Listed as questionable with knee soreness in the hours leading up to tipoff, Dennis Schroder answered a few questions, while leaving others unanswered, as his role solidifies with the Raptors.
There was no question the Raptors were acquiring a quality point guard following the departure of Fred VanVleet to Houston in free agency when they signed Schroder.
Schroder was never expected to fill the void left by VanVleet, but he has nonetheless acquitted himself well. He has shown he is capable of playing at a high level, but he is at his best when the surrounding cast elevates its game.
Against the Freak-less Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night at Scotiabank Arena, Schroder overcame a wonky knee to bury his first shot.
Recently, making shots has not been one of Schroder’s strong suits. In Toronto’s comeback win over Washington on Monday night, Schroder went 1-for-12 from the field and entered the Bucks tip having made just four of 21 heaves from beyond the arc.
Against Milwaukee, in the Raptors’ 128-112 defeat, he managed just nine points on 2-of-9 shooting.
Given the definition of playing the point position, it’s not incumbent on Schroder to score but, for obvious reasons, the more he’s able to create his own offence, the more it will help the Raptors.
Following yet another poor start to, which allowed Milwaukee to build a double-digit lead, the Raptors went with a two point guard look by inserting Malachi Flynn to close out the game alongside Schroder.
With Gary Trent Jr., and OG Anunoby both unavailable for the second game in a row on Wednesday, rookie Gradey Dick made his first start.
But the way the Bucks were blown out of the gym by the Raptors two weeks ago when they came to town, one knew there would be a much greater sense of urgency, even minus the services of Giannis Antetokounmpo with a right calf strain.
As expected, a more engaged and electric Damian Lillard created issues. But the biggest issue facing the Raptors on the offensive end was their predictably inefficient shooting.
There was nothing wrong with how the Raptors were operating in the game’s early stage, when they took an 8-2 lead. Schroder made a nice look-away pass to Jacob Poeltl, who slipped a screen from the high post before rolling to the rim and finishing the sequence with a lay-in.
Shots then failed to drop. And once the Bucks called a timeout, the game began to swing.
Schroder missed his next three shots as the Raptors trailed by 15 after yielding 36 first-quarter points, two nights after Washington torched Toronto by pouring in 64 points in the opening half.
There have been moments this season when Toronto’s defence has been good, even if some of the Raptors’ opponents have not been.
On the Bucks’ first visit to Toronto, Schroder scored 24 points, a season-high he would match in San Antonio, while dishing out 11 assists.
Against the Wizards, Schroder ran into Jordan Poole, a collision of knees that resulted in the Raptor’s questionable status for Wednesday night.
He was on the bench to begin the second quarter as the Bucks maintained their double-digit advantage against a Toronto lineup that featured only one starter on the floor in Scottie Barnes.
When Barnes emerges as a scorer, or on sets when Pascal Siakam forces opponents to send an extra defender, life for Schroder becomes easier because he’s able to play off the ball.
After re-entering the game midway through the second period, Schroder was back trying to keep Lillard from going off.
An unforced Schroder turnover, his first on the night, — after the Raptors made a defensive stop — did not help. A second turnover followed.
With 2:12 remaining in the opening half, the Raptors attempted only six free throws, including two by Schroder. In contrast, Lillard went to the line 11 times.
The Raptors decided to put Barnes on Lillard following two makes from the charity stripe by Dick.
A half-court trap failed to get the ball out of Lillard’s hands as he buried a three-ball to record his 22nd point.A buzzer-beater off the backboard accounted for Milwaukee’s 70th point of the half.
Lillard took only nine shots in the game’s opening 24 minutes and yet he scored or assisted on 46 of the Bucks’ first-half points.
Against the dregs of the Spurs or Wizards, 20-point comebacks are very do-able and often inevitable once momentum is seized. The Bucks presented an altogether different challenge, especially following the events on Nov. 1 when the Raptors dominated in a 130-111 win.
But in the rematch, even Schroder at his absolute best would not have changed the outcome.
The Raptors can be functional with Schroder at the point, but he needs help.
On Wednesday night against a Dame-led Bucks team, the point was hammered home.