With the series now tied 1-1, Milwaukee’s chance to stake an overwhelming lead (and overwhelming odds they would win) with a 2-0 series lead narrowly slipped through their hooves on Tuesday night. Kyle Lowry played like an All-Star again, and both he and DeMar DeRozan hit clutch shots down the stretch, while Milwaukee missed two open threes to lose 106-100. Here is Frank and Eric breaking down tonight’s matchup on Locked on Bucks.
Other than a strong shooting night from three - 11-23 - and solid performances from both Greg Monroe and Khris Middleton, Milwaukee certainly didn’t play its finest game against Toronto. However, it showed an impressive amount of resilience and despite the Raptors often leaping ahead with bursts of threes, Milwaukee continued to battle back.
Some of that was certainly due to Giannis Antetokounmpo, who only went 9-24 from the field, but affected plenty of other facets with 24 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists. He splashed home a cold-blooded three-pointer with less than two minutes to go to tie it at 100, but the Bucks’ ensuing wide-open looks from Brogdon and Dellavedova rattled out.
While any loss in a series reliant on just four wins is a clear missed opportunity, the Bucks have the chance to feed off a home crowd who just watched their Tuesday night game in record numbers. A win would shift the balance of power back to Milwaukee, and alleviate some of the pressure on them if they still hope to win the series.
Kyle Lowry showing signs of life means Toronto can gently move their hand away from the panic button, but the fact Milwaukee very nearly beat them in what they would probably deem a solid game is worrying. Serge Ibaka, after reports he may not play due to a bum ankle, gave the Raptors a much-needed defensive presence at the rim and chipped in with jumpers on the offensive end. Basically, he played like the perception of Ibaka rather than what he was while toiling away in Orlando.
If Toronto wants to win this series, pulling out game two was basically a prerequisite. The pressure is squarely on them in this series, Milwaukee has nothing to lose with a young team who are relying on two rookies to buoy their lineups. Today’s game should be a proper test of both team’s mettle.
The Raptors made a few adjustments in game two, most notably playing several rookies (Jakob Poeltl and Delon Wright), cutting down Demarre Carroll’s minutes slightly and more demonstrably baiting Giannis to shoot jumpers by playing off him and undercutting screens. Giannis may have been less efficient, but much of that was due to a poor shooting performance in the paint he’s unlikely to repeat.
They also went demonstrably small, running out a Tucker-Patterson-Ibaka frontline for a good chunk of the fourth quarter. Milwaukee countered with Maker at center, and we’ll see whether Toronto doubles down on the success of those lineups and further depletes the minutes of Valanciunas or potentially Poeltl.