Bucks endure another loss to a conference contender
MILWAUKEE — What might sting the Milwaukee Bucks the most is the realization they didn’t have to be perfect Monday in order to pull out a crucial victory over a team ahead of them in the Eastern Conference standings.
Despite allowing 20 offensive rebounds and 21 second-chance points, the Bucks still had a wide-open look at a game-tying 3-pointer in the final seconds. But Milwaukee made enough fourth-quarter mistakes Monday to allow the Toronto Raptors to hang on for a 92-89 victory in front of 12,707 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
It was a better showing than the one the Bucks put forth in a 124-82 loss in Toronto on Nov. 21, but it still wasn’t enough as Milwaukee fell to 1-7 against the top four teams in the Eastern Conference.
"We wanted to protect home, and we had a great opportunity to do that," Bucks head coach Jason Kidd said. "We let one get away from us in the sense that we had a chance to tie it without playing our best.
"They are one of the top teams in the East. So if you want to look at (a) positive, we are getting better."
Toronto outscored Milwaukee, 31-19, in the second quarter to take a nine-point lead into halftime. The Bucks were able to chip three points off their deficit in the third quarter, cutting the Raptors’ lead to 68-62 heading to the fourth.
The Bucks began the fourth quarter on a 16-9 run to take a 78-77 lead, but Milwaukee then turned the ball over on three straight possessions. Toronto capitalized to rattle off a 7-0 run to pull ahead 84-78 with 3:38 to play.
With a chance to cut into a three-point deficit, O.J. Mayo committed a crucial turnover that led to a Raptors fast break. Lou Williams missed a point-blank layup, but Patrick Patterson was there for the offensive rebound and dunk.
After Brandon Knight scored four straight points to make it a one-point game, Ersan Ilyasova fouled Amir Johnson to send him to the line. He made the first attempt and missed the second, but Patterson came down with Toronto’s 20th offensive rebound of the night and was fouled.
He hit one of two from the line to put the Raptors up 88-85 with 59.7 seconds to play.
"He knew where to attack," Bucks center John Henson said of Patterson. "That’s what happens. You can’t win games giving up 20 offensive rebounds."
The Raptors had an answer for each time the Bucks cut it to a one-point game in the final minute. On one possession, Milwaukee sold out for a steal and nearly trapped Lowry in the corner. The ball eventually landed in the hands of Terrence Ross, who hit a tough 14-foot jumper to make it 90-87.
"That happens," Kidd said. "We thought we played great defense. He made a tough shot. We took him off the 3-point line and he made a runner. You tip your hat."
Knight then went the length of the floor for a layup in less than six seconds, but the Bucks left Ross wide open down the court for an easy dunk.
The Bucks ran a play to get Knight a wide-open look at a tying 3-pointer, but he missed with 7.9 seconds to play.
"I thought it was going in," Knight said. "It felt good. We drew up a good play and got a good shot and it just didn’t go in."
Milwaukee received a slight bit of hope when Kyle Lowry, an 81.7 percent free-throw shooter, missed both attempts from the line. Ilyasova corralled the rebound with 5.5 seconds and hit Mayo with an outlet pass. He was bumped by Patterson at midcourt and lost the ball, effectively ending the game with 2.6 seconds on the clock.
In two games against the Raptors this season, the Bucks have allowed 35 offensive rebounds and 51 second-chance points. Toronto shot 52.3 percent in the first meeting to run Milwaukee out of the Air Canada Centre, but the Raptors shot 30.8 percent in the second half Monday to allow the Bucks to stay in the game.
Toronto’s shooting struggles were the only reason Milwaukee had a chance despite being outscored, 21-5, in second-chance points.
"We still put ourselves in position to win the game and be in the game," Knight said. "But it’s a totally different game if we don’t give those offensive rebounds up, and there were other plays we could have made, as well. We’ve just got to try to minimize our mistakes. Twenty offensive rebounds, it’s going to be tough to win a game if you’re giving up that many."
There are two ways to look at Monday’s loss from Milwaukee’s perspective. Either they hung with one of the Eastern conference’s best teams despite making mistakes in the fourth quarter, or they missed out on an opportunity to pick up a win over a team ahead of them because of their miscues.
It was a better effort from when they were embarrassed in Toronto earlier this season, but the Bucks weren’t thinking about moral victories after letting one slip away.
"Of course, losing by 50 is unacceptable," Knight said. "But we knew that game, it wasn’t us. We didn’t play the way we normally play. We remembered it but we threw it out the window.
"For us, we improved from the first time we played them because we played so poorly, but it’s not about that. We know we made a lot of mistakes tonight and that’s what we take from this – we can’t make that many mistakes and expect to beat one of the top teams in the East."
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