The Raptors have been waiting in Toronto for the Bucks to arrive, as NBA fans and players alike were counting down the days until what was a highly anticipated matchup Thursday night between the Toronto Raptors and the Milwaukee Bucks. A lot was at stake for both teams heading into the game, as a Bucks win would bring them 1.5 games ahead of Toronto and head coach Mike Budenholzer would clinch coach of Team Giannis at the all-star game. For Toronto, a win would tie up the season series against the Bucks, and would also bring them up to the first seed in the east.
Both teams were there to compete. In the opening quarter, it started off as a back and forth game, with neither team solidifying a lead of any kind. At the end of the first quarter, Toronto went to the bench holding a slim 25-22 lead over Milwaukee.
However, the second quarter was a whole other story: Milwaukee’s two all stars, Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo both caught fire, and led the Bucks to an offensive onslaught; outscoring the Raptors 34-22 in the second quarter. From then on, both teams had their share of runs, although the Bucks did a very good job at responding whenever the Raptors put together a strand of big buckets.
Pascal Siakam of the Toronto Raptors was the one keeping them in the game. He was the motor that seemed to spark the Raptors to make a late push in the fourth quarter. After being down by as much as 24 points in the third quarter, in the fourth, Siakam made shot after shot: With just under five minutes remaining in the final period, the most improved player candidate hit a three pointer from the corner, drew two consecutive and ones, and had a clutch steal that brought the Raptors to within six.
But unfortunately for them, the Bucks went on a 7-0 run after Mike Budenholzer called a time-out when their lead was cut down to six. The Raptors just continued to miss open looks from deep, and plenty of other makable shots, such as blown layups in the paint and missed free throws. A large concern, however, was the cold streak of Raptors centre Serge Ibaka from 3-point range: The big man has missed his last 18 three pointers, dating back to January 16th in Boston.
Nevertheless, it was a great game for Pascal Siakam. In addition to all of his clutch plays late in the game, he finished with a highly respectable 28 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists in 38 minutes of playing time. The New Mexico State product is surely shaping up to be a great player for the Raptors, and will definitely be a valuable trade asset should he be moved at the deadline.
It was a statement victory for a Milwaukee Bucks team that wants to prove to everyone that they are a true title contender. It was the final meeting between the two teams in the regular season, resulting in the Bucks winning the season series, three games to one.