Milwaukee Bucks, NBA Playoffs, Toronto Raptors

Raptors flex on the Bucks in Game 4 to even their series 2-2

The Raptors put forth their best effort of the series in Game 4, keeping the Bucks off rhythm and evening up their series 2-2.

The Raptors needed overtime to beat the Bucks in Game 3, potentially exhausting what already appeared to be a fragile and shallow rotation struggling to match up with Milwaukee’s depth and shooting. That turned out not to be the case at all as Toronto played their best game of the series in Game 4 with the supporting cast finally showing up to carry the load for Kawhi Leonard.

The Raptors needed just 19 points on 13 shots from Leonard to pick up and 18-point win. Marc Gasol came up with 17 points and 7 assists. Kyle Lowry led the team with 25 points and 6 assists, getting himself to the line 10 times. For the first time all series, Toronto consistently looked like the more energized and aggressive team but matched that energy with execution — they finished with 32 assists on 41 made baskets, with four different players notching at least 6 assists.

In addition to the well-rounded performance, the Raptors evened the series by undoing some of the big advantages Milwaukee had been leaning on — handling them in the paint, on the break and winning with their bench.

Takeaways

Toronto won the battle of the bench. Through the first three games of this series, Milwaukee’s bench had outscored Toronto’s 130-78, or just over 17 points per game. Norman Powell had his moments but Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet had given Toronto next to nothing and with OG Anunoby out, their bench really only runs three deep. In Game 4, all three of those players were in double figures, combining for 48 points and outscoring Milwaukee’s bench by 15. Ibaka had several huge dunks, Powell was relentless attacking the basket and he and VanVleet combined to hit 7-of-16 on 3-pointers. Toronto’s depth was a strength during the regular season and, in Game 4, it was as well, for the first time in this series.

Toronto won the battle of the break. Technically, Milwaukee has more fastbreak points in Game 4, but the Raptors held them way below their playoff average and essentially played them even. Milwaukee’s offense is fueled by their relentless pace, particularly the ability of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe to grab a defensive rebound and immediately push into transition. They had put up at least 25 fastbreak points in each of the first three games of the series, with a +30 margin, combined, on the Raptors. Toronto shot extremely well and limited their turnovers keeping the game in the halfcourt as much as possible but when Milwaukee did push, Toronto did an excellent job recovering quickly, keeping tracking of shooters and keeping bodies in front of Giannis. The Raptors had just 12 fastbreak points, but they held Milwaukee to 13, which proved to be a major disruption to the Bucks’ offensive rhythm.

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Toronto won the battle in the paint. Everyone knows about Milwaukee’s 3-point shooting but their interior scoring is what scaffolds everything that happens on the perimeter. When you think of interior scoring you generally think of a bruising post player but Giannis Antetokounmpo led the league in points in the paint during the regular season with his explosive drives. The Bucks scored at least 44 points in the paint in each of the first three games of this series, working up a combined +32 margin on the Raptors. In Game 4, Toronto held the Bucks to 40 points in the paint and matched them with 40 of their own. It won’t be an easy task to repeat, but the Raptors have proven they’re capable of it.

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