The Milwaukee Bucks finally returned to action on Friday, falling to a talented Toronto Raptors team.
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Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
After a relatively lengthy break in the lead up to Thanksgiving, the Milwaukee Bucks returned to action against the Toronto Raptors on Friday night.
Matched up against one of the league’s better teams, the Bucks were very solid throughout but just couldn’t get over the hump to overhaul the Toronto lead.
A vital component in the difference between the two teams was the Raptors’ incredible three-point shooting. Although the Bucks had a good shooting night in their own right, the Raptors’ 14 three-point makes included some deep, contested buckets from Kyle Lowry and Terrence Ross that really helped to kill Milwaukee’s momentum.
Considering the Bucks gave a spirited performance in a game they were expected to lose, there are positives to take from this game, much like there were against the Golden State Warriors last week. What matters for Milwaukee is finding a way to make these performances translate over to the games where they’re on a more even footing with the opposition.
For now, let’s take a look at how the Bucks, Jason Kidd and the Raptors graded on Friday night.
Matthew Dellavedova had struggled a little of late, but this was a big improvement against a high quality opponent. Delly limited his turnovers and flashed great vision with alley-oop assists, finishing the game with eight dimes compared to only two turnovers. On defense, the Aussie also did a relatively good job of containing Kyle Lowry who had to resort to some insanely deep threes to get some points on the board, while maybe most importantly, Delly knocked down 3-5 on his attempts from distance.
Tony Snell really struggled in guarding DeMar DeRozan, making him neither the first nor last defender who’s going to have that problem this season. Although Snell finished with a solid 16 points having made four triples, he missed some gilt edge chances in the first quarter that played a part in allowing the Raptors to get out in front. Once Toronto got the lead, Milwaukee’s problem was that they could stay close but never truly rein them in. Unfortuantely, Snell’s inability to guard the undoubtedly talented DeRozan played a big part in that too.
Let’s get the negative out of the way first as we’ve far more positives to discuss thereafter. As much as most Bucks fans are more than happy to gloss over it, control remains a major issue for Giannis. That showed in a reckless offensive foul that put him in first quarter foul trouble again, and in the careless loose dribble that allowed Kyle Lowry to pick his pocket for a game clinching steal in the final 10 seconds. On a much more positive note, Giannis has rarely looked more unstoppable offensively. Against a team who are one of the very best in the Eastern Conference, the Greek Freak could get whatever he wanted down the stretch, controlling the Bucks’ offense on a string, and feeling confident enough to call his own number. It’s also worth noting the consistency with which we’ve seen these kind of performances from Giannis this season. He was great here and it’s become a nightly occurence.
Far from Jabari Parker‘s best game of late, this one promised so much for the Chicago native when he opened up by knocking down yet another three-pointer, even after a brief hesitation. There was to be no repeat of his 5-7 from deep against Orlando, though, as Jabari struggled for the rest of the night behind the arc. Otherwise, he really disappeared for large stretches of the game, where perhaps a more active Jabari could have helped the Bucks to get over the hump. It wasn’t necessarily a bad game from Parker, but we know he’s definitely capable of better than 14 points and four rebounds.
In yet another unexpected twist in Milwaukee’s center rotation, Miles Plumlee returned to the starting lineup prior to tip with John Henson relegated to a DNP. It was a quietly effective showing from Plumlee in which he set screens and caught lobs, but didn’t really do enough to tip the scales of the game. Although it’s often been a good general rule that Plumlee should be seen rather than heard, he offered very little in terms of rebounding and was dwarfed by the impact Greg Monroe managed to make in less minutes from the bench.
Mirza Teletovic does very little outside of getting buckets and that’s okay. All four of the Bosnian’s shots came from behind the three-point line in this one, and having made two of them he can be relatively happy with his contribution. What has become more important than Teletovic’s actual numbers is the shift he allows the Bucks to make, though. When Teletovic enters for the small ball lineup that sees Giannis move to center, opposing teams have had very few answers so far. At the moment, he’s an essential part in Milwaukee’s secret weapon.
Very effective showing from Brogdon who touched the ball less than usual in this one. Although we may have seen less of Brogdon the ball-handler, what we did see was the rookie finally get some shots to fall down. Brogdon’s shooting percentages have not been a particularly pretty site of late, but 3-5 from the field and 2-2 from deep will certainly act as a welcome boost to that coming out of this game.
Michael Beasley shot the ball worse than he has for quite a few games on Friday night, but still, Beas found a way to prove that he can contribute. A 1-7 showing from the field is the sort of terrifying prospect that many Bucks fans dreaded when they heard the news of Beasley’s arrival, but it was somewhat counteracted by how active the former second overall pick was on the glass. Beasley’s greatest strength might actually be rebounding and he did plenty of heavy lifting with eight boards in this one.
Missing a technical free throw and a wide open three cost the Bucks some very valuable points that could have ultimately changed the course of the game, but Jason Terry did continue to give a little insight into why his minutes have improved of late. Terry displayed some nice inbounds passing which would be insignificant if not for the fact that the Bucks have blown a couple of games due to their problems in that department of late, and he gamely defended both Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan in the latter stages of the game. Not a game that went JET’s way, but the effort and intelligence were certainly still there.
The Raptors didn’t have any real answers for Greg Monroe, particularly in the second unit. Bebe Nogueira is the kind of matchup that Moose must dream of and he took advantage of it for the most part. If anything, the Bucks didn’t make enough use of that advantage when he was on the floor and missed some easy scoring opportunities. With minutes hard to come by for Monroe of late, it’s hard to be anything other than impressed by an eight points, 10 rebound showing in less than 20 minutes of action.
Kidd’s rotations have improved significantly of late, even if he does still have that long time habit of leaving his second unit in just a little too long in the second quarter. Small ball has become a staple of how the Bucks look to cut into or expand leads late in games, and it continued to be effective here. Where Kidd fell down on this occasion was a failure to make any real in-game adjustment. Where hooking Giannis and Jabari early against Orlando saw the Bucks get the necessary spark from the bench, Kidd watched Tony Snell get torched over and over again without a meaningful change. The constant double teams to help him cover DeRozan created countless open threes for Toronto, while changing the defender might have been more effective. How about Giannis on DeRozan?
The Toronto Raptors are very good at basketball. They kept the Bucks at a safe distance for most of the night by making some of the toughest shots imaginable. Deep contested threes are no problem for this team, and more than anything else, they know the ways in which they’re good at scoring and have little difficulty in setting up such chances. DeRozan’s clutch mid-range jumper late was the prime example of that. That might be a bad shot for any other team, but the Raptors understand what works for them and how to get it.