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Bucks vs. Raptors: Toronto’s defense shuts down Giannis and co.

Raptors held the Giannis and Dame to just 31 total points

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Milwaukee Bucks v Toronto Raptors Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

It was certainly not the homecoming that Bucks head coach Adrian Griffin was looking for when heading back to Toronto to take on his old squad in the Raptors. A cold shooting night from beyond the arc, incredible hustle from the Raptors, and an off night for the Bucks superstars led to a 130-111 drubbing by Toronto.

Game Summary

It was all Raptors as soon as the ball was tipped off. Forwards Scottie Barnes and O.G. Anunonby were on fire early, combining for 11 of the Raptors’ first 18 points as Toronto raced out to an 18-8 lead with 6:20 to go in the first quarter. A couple of layups from Jakob Poeltl right after two straight Bucks misses forced Griffin to call a timeout as the Bucks trailed 22-8 with 4:47 left. Milwaukee was able to get a few things moving on the offensive end, with Khris Middleton scoring six points, but the rest of the Bucks offense combined for just two more points as the Raptors put up nine more and took a 31-18 lead heading into the second.

Toronto picked up right where it left off as they began the second quarter on a 10-2 run to take a 21-point lead at the 9:02 mark of the frame, 40-21. The Bucks, who had begun the game 0-for-9 from beyond the arc, hit their first three-pointer with 8:25 to play in the second thanks to Middleton. Despite that, the Bucks still couldn’t buy a bucket as the Raptors took their biggest lead of the night at 27 points in the second quarter. Milwaukee was able to whittle that down to 22 points heading into the locker room thanks to a couple of free throws from Dame.

Even with the massive deficit ahead of them, the Bucks tried to mount a comeback several times throughout the third quarter. Midway through the stanza, Jae Crowder hit a few threes after Malik Beasley had hit a couple of his own earlier, to drop the Raptors' lead to fifteen, 75-60. However, Toronto countered with a quick 6-0 run off of a Schorder jumper and two dunks from Anunoby. The run put the Raptors' lead back to 21, forcing the Bucks to call a timeout. Milwaukee did try one more run to get back into the game with the bench out there, as a combined nine points from Cam Payne, Bobby Portis, and Crowder cut the deficit to just thirteen with 1:30 left. After trading a few baskets, Scottie Barnes would nail a buzzer-beating three to swing momentum back for the Raptors heading into the fourth, as they lead 95-79.

The Rapots poured it on in the fourth as they outscored the Bucks 20-12 to give themselves a 115-92 lead with 6:42 left in the game. Shortly after that, Griffin emptied the bench by putting in A.J. Green, Chris Livingston, Andre Jackson Jr., and Thansis Antetkoumpo for the final 5:31 of the game. Toronto cruised to a 130-111 victory, their first time scoring more than 110 points all season long.

Pascal Siakam had his best game of the season with 26 points, seven assists, and six rebounds. Dennis Schroder finished the night with a double-double going for 24 points and 11 assists, while Scottie Barnes contributed 21 points on 50% shooting from the field.

Malik Beasley was the leading scorer for Milwaukee last night, with 20 points with six made threes. Giannis, despite the 16 points and four rebounds looked uncomfortable all night, committing three turnovers and going 5-for-10 on the interior, well below his 69% from inside five feet this season. Damian Lillard followed his excellent fourth quarter on Monday with 15 points on 4-for-9 shooting with just one made three-pointer.

The Bucks will be on ESPN Friday as they will host the New York Knicks (2-4) at Fiserv Forum for their first In-Season Tournament game.

What Did We Learn

There are still massive issues with the Bucks defense, but there are adjustments that can be made. There is no denying that Milwaukee’s defense has not been good this year, considering they are currently ranked 29th in the league in defensive rating (119.0), one spot ahead of the Indiana Pacers (119.3). Everyone and their brother knew that the Bucks defense was not going to be as stout as it was last year with the trade of Jrue Holiday for Damian Lillard, that was a fact everyone had accepted going into this season. I just don’t think that anyone expected it to be this bad.

