Toronto Raptors: Three takeaways from ‘slap in the face’ loss to Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors suffered just their fifth home loss of the season on Thursday, courtesy the Milwaukee Bucks. Apart from dropping the season series 3-1, what else did we learn from the game?

On Thursday, in a game televised south of the border (on TNT), a well-rested Toronto Raptors team was outclassed and outplayed by a red-hot shooting Milwaukee Bucks team, culminating in a 105-92 loss at Scotiabank Arena.

The Bucks now own the league’s best record at 37-13, while the loss drops Toronto’s record to 37-16.

The win gives Milwaukee its third win in four games versus their Eastern Conference rivals and represents the potential difference in the event the two teams possess identical records after 82 games. Toronto’s hopes for homecourt advantage in the playoffs were dealt a potentially fatal blow as a result of this loss.

Playing in front of their home crowd, the Drakes put up just 92 points and finished with a field goal percentage below 40 (39.8%). There were a few spirited runs, but from the second quarter on, the game was rarely, if ever, in doubt.

Toronto never led in the second half, trailing by more than 20 at one point midway through the third quarter. Milwaukee spent the majority of the game silencing the crowd with three-pointers, going 14-38 from beyond the arc as part of its eighth win in the past 10 games. The Raptors meanwhile have now lost three of four and sit 1.5 games back of the Bucks for first place in the Eastern Conference.

Here are three other takeaways from a telling defeat at the hands of Milwaukee.

1. Not a finished product

When the Raptors lose, it can often be attributed to the bricking of open shots.

That same problem reared its ugly head again Thursday, as Toronto converted just 7 of 27 attempts from three-point range. Many of them wide open, coming off of well-executed plays and pin downs, drives and kicks, etc. – clang, clang, clang.

With all the Anthony Davis speculation being tossed around, the Raptors have been reported to be an interested party. 

Toronto’s inability to consistently knock down three-point shots is the primary reason the team needs to make a splash before the trade deadline passes. Davis can knock down the three with an acceptable degree of regularity, knocking down nearly one (0.9) per 36 minutes (1.2 per 100 possessions).

Whatever it may be, expect Toronto’s front office to perform some level of juggling before February 7th.

2. Kawhi’s streak of 20-plus point games ends at 22

Leonard finished with 16 points, on 7-20 from the field including 0-2 from three, to go along with eight rebounds, three steals, and a pair of assists. He finished the night a minus-8, the third time the Klaw has posted a minus rating in his past five games.

With Lowry struggling with his shot, there’s been added pressure on Leonard’s shoulders to carry the load offensively. As tough, strong, and talented as Kawhi is, the pressure of constantly having to score 20, 30, and sometimes 40 points to pull his team over the finish line is weighing on him, so much so that he’s on pace to post the worst defensive rating of his career in 2018-19.

Help for Toronto’s prized offseason acquisition could certainly come in the form of existing players besides Danny Green making more shots. It’s hard to blame Kawhi for trying to take over games, even when he appears to force things more than we’re accustomed to seeing from the master of efficiency. But whenever he finds his teammates for open shots, they simply aren’t knocking down the looks. Too many misses, and there’s no way Kawhi is going to stick around for another Polar Vortex…

On a serious note, Pascal Siakam did more than his part in defeat, finishing with a game-high 28 points on 12-19 shooting, including 2-3 from three.

3. Milwaukee is legit (flat-out title contenders)

When LeBron James left for Hollywood, the Eastern Conference throne was essentially vacated. At first, it was viewed as Boston’s to lose. Then the Raptors landed Kawhi and some began to think Toronto would get its first taste of championship basketball. Add in the 76ers…

Turns out the team to beat in the post-LeBron Eastern Conference are the Bucks, a team coming off two consecutive first-round playoff exits, led by a player that struggles from the three-point line. In this era?! How could a team possibly find success cooking with that recipe?

Despite shooting ~20 percent from beyond the arc, Giannis Antetokounmpo is as unstoppable as they come in the modern era. In the past, Milwaukee’s collective shooting struggles allowed teams to pack the paint on Antetokounmpo, but this season, under

Mike Budenholzer, the Greek Freak is performing at an MVP level, and the team is complimenting his dominance with precision shooting from the outside. Thursday’s win saw Milwaukee make seven more threes than the Raptors. The Bucks sit second in the league, averaging 13.2 made threes per game. Toronto ranks 13th with 11.5.

In their current form, the Raptors could, in theory, defeat Milwaukee in a seven-game series. It would by no means be easy, but it could be done. Toronto would certainly need to get over its cold from outside to stand any shot of winning.

Next. Raptors Roundtable: Trade deadline edition. dark

Even though making the Finals remains well within the realm of possibility, Masai Ujiri, if he wasn’t already, should be open for business after Thursday’s result.