Milwaukee vs. Toronto: Elite Shotmaking Propels Milwaukee to Victory

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The Milwaukee Bucks earned their first victory of the season against the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night, 115-108 in Tampa. What an off sounding sentence, but it happened!

What We Learned

Jrue Holiday was ice-cold offensively and could not buy a bucket but still played an integral role in propelling the Bucks to the finish line. Holiday did hit a few shots in the first quarter but was seldom heard from after that. However, he showed up when they needed him. He put Pascal Siakam on skates in his game-sealing drive to the rim. I think Pascal is still looking for his ankles. Someone help him out.

Jrue was sound defensively as well, holding his own in the post on multiple occasions. The Raptors weren’t afraid of going at him defensively down low, but it didn’t get them anywhere. It was odd seeing him not defend Kyle Lowry in the fourth quarter after he caught fire, but they opted to stick him on Norman Powell (26 points) who was making it rain from deep.

In a game where he shot 3-of-14 from the field, he finished a game-high plus-16.

Three Observations

There was elite shot-making in this game. It was on display early with both teams trading punches in the first quarter from the inside and outside. Both teams did end up going cold in the second half but the Bucks and Raptors continued to trade big shots down the stretch. Kyle Lowry (21 points) and Khris Middleton (24 points) were trying to one-up each other in the fourth quarter with how they were hitting shots. Both teams combined to hit 38 three-pointers (!!!).

Khris Middleton was fantastic throughout the victory. He got it going early and hit an array of jumpers in the first quarter. My favorite move came in the second where he turned Fred VanVleet around with a crossover but his shot clanked off the front rim. The Raptors have played Middleton extremely well over the last few seasons and they have the players capable of shutting off the water. It was encouraging to see him continuously attack the defense methodically in order to get to his spots. He 5-of-8 tries from deep en route to 24 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists. He was thoroughly involved as a distributor and played a relatively turnover-free (one) game. While Toronto was down OG Anunoby, I don’t think it would have mattered with how he was shooting.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was a Swiss Army Knife yesterday. Antetokounmpo wanted to send a message early offensively and relentlessly attacked the basket while in full control. He gave Siakam an earful after he finished an and-1 on him. The Raptors did make him earn it and Giannis was gassed at certain junctures of the game. However, a big bright spot from his performance was how well he passed out of double-teams. The kitchen sink was thrown at him throughout the night and he made a handful of beautiful, pinpoint passes while being hounded. This is an area where he struggled in previously against Toronto and it is a huge development to see him pull off what he did last night. He knew where the open man would be and was a few steps ahead of the defense. He ended with 24 points, 18 rebounds, nine assists in 38 minutes. Giannis did not settle for jumpers was rewarded with 16 free throws by attacking the rim. He did make only eight of them, though.

Bonus Bits

  • Brook Lopez provided the Bucks a steady source of offense. He scored 20 points and he was constantly being put in positions to succeed by his teammates and coach Mike Budenholzer. He and Middleton connected on multiple trips down the floor and the ATO drew up for Lopez in the fourth quarter was a beauty of a give and go between the two.
  • Donte DiVincenzo could not buy a bucket but changed the complexion of the game with two plays early in the fourth quarter. With Milwaukee clinging to a lead, he made a poster dunk on Yuta Watanabe and followed it up by playing the passing lanes for a steal and taking it down the floor while drawing a flagrant foul on Lowry. He converted on all of his free throws and gave them so much-needed breathing room.
  • While he played only 13 minutes, Torrey Craig got meaningful burn. He even played in crunch time, too. Aside from one big block in the first half, he was pretty quiet.
  • Bryn Forbes scored 11 points off the bench and did his fair share of hustling defensively, too.
  • D.J. Augustin…playing better! He made three three-pointers and is starting to find his stroke offensively after struggling in the early going.
  • Playing against the Raptors without their home court advantage is…strange. I doubt the Bucks miss it, though.

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