Author: Nick Osen
MILWAUKEE- After a 104-77 smackdown of the Toronto Raptors in Milwaukee’s home opener, the Bucks kicked off the second Saturday of the 2017 NBA Playoffs with Game 4 of the First Round series.
The atmosphere at the BMO Harris Bradley Center was absolutely electric from the jump, highlighted by intense towel waving and phone flashlights in an all dark arena. But once the ball was tipped, the Raptors showed more heart and hustle in the first two minutes than they did in all of Game 3.
Toronto coach Dwane Casey switched up the starting line up for the Raptors, going small with swingman Norman Powell in the lineup for Jonas Valanciunas. The change made an immediate impact, especially on the defensive end, as Toronto was relentless in the early going.
The first 12 minutes were very different from the last game, where Saturday it was a low scoring affair tied at 19 after the first period. Khris Middleton led the Bucks with seven points, while DeMar DeRozan paced the Raptors with six, making three more field goals than he had all of Game 3.
The game was so much more physical than Game 3 in the first half, exemplified by Kyle Lowry literally staring down referee Brent Barnaky as he made his way down the court, with Matthew Dellavedova holding him the whole way.
Milwaukee All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo had his daily play that makes one question physics, when the big man eluded a defender, threw it down on a fastbreak and finished it off with a mean mug.
Just like after the first quarter, the game was tied at the half, 41-41. Along with the low scoring, the game was about as ugly as it could get with both teams shooting less than 25% from deep, and combining for 23 turnovers.
DeRozan said that he took the Game 3 loss personally, and he showed that in the first half, leading all players with 21 points on 8/14 shooting.
The first six minutes of the third quarter were, no surprise, very even, as both teams scored 11 apiece to tie the game at 52 at the 5:53 mark. Of these 11 points for the Bucks, Tony Snell scored eight of them, including two deep threes.
Within less than two minutes, the Raptors went on a run to give themselves their largest lead of the game, at 61-53 with about 4:00 left in the third.
After three quarters, the Raptors led 64-58 at the Bradley Center. Both teams were shooting 39% from the field and about 25% from deep heading into the final twelve minutes, in a huge first round playoff game.
Halfway through a very ugly final quarter, the Bucks still trailed by six at home, 74-58. Greg Monroe had a huge impact for Milwaukee to even have a shot in the game, both on the glass and on the scoreboard.
With Toronto leading 76-69 in this slugfest, Norman Powell hit a three from the corner to give the Raptors a ten point lead at the 4:00 minute mark, giving the feeling of a dagger in the building.
Milwaukee would manage just seven more points in the game, while Toronto scored 11 more, winning by a final of 87-76 to even the series at two games apiece. DeMar DeRozan was the best player on the floor all day, and the Bucks offense just couldn’t get it together.