened at halftime?

“Going into the locker room, we didn’t have to say much. We all knew. Points on the board said everything,” Siakam said on the Sportsnet broadcast postgame. “We made a conscious effort to go just out there and play harder. We had no deflections in the first half I think it was just one. That can’t happen.”

11 points in 12 minutes

That’s all the Raptors allowed in the third quarter, which is a new season best as Milwaukee went from 100 to zero real quick. They were sloppy in general with 18 turnovers total, but the Raptors defence was also stifling in all facets. First off, the looks from three were a lot less desirable. One sequence had Siakam execute a perfect controlled closeout on a Wesley Matthews missed three (the Bucks shot 0-8 from deep in the quarter). Going in transition the other way, Gary Trent Jr missed his original shot but was able to grab the offensive board and score.

So bigs were closing out on the perimeter, and six footers were holding it down….inside?

Tale of the tape: Fred is listed at 6-1 and Sandro Mamukelashvili comes in at 6-9. So they say. I think it’s more of a eight inch disadvantage for Fred. That recovery and swat is definitely not only being thrown in the all-star montage, but the all-defensive reel when those votes start rolling around.

Let’s flip back to bigs helping out on the perimeter as Chris Boucher put the cherry on top of a dominant defensive quarter with a chefs kiss vs Javonte Smart.


No Point Guard, No Problem

By this time, the Raptors had taken a small four point lead to begin the fourth, and VanVleet started the quarter on the bench. It wasn’t too long ago where results were disastrous when Fred would take any type of break, which is why he still leads the NBA in minutes per game. Toronto rolled out a Barnes-Champagnie-Siakam-Boucher (later Trent)-Achiuwa lineup and that won this game.

Precious confidently knocked down a three in a 94-94 game that put the Raptors up for good. Trent subbed in for Boucher and drilled an array of difficult shots, creating separation off the dribble as he is so good at doing. The defence carried over it’s momentum as well, starting with Siakam jumping an errant pass.

I love the chemistry Pascal and Scottie are developing, as they have gotten used to playing alongside each other. Remember when it was rumoured to be an automatic trade the second Barnes was drafted? Watch Barnes float to Siakam’s side on the post up, and then the two instinctively execute a give and go, catching Jordan Nwora off guard.

Siakam finished with another gem of 33 points (could have been more but missed a couple bunnies down the stretch), five boards, six assists and three steals. The Raptors most likely will not have two all-stars, as it’s going to be a challenge just to have one. However Siakam’s ascension back to 2019-2020 has been just as important as Fred putting up career-high numbers.

“He’s playing at a super high level. His passing, his rebounding, he’s making a lot of good plays. Finished a couple of big baskets tonight as well. He’s definitely playing at that level,” Nick Nurse said of Siakam after the game.

Champagnie’s other very noticeable trait as I mentioned in the Spurs recap is creating second shot opportunities. Mix in Trent’s aforementioned timely shooting in this play, which put this game out of reach. There was a minor hiccup at the end but still.

The Raptors spent the end of the game frustrating Khris Middleton. VanVleet and Trent trapped him in the corner forcing a turnover. Fred forced another Middleton turnover on a drive (proabably a foul), which enraged usually mild mannered Khris into a tech. Here’s the tale of two halves defensively, via Josh Lewenberg.

Bucks in 1st half: 77 points on 61% FG, 13-21 3P.
Bucks in 2nd half: 34 points on 27% FG, 4-18 3P.

As these offensive explosions usually go, the first team to play defence wins the game. That team was the Raptors.


Elsewhere, Dirk Nowitzki had his jersey retired in Dallas. It was only right for Scottie to pay homage with an incredibly effortless rendition.

DeMarcus Cousins had a solid game of 15 points (all in the first half), 10 boards, three steals and a couple of threes. The final buzzer rang at 10:26 pm eastern time. By 10:27, Shams tweeted that Cousins will be waived by the Bucks. The man wasn’t even off the court yet, like damn.

What’s Next?

A day off, before hosting the Jazz which will be a nice test. The Raptors improved to 4-2 on the second night of back to backs this season, which is already more wins than last season (3-13).


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