By Frank McLean
In his pre-game comments to the media before game two Tuesday night Raptors head coach Dwane Casey was still lamenting about the lack of enthusiasm he felt his team had in that 97-83 loss.
“We have got to play with enthusiasm,” Casey said. “I don’t think we were tired (Saturday night) if guys are tired then we will get them a (break).”
There was no questioning the Raptors effort in game two as they walked out with a 106-100 win though it did go down to the wire.
Even though the experts had the Raptors winning this best of seven series four straight, maybe five games at the most, the Bucks are not going to walk away and die and they showed that as they had a couple of shots to tie or win the game with 30-seconds or so left.
Two corrections the Raptors made from game one resulted in this win.
First they were able to free up Kyle Lowry and let him do what he does best and that’s shoot the basketball.
The Bucks played great defense in game one. They let DeMar DeRozan get his 27 points and Serge Ibaka get his 19, but the focus was on Lowry who usually can chip in with 22 or 23. Lowry only scored four points as they took him out of his game.
In game two the trio of Lowry, DeRozan and Ibaka had 22, 23 and 16 for 61 of the Raptors 106 points in the game. That’s the key to beating Toronto, you can’t stop all three, but if you take one of the trio out of the game you got a shot.
“I just went out there and played,” Lowry said after the game. “I went out there tried to make my shots and be aggressive. I got to the foul line nine times. I got aggressive early and went out there and played.”
Casey was never worried if Lowry was going to bounce back because he has coached him now for five years he knows what he has.
“He’s human,” Casey said about Lowry. “Everyone has a night like that (Game 1) and we can’t panic every time a guy has a tough night. This is a tough league, Milwaukee is a very tough grind it out type team and they are going to make it hard on you.
“It’s his competitive edge. He’s a guy that competes. Through the years where I have been in the trenches before and he always bounced back. It’s just who he is, he is a fighter, a competitor and I just knew he wasn’t going to be satisfied the way he played in the first game.”
The second correction the Raptors had was with their defense. They concentrated on keeping the “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo in check.
His final numbers were outstanding, 24-points, 15-rebounds and seven assists, but he had to earn every last one of them. Every time he drove through the paint at least two defenders were draped all over him not letting him take over the game like he did in game one.
He played 42-minutes but he just wasn’t a factor.
Khris Middleton, who Casey called the Bucks X-factor before the series, scored-20 but it just wasn’t enough.
The Bucks did fight even with all the adjustments the Raptors made and they were only down two-points (100-102) with just 57-seconds left when P.J. Tucker missed a pair of free throws.
Down four points with nine seconds left after Kyle Lowry hit a 20-foot jumper, the Bucks still had life with it being two possession game, but Malcolm Brogdon missed on a long three-point attempt.
The point is this Bucks team that was supposed to be a push over are far from it.
Yes the Raptors should win this series but to do so they are going to have to make more adjustments and as long as they make the right one’s they will be all right.
Veteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.