Raptors 129 – Bucks 110: Huge third quarter is difference for Toronto

MILWUAKEE, WI - JANUARY 5: Delon Wright /

After a back-and-forth first half between the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks, the Raptors used a 43-point third quarter to pull away with an easy 29-point win.

On new-years day, the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks played in an overtime thriller. DeMar Derozan dropped 52, and the Raptors were able to pull-out a four-point victory.  After one half in the Bradley Center on Friday night, the Raptors led the Bucks 61-to-59, and it appeared the two teams were preparing for another wire-to-wire battle.

Then the third-quarter happened.  The Raptors destroyed the Bucks 43-to-19 in the third-quarter, propelled by monstrous performances by Jonas Valanciunas and, once again, DeMar DeRozan.

The four quarter was essentially garbage-time and the Raptors huge quarter was enough to allow the team’s veterans some well-earned rest, as the only starter to play in the fourth was rookie OG Anunoby.

MILWAUKEE, WI – JANUARY 05: Serge Ibaka /

Friday’s contest against Milwaukee featured multiple Raptors’ having huge-performances.

The first half Toronto leaned heavily on Serge Ibaka. With the Bucks trapping DeRozan early and often on pick-and-rolls, Ibaka was often given advantageous situations, for which he made the defense pay.

Ibaka scored 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the first half, and scored 21 on the night overall. He also finished with a monstrous +35, the team’s best plus/minus, proving it wasn’t all about getting buckets.

The Raptors also received a huge performance from an unlikely contributor in Lucas Nogueira. After not playing at all in the previous contest, coach Dwayne Casey turned to Nogueira, instead of normal back-up Jakob Poeltl, when Valanciunas picked up an early second foul.

MILWAUKEE, WI – JANUARY 05: Eric Bledsoe
MILWAUKEE, WI – JANUARY 05: Eric Bledsoe /

Nogueira responded with a solid performance of highlight defense, timely baskets, and consistent, impressive passing. If Nogueira continues to play this well on a consistent basis, he may challenge Poeltl for some of the back-up center minutes, depending on the match-up.

For the Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe helped the team keep pace in the first half. The two combined for 28 points on 10-of-14 shooting, slicing down the lane often and feasting in the paint.

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While the first half contained great efforts from both teams, the third quarter was completely one-sided.

After a slow start, in which Milwaukee limited scoring opportunities by playing physically and blitzing in the pick-and-roll, DeRozan exploded for 14-points in the third. Meanwhile, after being held scoreless in the first-half, Valanciunas dropped 20 in the same quarter.

Valanciunas bullied the Bucks in the paint. Thon Maker looked over-matched in the post, and Valanciunas used his superior size and strength to snare offensive rebounds and finish through contact. During the third-quarter alone, Valanciunas was awarded three different and-one opportunities.

Once the fourth had started the game was all but over.  The Raptors were outscored by seven in the fourth, but played a reserve-heavy lineup in a game that had clearly already been decided.

Conference games are always important, and are even more import if they are against fellow playoff teams. Friday’s win was an important statement to the Bucks, that as of now, the Raptors are still on top.

The Raptors continue their road trip with on a Monday with a trip to Brooklyn to face-off against the Nets.