However, there is a glimmer of hope for a multitude of reasons. First, we are only four games into an 82-game regular season. As much as we hoped that the Bucks would be firing on all cylinders to begin the year, that was not a realistic goal considering there would be a new coaching staff and three new players that drastically shifted the makeup of the roster (Dame, Cam Payne, Malik Beasley).

The other thing is that Adrian Griffin threw out a zone defense a few times and it allowed the Bucks to make a few runs to try and make it a game. The Raptors were just able to counter what the Bucks were doing regardless of the defense. I would be worried about the Bucks' defense right now, but there is no need to hit the immediate panic button.

Three Things

What Is going on with Brook Lopez?

Through four games this season, Lopez’s numbers are worse than the 2021-22 season when he only played 13 games. He is putting up the lowest points per game (10.8) and minutes per game (23.8) of his career. In last night’s game alone he played just 16:39 while only scoring six points. Here is what head coach Adrian Griffin said after the game about Lopez’s and Middleton’s minutes.

It could simply be him adjusting to the new defensive system and the game being a blowout, but it is concerning with his usage and lack of defensive impact felt early this season. Jakob Poeltl feasted on the interior, with 14 points, 11 rebounds, and four blocks, and the Raptors as a team had 66 points in the paint and shot 76% from inside.

Offensive funk for Giannis and Dame

After showing how dynamic they can be together on Monday against the Heat, neither Giannis nor Dame looked impressive together on the floor. Outside of the 31 combined points on 40% shooting, neither guy looked comfortable against the Raptors defense. Forcing up bad shots, turning the ball over, and just not running a clean offense for Milwaukee. That in part has to do with both these guys basically being in new roles this year. As we discussed on this week’s podcast, Giannis has never played with a guard as good as Dame and has never been the traditional pick-and-roll big man that Dame used to play with in Portland with LaMarcus Aldrige and Jusuf Nurkic.

This will take some time to adjust, which may lead to bad offensive performances like this one. Yet if they can both figure it out, it can lead to what all Bucks fans, players, coaches, and the front office are trying to chase.

Siakam strikes again

As I mentioned in the game preview, Pascal Siakam has had a good recent history against the Bucks. In six of his last eight games, Siakam has scored 20 or more points against the Bucks and he did it again last night. The former first-round pick scored 26 points on 9-for-13 shooting to go along with six rebounds and seven assists. He had a stretch in the fourth quarter where he scored 11 points in three minutes to put the Bucks away. On the game, Siakam hit five three-pointers on eight attempts.

Of course, up to this point, Siakam had only hit six three-pointers all season and had only reached the 20-point mark once. I apologize to any Bucks fans who think I jinxed the team with my selection, I will make sure to do better in the future.

Bonus Bucks Bits

  • Heading into the game, the Bucks duo of Giannis Antetekounmpo and Damian Lillard were fifth in the league in fourth-quarter scoring at 15.7 points per game. They trailed only the Bulls duo of Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan (15.8), the Kings’ De’arron Fox and Keegan Murray (17.0), the Nets’ Cam Thomas and Mikal Bridges (17.3), and the Mavericks’ Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving (19.7).
  • Khris Middleton looked good in spots offensively last night. It was the first time this season that Middleton had suited up for consecutive games and looked strong early. While he finished with 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting in just 17 minutes, he began the game shooting 3-for-4 with six points while trying to carry the Bucks sluggish offense.
  • Bobby Portis has scored in double figures in all four games this season with 10 last night. He and Giannis are the only two players for the Bucks to accomplish that. Brook Lopez had scored 10+ in each of the three previous games but was limited to six last night.
  • Despite the rough night for Giannis, he still did his thing and had another highlight reel play off an inbound pass from Cam Payne.
  • Malik Beasley had his best game offensively as a Buck, leading them in scoring with 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting and 6-for-9 from three-point range. If the rest of the Bucks offense can figure itself out, Beasley will be a big contributor down the road.

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