10 things I saw from Raptors-Bucks (27–1–2017)

  1. Leadership: Kyle Lowry had an awful week during that 5-game losing streak. His gambling in the Sixers game was hugely costly, his petulance in the Suns game was inexcusable. Lowry needed to lead, and over the last three games we’re witnessing the mature, composed and determined Lowry that we’re used to. This game, just like this team a whole, looks to him for everything. Lowry was stellar tonight.
  2. Opening salvo: Lowry’s first quarter effort was LeBron-esque, and no that’s not an exaggeration. Lowry opened the game with a driving layup, found Jonas Valanciunas rolling to the bucket with a pick-and-roll pocket pass, collapsed the defense on a drive to find DeMarre Carroll for three, drilled a pull-up three, faked a timeout and got an and-1 layup, forced two steals, fouled 3 times in all, pushed it in transition to find Jonas trailing for a dunk, then a dump-off to Bebe Nogueira for the slam, a crosscourt pass to Terrence Ross for a corner 3, then on top of all that Lowry also took a charge.
  3. Encore performance: The only other time Toronto felt any kind of pressure was the start of the fourth. Milwaukee cut the lead to seven but there was Lowry once again to stop the bleeding. He made a three despite getting fouled, grabbed an offensive rebound then slashed to the bucket for two, set up Patrick Patterson for three with a drive-and-kick, and wrapped up the night with an ovation from the ACC faithful.
  4. Defensive intensity: That is the type of effort Dwane Casey wants. Bucks shot 15–40 at the basket, 7–23 from deep and coughed up 19 turnovers. Raptors blitzed the Bucks out the gates, forcing 8 turnovers in the first which opened up easy transition opportunities. Raptors provided great ball pressure without giving up penetration — a delicate balance the team hasn’t found this season up until last night.
  5. Frontcourt defense: The starting frontcourt was awesome on defense. Jonas was a monster on the glass, Patterson played physical with Parker and shut him down, while Carroll did a tremendous job keeping Giannis out of the paint, giving him no space to dish, and held him to mostly midrange jumpers. They need to bring this every night.
  6. The young gun: Norman Powell is coming for DeMar DeRozan’s job. Yet another stellar showing from Powell who keeps getting to the rim at will. He got blocked a bunch when trying to dribble penetrate 1-on-1 (he only takes one dribble then two hard steps to the cup, which doesn’t work against Bucks’ length) but he tortured the Bucks whenever he attacked a closeout. He even had an and-1 finish over Giannis.
  7. Fake hustle: Terrence Ross is the king of skying for uncontested defensive rebounds. Man gets so high in the air for no reason, almost as if he’s just teasing you like “this is what it could be, but nah I’d rather play soft most of the time.”
  8. Stay aggressive: Bebe Nogueira’s natural instinct is to pass, and he sees the floor beautifully for a center. However, he can help the team even more if he plays physical and look to score. There are too many times when Bebe catches the ball on the roll deep in the paint and doesn’t even look at the basket before throwing a kickout pass to the open shooter. You’re 7-foot tall with great hands. Look to finish!
  9. The orator: Matt Devlin dropped some tremendous ad-libs for Bebe. “BIG BEBE WITH THE SLAM!” (when Bebe used a ball fake to split the lane for a dunk). “YOU GIVE THEREFORE YOU SHALL RECEIVE” (when Bebe got a steal, found Ross, who tossed it back to Bebe for the alley-oop).
  10. 新年快乐!