The Bucks and Raptors square off Friday night in Milwaukee for their second meeting this week. Monday night produced a highly entertaining, offensive display that took an extra period to produce a winner. Toronto took the chocolates 131-127 but it took an individual franchise record performance to do so.
DeMar Derozan has taken his game to another level this season and was simply unstoppable in his career high 52 point display. Derozan finished 17-29 from the field, including 5 triples and a perfect mark from the free throw line in 13 attempts. For good measure he filled out the rest of the box score with 8 assists and 5 rebounds. Try as they might, Tony Snell, Khris Middleton and Matthew Dellavedova, amongst others, failed in their attempts to curtail his influence. Scoring the first 9 points in the game prompting a Milwaukee timeout, his intentions were clear. The first quarter belonged to DeRozan as he finished with 21 of the Raptors 35 total points.
The Bucks had their opportunities, including a bungled last offensive play that resulted in a horrible shot for Malcolm Brogdon, a lost opportunity to win the game proving costly. Eric Bledsoe bailed the Bucks stagnant offense out to no avail with 11 points in overtime as they curiously ignored Giannis Antetokounmpo in crunch time.
In a pleasant surprise the much publicized second unit struggles for Milwaukee were averted, as Thon Maker found his range with 16 points including three triples. A season high 42 point effort from the bench went begging in the loss, however, they will be hoping it’s a sign of positive things to come.
The Raptors improved their home record to 14-1 with the win, avoiding an extremely rare home loss to keep within striking distance of the Boston Celtics for top spot in the East.
Both teams followed up that contest with winning performances. Milwaukee cruised to a 21 point win over Indiana, and Toronto pushed away in the fourth quarter to secure a win in Chicago.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, the leader in NBA All-Star voting after the first returns will come in fresh, benefiting from sitting out the fourth quarter against the Pacers and getting some well deserved rest for his troublesome knee. Leading the league in minutes per game, whilst carrying knee soreness that has forced him to miss two games has proven a source of concern for Bucks fans. A rare blowout victory was just what the doctor ordered before a battle against one of the East’s best.
Blowing out the Raptors at home in Game 3 of the NBA Playoffs will provide the Bucks with some minor confidence, but this is a different Toronto outfit this season. A win at home would be a huge step in the right direction for a team trying to step up in their own right.
Kane’s Keys To Victory:
- Fast Start, Secure Home Court: Interestingly enough, as good as the Raptors have been at home, they are vulnerable on the road. With a 12-9 record away from the Air Canada Center, Toronto have lost road games to Dallas, Indiana, and New York, proving the hotel life doesn’t treat them as well as home cooking. The Bucks starting lineup is posting a net rating of 13.2, a dominant number. Quickly jumping out the gates against a sluggish Pacers outfit allowed Milwaukee to gain control and never look back. A similarly fast start here will have the Bradley Center rocking and put the Bucks in the box seat.
- Get It To The Freak: Giannis’ usage rate has been in decline as the season has gone on. It’s time to unleash the Greek Freak. Posting 7 assists and 0 turnovers Monday night, Giannis was distributing the ball with polish. The reward for that was getting completely ignored in overtime and predictably the Bucks suffered. Leading the fast break points count 16-5 Milwaukee flirted with pushing the pace but must take it up another gear tonight. After an effortless 30 points in 29 minutes against Indiana the task is simple. Get the ball in Giannis’ hands and let him go to work, rarely will you regret this tactic.
- Deny DeRozan: The Bucks lost the game by four points. DeRozan scored 52. Simply containing him slightly would’ve have changed the result. The Bucks went away from Snell and left Delly in down the stretch in Toronto. It will take a combined effort from Snell, Middleton and Delly to stop the All-Star lock in the hottest of form. Bringing the automatic double team wont always work, Middleton was burnt badly late in the game leaving Lowry open behind the arc for a key three pointer. Could the Bucks throw Giannis at DeRozan? Potentially, though foul trouble is a concern in that instance. I have no doubt Jason Kidd and co would have had a restless night pondering the best way to stop him tonight. Time will tell, but if the Bucks let him off the leash again, good luck.
Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus