The Milwaukee Bucks were able to outlast the Toronto Raptors in the fourth quarter of Sundays contest between the two Beasts of the East. In order to figure out how they did it, let’s take a look at the film and I’ll show you some aspects that really stuck out.
The Bucks defense was clicking at this point and they were stringing together stops to begin the fourth. Check out this picture perfect pick and roll defense executed by the whole team:
The play begins with a simple ball screen by Jonas Valanciunas. As Malcolm Brogdon fights over the top, Ersan Ilyasova sinks into the lane to protect a drive. Fred Van Vleet tries to snake dribble across the middle, but both Brogdon and Ilyasova force him back outside the paint where he kicks it to the corner.
Delon Wright than catches the pass and gets past Sterling Brown, which forces Ilyasova to step up and help. As he does so, Giannis Antetokounmpo drops from the weakside corner to help the helper (Ilyasova’s man) and then recovers to force a missed three-point shot as Wright skips it to OG Anunoby. That’s just gorgeous.
Even though this shot didn’t go down for Khris Middleton, it’s still a beautiful play that I wanted to draw attention to:
Following a back screen Ilyasova sets for Middleton, he catches the inbounds pass near the free throw line extended and quickly hands it off to Antetokounmpo. As Antetokounmpo dribbles to the middle of the floor, Middleton is coming back from the weak side and running off a stagger screen set by Ilyasova and Brogdon.
Middleton completely loses his guy for a second and probably has enough space to catch and shoot. However, he decides to dribble toward the lane and kick out to Ilyasova. Following a pump fake, Ilyasova launches the three which clanks off the side of the iron. They were oh so close to executing this to the t.
With the Raptors slowly cutting into Milwaukee’s lead, the Bucks badly needed a bucket and got one in a big way from Splash Mountain:
When Milwaukee isn’t running their five-out offense, they love to run this 1-4 high-low pick and roll. Four guys start down low (two on the blocks and two in the corners) with the ball-handler at the top of the key. Then, a big man (typically, Brook Lopez) will run out and set a ball screen.
On this particular play, the Raptors force Bledsoe away from the screen and toward one side of the floor. However, Lopez recognizes Serge Ibaka is completely out of position, as he’s trying to help contain Bledsoe and he pops to the wing. Bledsoe hits Lopez in stride who then pump fakes, takes one dribble to create separation and splashes the ball home as he stays true to his name.
Let’s fast forward a few minutes to when the game really begins to get interesting. Raptors’ head coach Nick Nurse really finds something in the two-man game of Kawhi Leonard and Ibaka:
With Lopez on the floor, having his man set a ball screen seems like the obvious choice given his slow feet. However, Antetokounmpo is actually the one exposed in this scenario. The Greek Freak is unable to get over the top of this screen (one of his weaknesses on defense) and puts Lopez on an island with Leonard. This is a play Toronto will come back to real quick as you’ll see in the next clip.
Following a tough layup in traffic by Brogdon, the Raptors come right back to a pick and roll with Leonard and Ibaka. And even though they get a great look, they aren’t able to connect:
Once again, Antetokounmpo is matched up on Leonard and Lopez is on Ibaka. The other three Raptors on the floor spread to the two corners and weak-side wing providing Toronto’s duo with plenty of space to operate. Once Ibaka sets the screen, Antetokounmpo gets completely held up on it. Leonard does a nice job of drawing the play out long enough for his man to recover and then kicks it out to a wide open Ibaka on the perimeter. The shot clangs off the back of the rim, but the Bucks aren’t able to control the rebound.
For the third straight possession, Nurse calls a pick-and-roll with Leonard and Ibaka. Also for the third straight possession, the Raptors get a great look out of it:
Antetokounmpo does a nice job of fighting through the first ball screen this time (he actually goes under) and Lopez is able to force Leonard to retreat with his dribble. However, Ibakas simply re-screens and gets Leonard a wide open shot at the nail.
The Bucks’ star was really exposed in the pick-and-roll on Sunday and it’s something Toronto can come back to if these teams meet in the playoffs. Milwaukee does end up making a change (spoiler alert), but this situation isn’t completely preventable. There’s work to be done.
A couple of possessions before this clip, Mike Budenholzer switched up his defensive matchups and put Middleton on Leonard. Following a turnover on the other end, Middleton really turned up the heat and bothered Leonard on this play:
Despite Middleton now defending Leonard, the Raptors went right back to the ball screen with Ibaka. However, the Bucks’ shooting guard does a much better job fighting through the screen and using active hands and feet to make Leonard uncomfortable. This alteration by Budenholzer was the difference in the game as Leonard didn’t score again.
Following a missed three by Kyle Lowry, the Bucks come up clutch with this Brogdon money ball:
The Raptors switched a ball screen before this clip began, which left Ibaka matched up with Middleton on the outside. Middleton does a nice job of not forcing a pull-up three, instead, using a hesitation dribble to get to the lane. Danny Green then helps early which forces the Raptors into scramble mode.
Antetokounmpo is the one who sets the tone by crashing into the lane following Middleton’s deep penetration. That forces Brogdons’ man, Van Vleet, to slide down and take that cut away. In the end, Middleton does a nice job of reading the situation and hitting Brogdon on time and in his shooting pocket for the game-tying three.
Even though Middleton was good on Leonard down the stretch, removing Antetokounmpo off the ball also allowed him to roam and take chances:
With the game tied at 97 all with under a minute to play, the Raptors went back to what’s been working for them down the stretch. Lopez does a nice job containing Leonard off the ball screen and Middleton recovers. However, Leonard uses a crafty spin back to the middle to get deep into the lane.
Antetokounmpo ensures Leonard doesn’t score by abandoning his man and fully committing to the drive. As Leonard tries to pass the ball to his wide open teammate in the corner, Lopez and Antetokounmpo combine to use their length and deflect the pass resulting in a steal.
Immediately following that steal was another huge outside shot by Brogdon and one that ultimately clinched the game:
The Bucks do a great job of playing unselfish basketball on this free-style possession. As Brogdon races up the floor, he waits for his teammates to come to his aide and fill the five positions the offense operates under.
Brogdon drops it off to Middleton at the top of the key who quickly swings it to Lopez. Lopez pump fakes and tosses it to the corner to Bledsoe who could’ve easily taken the corner three. Instead, Bledsoe drives into the lane and kicks it back out to Middleton who promptly passes it to Brogdon for the dagger-three. Game over and Bucks win!
What say you? What did you notice that stood out and really made a difference in the outcome of the game? Also, let me know if there’s anything in particular you’d like to see in future Bucks Film Room articles.