What the Buck?
What a difference two days make.
Following up on a dreadful performance at home on Monday, a loss to the rebuilding Portland Trail Blazers, the Raptors rebounded by blowing out one of the NBA’s leading title contenders.
Expecting an easy night, the Milwaukee Bucks instead were met with all kinds of resistance from the home side, who led from wire to wire and won 130-111 To improve to 2-3.
Former rookie of the year Scottie Barnes continued to play like an all-star and was on fire from three-point range, along with Pascal Siakam, with the pair combining for nine treys and 47 points. Dennis Schroder added 24 points and 11 assists while Jakob Poeltl and O.G. Anunoby had 14 and 16, respectively, missing just three of 17 shots between them.
Damian Lillard was locked down and held to just one three-pointer and 15 points, Giannis Antetokounmpo just 16 points.
The Raptors got off to a dream start against a team most consider a title contender. Toronto was on fire from the field, beyond the arc and in the paint and was hounding the Bucks all over the court.
Milwaukee missed 10 of 11 three-point shots early and more than two-thirds of all attempts as the Raptors stormed up by as many as 27 points.
Head coach Darko Rajakovic had said before the game that the Raptors, coming off a brutal game where they only hit four three-pointers, had to keep letting it fly. “We’ve got to take open shots. It’s part of player development. It’s part of playing in this league,” Rajakovic had said. “The league is played that way. In order for you to win on the highest level, we got to be able to knock down some shots. We’ve got to take open shots and trust those.”
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Against one of the league’s worst defences so far the Raptors did just that, connecting on four straight to start the game and nine of 20 overall. Toronto assisted on 19 baskets in the first half alone and the vaunted Bucks superstar combo had just 13 points. The Bucks had a 38-14 free throw attempt advantage but still got bullied, with Barnes at one point simply moving Antetokounmpo out of the way for a layup. The Raptors out rebounded the Bucks 50-39.
Toronto dished out 35 assists, the fourth-most by a Toronto team over the last four seasons. Lillard can’t defend at all, but Milwaukee is stocked with some premier defenders up front and still looked clueless. Poeltl was found open under the hoop repeatedly in the first quarter and the Raptors shot 56% for the game.
For the fourth time in five contests this season the Raptors either faced a team run by former head coach Nick Nurse, or a member of his coaching staff (Adrian Griffin, for the Bucks, Chris Finch for Minnesota on opening nights) or a former Raptors player (Chauncey Billups). The Raptors will take on Nurse’s Sixers again on Thursday, this time in Philadelphia, before also hitting San Antonio, Dallas and Boston.