Five thoughts on Game 37: Raptors 129, Bucks 110

The Toronto Raptors went into Milwaukee on Friday night and used a sensational third quarter to knock off the Bucks 129-110. Here are my thoughts on the game!

May as well start with the third quarter!

Through two quarters, this game felt similar to Monday—close score, back and forth, both teams going on small runs, individual chess matchups to find the optimal defences with DeMar DeRozan on one end and Giannis Antetokounmpo on the other. The Raps were up two at halftime.

Then they used a masterful third quarter to blow the Bucks off the court, outscoring them 43-19 to lead by 26 going in to the fourth.

It was almost entirely down to DeMar and Jonas Valanciunas; they combined for 34 of the Raptors’ 43 points on 14-16 shooting.

Jonas had 20 and 9 in the quarter, and he seemed to be able to do whatever he wanted. Normally the Bucks’ length is a problem for JV but tonight he used his strength to muscle his way to the hoop. He even pulled down a one-handed rebound with two Bucks draped all over him.

Jonas Valanciunas and Serge Ibaka vs. Bucks

It was also one of those stretches where all the bounces went the Raptors’ way; twice, loose balls came to Jonas in the paint and he got 3-point play opportunities. Meanwhile an Ibaka three rebounded to the far corner, where DeMar picked it up and drilled a three in Khris Middleton’s mug.

DeMar was unbelievable in the quarter. Like JV, it seemed like DeMar just decided to use his strength to bully his way into the lane; that opened things up for his jump shot as the quarter went on. Check out his third quarter shot chart:

DeMar DeRozan shot chart vs. Bucks

The Bucks, meanwhile, looked shell-shocked and never recovered from the DD-JV barrage. They never got closer than 23 until there was only 1:15 left in the game.

I think Eric Koreen summed it up pretty well:

The Bebe experience

The game didn’t start out well for Valanciunas, who picked up two fouls in the first 90 seconds. Dwane Casey opted to play Lucas Nogueira in JV’s place, Bebe’s first significant minutes in weeks.

He didn’t look ready, as on his first two plays he let an offensive rebound slip through his grasp and then picked up a lay foul in transition that led to an and-1 for John Henson.

But then he woke up.

He tipped in a beautiful alley-oop from Kyle Lowry, then got his fingertip on a Middleton floater. On the next play he forced Henson into a turnover on the baseline, the came down and made a 3-point play.

Overall he played extremely well in his 18 minutes. The box score may only show 5 points and 4 boards, but he did add three blocks, and most importantly, he didn’t repeat those early mistakes.

Kyle Lowry, not showing up in the boxscores

Speaking of misleading box scores, let’s talk about Kyle Lowry. Kyle signed a big contract in the offseason and so far, his scoring numbers (points and shooting) are all below his career-best campaign last year. But he continues to do all the little things that you want out of a team leader. He dives on the floor for loose balls and ties up opponents into jump ball situations more than any other Raptor. His charges-taken number speak for themselves. He’s averaging a career-high in rebounds (and is second on the team!)

And his minutes—by design—are down as well. He rested the entire fourth last night thanks to the blowout, and overall he’s averaging almost five less minutes per game than the last two seasons. That’s all designed to keep him fresher down the stretch and into the playoffs, where, as everyone knows, he’s struggled the past few seasons.

I’ll sacrifice Lowry’s numbers today to see better numbers in April and May, for sure.

Keeping Giannis in check

Once again The Greek Freak put up good numbers on the Raptors—24-5-5—but once again, he didn’t put his stamp on the game. Sure, he had a couple signature plays—an incredible and-1 in the first, then a spectacular reverse on the baseline—but there were times in the playoffs last year where he looked completely unstoppable, and that hasn’t happened in these two games.

Credit goes to OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam and yes, DeMar DeRozan, who all played Giannis well throughout the game.

Let’s talk about OG

The Raptors rookie’s offensive production has waned of late; in his last five, he’s scoring less than 5 points a game on 36% shooting (20% from three). But he’s still averaging 20 a night, primarily because of his defense, but also because of how few mistakes he makes. He doesn’t touch the ball much so his low turnover numbers—while great—aren’t even what I’m talking about.

It’s that he doesn’t force things on offense. He’ll take shots when the defense gives them to him, and he’ll move the ball quickly when it doesn’t. More often than not though, he’s just in the right spots when DeMar or Kyle need an outlet. And I don’t want to pick on Norm Powell (I’m still rooting for you buddy!) but you can’t say the same about Norm lately.

On defense, he keeps his feet moving and his hands up, and doesn’t bite on fakes (well, too often—he did on one Giannis pump fake yesterday).

OG won’t make the all-rookie team, he may not even make the rising stars game at all-star weekend, but he and Boston’s Jayson Tatum are the only rookies starting and playing significant minutes on the league’s top-six teams. OG has been perfect for the Raptors in the role they are asking him to play.

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This was a great win against an Eastern conference playoff team, and it’s now four in a row for the Raptors. Things don’t get easier—they’er at Brooklyn Monday, then it’s Miami, Cleveland and Golden State at home. Can the Raps keep it up?

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