Well, at least it was less heartbreaking than the Badger game, eh?
A night after coming up short in Chicago, the Bucks returned home and gave it the old college try against the surging Raptors, leading by nine at halftime before Toronto simply outplayed them down the stretch to come away with a nervy 102-98 win.
With Kyle Lowry in street clothes, Greivis Vasquez tormented the Bucks with a 6/8 shooting performance from deep en route to 26 points on just 15 shots, while DeMar DeRozan struggled from the field (7/19 fg, most of the hero ball variety) but sunk six straight free throws in the final 30 seconds as Toronto extended its winning streak to three games. Jonas Valanciunas used his superior strength to repeatedly bully John Henson on the way to an impressive 17 points and 13 boards, but Henson also dished it out himself with by far his best game of the new year: 23 points (10/16 fg, 3/4 ft), 9 rebounds, a career-high 6 assists and 3 blocks.
With Zaza Pachulia finding foul trouble in both the first and third quarters, Henson went to work early and hurt Toronto repeatedly with his movement in the paint as well as his passing from the elbow. Khris Middleton also broke out of his slump with some uncharacteristic aggression going to the hoop, scoring 10 in the opening period and finishing with 20 on 6/9 shooting before fouling out late. Jeff Adrien added 19 points (albeit on 8/17 shooting) to go with 12 boards, with half of his eight field goals coming on layups assisted by Henson. Guess somebody's been taking notes watching Zaza, eh?
As has usually been the case of late, the Bucks' ball movement (28 assists) and ability to push the tempo (20-3 fast break points) kept them competitive, though a huge deficit from deep ultimately proved too steep to overcome. Two dunks from Henson and another transition slam from Giannis Antetokounmpo highlighted a 16-4 second quarter run that saw the Bucks streak to a 40-32 advantage, and another 10-0 run earned the Bucks a deserved 56-47 lead at intermission. But eight quick points from Vasquez highlighted a 10-2 Raptor run to start third, and it was back and forth the rest of the way as Toronto never led by more than six.
- I'm not sure where this Henson has been the past couple months, but it's good to have him back.
- Giannis suffered through another forgettable offensive night, missing five of his six shots before hitting a pair of important free throws in the final 30 seconds. It just didn't look like Giannis had any idea how to create a good look for himself when he was putting the ball on the floor, and he continues to suffer from an annoying tendency to dribble away from the hoop when he's under any type of ball pressure. Defensively he was frustrated with a couple cheap bailout calls, but he gave it a good go against the dangerous DeRozan and Terrence Ross.
- The Bucks' collapsing defense allowed 12/27 shooting from deep, while the Bucks' offense could only muster a sorry 1/9 of their own--which essentially decided the game. Every other statistical category was fairly close or favored the Bucks: Milwaukee outshot Toronto 48.1% to 44.4% and finished +3 at the foul line and even with nine turnovers.
- Knight served up perhaps the dunk of the Bucks' season in the third quarter, using a nasty crossover to get by Vasquez before throwing down a vicious tomahawk on Valanciunas.
- With the Sixers losing narrowly to the Nets tonight, the Bucks remain three wins ahead of Philly for pole position in the 2014 lottery. Both teams have just five games remaining, which makes it highly unlikely that Milwaukee catches Philly in the win department.