Morry Gash/Associated Press
The Milwaukee Bucks stole home-court advantage from the Toronto Raptors with a Game 1 victory and certainly weren’t going to throw it away Thursday.
Milwaukee destroyed the Raptors in Game 3 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center 104-77 to seize a 2-1 lead in the series. It controlled the game from the start with a 20-point lead after a quarter and 27-point advantage at halftime and never looked back.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton led the way for the Bucks, but they were far from the only ones to finish with impressive numbers:
|Milwaukee Bucks’ Thursday Leaders|
On the other end, DeMar DeRozan didn’t hit a single field goal (0-of-8) on his way to eight points. Kyle Lowry (13 points and five rebounds) and Delon Wright (13 points and six rebounds) led the losing effort.
It’s Not Just the Greek Freak
Antetokounmpo receives most of the press when it comes to the Bucks, and rightly so. After all, he is their 22-year-old All-Star, a marvel of smooth athleticism and seemingly never-ending length, and someone who can play point guard or swat shots down low.
His versatility was on full display during Thursday’s commanding victory when he posted 19 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks:
However, it would be wrong to frame Milwaukee’s win as just his doing considering six of its players scored in double figures.
Middleton stretched the floor for his teammates with 20 points, and Matt Velazquez of the Journal Sentinel pointed out the real early battle was between the Bucks’ guard and the opposition:
Matt Velazquez @Matt_Velazquez
Khris Middleton sat for the final 4 1/2 minutes of the 1st quarter and by himself is only trailing the Raptors 12-11.
4/21/2017, 12:40:26 AM
Middleton’s ability to soften Toronto’s defense with his scoring touch opened up opportunities for Greg Monroe, who enforced his will in the paint with 16 points and seven rebounds.
Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer weighed in on Monroe’s showing:
Kevin O’Connor @KevinOConnorNBA
This is the Greg Monroe I’ve been waiting for. He’s playing better defense than ever. Plays so hard. I hope it’s not a contract year push. https://t.co/JnKX0J59ES
4/21/2017, 1:01:13 AM
Milwaukee has a genuine superstar in the making in Antetokounmpo, but his supporting cast was playoff-ready in its first postseason home game of the year. Rather than shrinking under the pressure of capitalizing on their split in Toronto, the Bucks thrived in front of a raucous crowd.
With the No. 1-seeded Boston Celtics trailing the No. 8-seeded Chicago Bulls 2-0, the Eastern Conference is wide open behind the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers. If the rest of the Bucks thrive around Antetokounmpo like they did Thursday, a deep postseason run is not out of the question.
Raptors Offense Looks Like Deer in Headlights
Morry Gash/Associated Press
Milwaukee was 19th in the league in defensive rating during the regular season, per NBA.com. While it sports length with Antetokounmpo and rim protection with Thon Maker, this isn’t a lockdown defensive team like the San Antonio Spurs.
That makes Toronto’s showing all the more baffling.
It looked lost throughout the game, almost like a deer in the headlights:
The Raptors scored a measly 30 points in the first half behind 20.7 percent shooting from the field and 10 percent shooting from deep. What’s more, they didn’t learn from the mistakes in their first two contests, as Eric Koreen of The Athletic pointed out:
(((Eric Koreen))) @ekoreen
It’s like the Raps, and DeMar specifically, unlearned every lesson they learned last game vs. the Trap.
4/21/2017, 12:37:15 AM
DeRozan’s performance was especially concerning for the Raptors considering he scored a combined 50 points in the first two games and led the team in scoring this season (27.3 points per game). In all, the Raptors shot 33.8 percent from the field and committed 15 turnovers.
Matt Moore of CBS Sports responded to Toronto’s showing:
Hardwood Paroxysm @HPbasketball
HI, PLEASE DONATE TO MY GOFUNDME TO BUY THE RAPTORS POINTS
4/21/2017, 12:51:55 AM
This is a team that was seen as a legitimate threat to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the East after taking them to six games in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, but it was reduced to dinosaur jokes in Milwaukee from before the opening tip:
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
The Raptors starting lineup was introduced with the Barney theme song in Milwaukee 😂💀 https://t.co/vNhKdQfF96
4/21/2017, 1:08:12 AM
Tom Ziller of SB Nation summarized the showing when he said, “I’m starting to believe that perhaps the Toronto Raptors will not be appearing in the 2017 NBA Finals.”
If they are going to make the NBA Finals, the Raptors need to bounce back quickly. They will get their chance Saturday in Game 4 back in Milwaukee.