Drive. Dish. Swing. Shoot.
Three days after the Raptors shot an abysmal 5 of 23 from deep in Game 1, the Raptors made it rain from downtown, setting a franchise playoff high with 14 treys in a tight 106 - 100 Game 2 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks. The series is now tied at 1-1, with Game 3 set for Thursday in Milwaukee.
Here’s a look at a game that had plenty of ebbs and flows at the Air Canada Centre:
Why The Raptors Won - While it’s easy to point at the record night from 3-point land (14-of-29), the Raptors played with a sense of urgency and efficiency that was sorely lacking in Game 1. A key offensive strategy shift was quickly evident in the game:
- Drive to the rim.
- Dish out to the 3 point line.
- Swing the ball to another open man, where the defence couldn’t rotate in time.
- Shoot the rock.
Hitting the shots obviously makes the plan work. And there were contributions from across the roster, with Serge Ibaka (4), Cory Joseph (3), DeMarre Carroll (2), Kyle Lowry (2) and Patrick Patterson (2) all converting multiple times from deep.
Key Stat Line of the Night - Jonas Valanciunas; 10 pts, 10 reb (5 offensive rebounds). The Raptors established the big man early, with the first 3 possessions ending up in JV’s hands. The early presence down low drew attention from up top, and allowed the ball carriers easier access to the rim as the game went on. Jonas also came up with some key offensive boards, generating 2nd and 3rd looks. Although Valanciunas isn’t as quick or athletic as Milwaukee’s front line, he battled every play and managed to neutralise Greg Monroe’s presence on the glass.
Who Rose Up - Kyle Lowry; the start of the game was looking to be a repeat of Game 1, as Lowry looked slow and hesitant going to the rim. Often, he was caught between shooting and passing, and was forcing bad passes or turnovers. As the game moved into the 2nd quarter, Kyle finally found his rhythm, getting more aggressive, and hitting open looks. His 17 pts at the half on 4 of 8 shooting helped the Raptors stay ahead of the Bucks, who were keeping close with some timely 3-balls of their own.
Who Needs to Do More - Norman Powell; he gets the nod here, because:
a) he got a DNP from the coaches (a bit of a surprise…he is one of the best athletes on the team and is capable of quick bursts of offence)
b) every Raptor that saw the floor tonight played well and contributed in some way to the bottom line
Fear the Deer (The Buck Who Stood Tall) - Kris Middleton; 20 pts on 6-of-14 shooting, a perfect 3-of-3 from downtown and hit all 5 from the charity stripe. He probably could have had 30, but barely saw the ball in the 4th, as Giannis Antetokoumnpo started to take over the game.
Key Stretch of Game - There were plenty of mini-runs by both teams throughout the game, but Serge Ibaka’s 2 big blocks in the span of a few minutes in the 3rd quarter helped to keep the Bucks from going on a major run.
Plan for Game 3 - Punch and counter-punch. The NBA playoffs is all about the adjustments made between games.
Look for Milwaukee to get the Greek Freak going early. He was almost an afterthought early on, as he only had 2 pts in the 1st quarter (he finished with 24 pts and 15 reb). The Bucks found some success late in the game by getting the ball down low and letting Giannis cut to the rim and get the ball in stride, allowing him to attack the rim with momentum.
The Raptors have to continue to use Valanciunas throughout the game. Most of his production was by the midpoint of the 3rd quarter… after that, he barely saw the ball, or the floor for that matter. Ibaka has been a steady force on both ends of the floor in both games; today, he was more comfortable and confident letting his shot fly from deep. In one stretch, he hit two in a row, and on the next possession, he caught the ball in transition and almost pulled up for a heat check (he wisely held the ball and waited for help).
As long as the game is close midway through the 4th quarter, Toronto should have enough firepower to win a tight game. Milwaukee is still very young; but, this team will be a Top 4 squad in the East next season. They are growing every game, and this inexperienced group looks confident they can play with anyone.
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