Statement: The Bucks established themselves as the best team in the east by dominating the Raptors from start to finish. Toronto made a run in the fourth to get it close, but Milwaukee held the advantage for the entire night and left no doubt as to which team was superior.
Leadership: The Raptors rely on Kyle Lowry to set the tone, but he’s just too inconsistent and the team follows his lead. Lowry was a mess in the third quarter as he bricked a layup, committed three lazy turnovers including a blind pass that clanked off Serge Ibaka’s back, and was generally incapable of organizing an offense that devolved into isolation.
Apathetic: The responsibility then falls on Kawhi Leonard to pick up the slack, but he just doesn’t have the same command over the team. Leonard is a system onto himself, and he can get a bucket on just about anyone, but nobody really feeds off his greatness.
Fearless: Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet were the two who ultimately stepped to the plate and willed the Raptors back into the game. VanVleet introduced some much-needed stability to the offense, while Siakam was a man possessed on both ends of the floor. Their hustle changed the course of the game.
Snubbed: Siakam, in particular, was intent on sending a message after he was snubbed from an All-Star selection. He was relentless going to the rim, and was arguably the best player in a game that featured two MVP candidates. It’s just too bad that none of his teammates matched his energy.
Bricks: Three-point shooting is the biggest weakness for the Raptors. Danny Green is the only reliable shooter on the team, and that just won’t fly for a team with Finals aspirations. Milwaukee outscored Toronto 42-to-21 from deep, which was the main difference in this game.
Concern: Giannis Antetokounmpo was neutralized because he landed in foul trouble. The Raptors made a point to attack him in the paint, and it was just too much to ask Antetokounmpo to lead the offense while also guarding Toronto’s best player on the night in Siakam. Fortunately, it didn’t come back to bite Milwaukee in the end, but the Bucks should look to occasionally stash Antetokounmpo on easier assignments.
Confident: The Bucks got a huge boost off the bench in D.J. Wilson, who gave the Raptors fits with his perimeter game. He was money in the pick-and-pop, but he also mixed in some driving layups against the closeout and finished at the rim. Wilson was so effective that he took the majority of Ersan Ilyasova’s minutes.
Aggressive: Khris Middleton’s physical defense completely took Leonard out of his game. Middleton pushed and dug his arms into Leonard whenever possible, got up on every pull-up jumper, and diligently funneled Leonard into the help defender. Leonard only finished with 16 points on 7-of-20 shooting in his worst outing of the year.
Organization: The other difference in this game was coaching. Mike Budenholzer had his team executing steadily every trip down the floor regardless of the circumstances, while Nick Nurse seemingly had no control over his team’s emotional swings. Toronto started off the game slow, and came out of halftime completely flat. That’s on the coach.