Welp. Even with all of the energy and jubilation that was at the Bradley Center and around the city of Milwaukee leading up to today’s game, the Raptors were able to prevail. They persevered and defeated the Bucks by a score of 87-76.
The largest reason? DeMar DeRozan. Bucks fans were reminded of his All-Star status, as he lit up the box score with a game high 33 points and proved to be much more than Milwaukee could handle. For Milwaukee, Tony Snell notched a playoff career-high with 19 points. Giannis Antetokounmpo, besides a brief stint of positivity to end the first half, remained stymied with just 14 points on 4-19 shooting to go with nine boards, four assists, two steals, two blocks and (gulp) seven turnovers. Middleton wasn’t much better going 4-13 and looking generally ineffective on both ends of the court.
Immediately at the forefront of the game, it was apparent what the Raptors gameplan was: to seal off all inside access. And it worked too -- Milwaukee was forced to settle for jump shots, and looked uncomfortable doing so. A pair of Tony Snell threes kept the crowd in the game and a Thon Maker and-1 ignited them further, but with four minutes left, the Bucks were just 4-of-14 from the court.
But after a Toronto shot clock violation with 36 seconds remaining in the opening quarter, a quick 4-0 Khris Middleton evened things smoothly at 19 apiece. After a porous shooting percentage of just 35 percent, it seemed to be somewhat miraculous that the Bucks were able to bring themselves back into the thick of things headed into the second period.
Folks, I’ve always referred to Jason Terry in this fashion. He’s not only a professional basketball player. He’s a professional entertainer. The evidence behind this? With eight minutes in the second quarter, he scored on a transition layup, leading up to his — you guessed it — Jet celebration. That transcended into a Toronto turnover before getting past the timeline, and then Tony Snell floated one in for a 27-23 lead with 7:47 left in the half.
A Greek Freak hammer on the break rocked the Bradley Center even more, but the Raptors responded strong. A 7-0 run eliminated the work the Bucks had done in building up a nearly double-digit lead, and with a little over three minutes left, things were all knotted up. It would stay that way as the two teams headed to the locker room with both teams sitting at 41 points apiece. DeMar DeRozan was massive for Toronto, finishing with 21 points in the two quarters. Meanwhile, Giannis led the Bucks with 12 of his own.
It remained nip-and-tuck through the beginning of the third quarter, with the two teams trading punch after punch. At the first media break, things remained level. But in the minutes that would follow, Toronto began to pull away, and a Norman Powell 3-pointer pushed the Raptors lead to 59-53. Despite all of that though, the Bucks were able to get back in it and slice the deficit to just a two point lead heading into the final 12 minutes of play.
Desperate shots were the early trend for the Bucks to begin the final period (the worst being a disastrous Dellavedova — I don’t even know what to call it). All shots just seemed to be clunking the iron in a manner that resembled bricks being tossed. They were able to finally pull within six after what seemed like an eternity on their end of the floor, with Greg Monroe laying it in.
Down the stretch, Milwaukee struggled to utilize the energy funneled in by the crowd. Every time they would go up for a shot, it seemed as if butter was painted all over the ball. It would just flail away from their hands, and it ended up costing them big. A Norman Powell 3-pointer with exactly four minutes remaining provided the Raptors with the biggest lead of the game to date at 79-69.
The Bucks would attempt to crawl back into contention, but the combination of missed shots and the DeRozan/Lowry duo mixed in proved to be too much to handle. A Lowry layup that scraped the stratosphere drained any remaining excitement and hope from the Bradley Center crowd, and realizations that Toronto had regained home court advantage began to settle in.
And that’s exactly what happened, as Toronto coasted to an 87-76 victory. But hey, the #BucksIn6 dream is still alive. And a “Bucks in 6” chant echoed throughout the arena as the final buzzer sounded, which was honestly the coolest moment of the night.
- A large part of the Bucks’ success leading up to Game 4 had been due to their low turnover numbers. Coming into today, they averaged just 10 a game this postseason (second-lowest average in the league). That number is lower than what we saw during the regular season (14 a game). Tonight, ehhhhhhh. 20 turnovers stained the stat sheet and it was pretty ugly at times. Antetokounmpo had seven of them, most of which came in his frantic and out-of-control mad dash to begin the game.
- It’s been great seeing Khris Middleton come back into form, but unfortunately that level of play was absent today in Game 4. After back-to-back 20 point performances in Games 2 and 3 (the first time K-Midd achieved that in his career), he saw an ice-cold 4-of-13 performance from the floor. If the Bucks want to be up when the series comes back to the 414, he needs to be on.
- Milwaukee’s 3-point shooting ran out of gas tonight after hitting on double-digit figures the previous game. Today, they went an ugly 5-of-21 (23.8%), although Toronto went 5-of-22. Look for Milwaukee to (hopefully) heat up in Game 5.
- It appeared that Giannis was a little off in his passing game today. Multiple times in the opening quarters, he attempted to facilitate to teammate, but was just off the mark, resulting in turnovers. I’m typing this in the second quarter, so hopefully shores up as things move along. Editor’s Note: It didn’t.
- DeMar DeRozan saw all your jokes. Today he was the All-Star he’s been all season long, posting a game-high 33 points. The Bucks tried all they could. They threw multiple players at him but to no avail. DeRozan just had his way, and you have to tip your hat to him. If patterns continue, hopefully he falls back to Earth on Monday night.
- It was a rough day at the office for Malcolm Brogdon. Turnovers plagued his day, and he just never really caught much of a rhythm. He could just never get his motor running, and his skillset is going to need to be apparent if Milwaukee wants to come back home up 3-2 instead of down.
- The decision to keep Michael Beasley in during the fourth quarter shocked me. He couldn’t hit the broad side of the barn, yet Kidd relied on him probably more than he should’ve with both Khris Middleton and Tony Snell sitting on the bench.
- Apparently, the Bucks didn’t watch the Wisconsin-Florida game from this past Sweet Sixteen. How so? Free throws. Yes, the hair-pulling, scream-inducing pain that comes from missed foul shots. Milwaukee went 11-of-18 on the line for the day. Sure that wouldn’t have granted them the win, but it could’ve played in the momentum department. Nonetheless, hit your freaking free throws. Yes, I’m still mad at Nigel Hayes, okay?
- Dwayne Casey’s decision to play Norman Powell proved to be quite beneficial. Powell, the player Toronto selected when Milwaukee sent its second-round draft pick for Greivis Vasquez (it hurts so much to type this), torched the Bucks with a +15, along with a perfect 3-of-3 from the perimeter. It was pretty much salt in the wound for Bucks fans all game long.
- Game 5 will be on Monday, starting at 6:00 PM Central in the Air Canada Centre.