Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors’ 125-103 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
1. Pathetic: That was akin to those losses to LeBron James in previous playoff runs. The Raptors simply embarrassed themselves with how they performed. It wasn’t as if the Bucks rained threes or Giannis Antetokounmpo had one of those next-level performances — the Raptors just failed to execute the most basic of details on both ends of the floor. Toronto fell into an early hole and never came close to climbing out of it.
2. Silver lining: The third quarter was the only positive for the Raptors, as they poured in 39 points in the frame after mustering just 39 points in the first half alone. Kawhi Leonard was determined to get to the basket, while the Raptors generally played with the type of urgency that was totally lacking in the first half. However, that push could also be chalked up to the Bucks putting it in cruise control after pushing the lead to 26 points.
3. Reality: The bottom line is that the Raptors need to play a perfect game to beat a superior team in Milwaukee, and they failed to do so in Game 1 or 2. The Bucks aren’t the Magic, who were just short on talent, nor are they the 76ers, who just lacked an identity. The Bucks know exactly how they want to proceed on both ends, and they just execute their plan to perfection. In so many words, the Bucks won’t beat themselves, so it’s on the Raptors to clean up all their mistakes to even have a chance. That means not forcing bad shots, boxing out on the defensive glass, and converting on their open opportunities. The Raptors do have it within them to pull a few games back, but their challenge is to do so in four of the next five.
“Where do you go from here?”— Yahoo Sports Canada (@YahooCASports) May 18, 2019
Kawhi: “I’m going to Toronto for Game 3” 😂😂 pic.twitter.com/DLNPPDTKDj
4. Demoralizing: Marc Gasol deserves most of the blame for how the Raptors came out. The Bucks opted yet again to ignore Gasol in favor of containing Leonard, and Gasol responded by playing some of the worst basketball of his career. The catch-and-shoot jumpers weren’t falling, the pick-and-rolls went nowhere, and he looked helpless under the basket as Antetokounmpo loomed around every corner ready to erase his shot. He was just so utterly weak that it looked to have a demoralizing effect on the Raptors, while only further emboldening the Bucks to pack the paint.
5. Swap: The Raptors should seriously consider breaking up their starting lineup for Game 3. Gasol has shot 3-of-20 from the field in two games and is totally out of place chasing down the Bucks’ shooters. Ibaka hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire, but his hustle and scoring ability is better suited for how the Bucks like to play. Ditching their starting lineup would be a sure sign of desperation, but that’s where the Raptors are at this point.
Marc Gasol takes full ownership pic.twitter.com/7S9ZuKEZ3I— Yahoo Sports Canada (@YahooCASports) May 18, 2019
6. Throwback: Another idea would be to downsize and replace Gasol with Norman Powell for a smallball look similar to when the Raptors swung the series against the Bucks in 2017. Taking a rim protector off the floor against Antetokounmpo could be disastrous, and the Raptors are already finding difficulties securing the defensive glass, but it’s not as if Gasol is camping out in the paint with Brook Lopez standing 30 feet away. Being even smaller and more mobile could give the Raptors a shot in the arm.
7. Frustrated: Going small could also make life easier for Pascal Siakam, who had a nightmare performance with eight points in 26 minutes before fouling out. Siakam made too many mental lapses guarding Antetokounmpo, and he was never able to impose his will. But at least in a smaller lineup, Siakam can check Lopez, while Leonard tackles Antentokounmpo, and that could give Siakam more energy to attack on the other end.
8. Spark: Powell should see more playing time regardless of what lineup he’s in. He’s not exactly reliable, but Powell’s ceiling is at least higher than that of Danny Green, who looks too physically limited to be effective in this series. Powell can hit a reasonable share of his outside shots, while also presenting the threat of dribbling past a closeout and making a play.
9. Understaffed: OG Anunoby’s absence looms large in this series. The Raptors could badly use his size and athleticism to defend Ersan Ilyasova and Nikola Mirotic, but instead that responsibility has fallen to the undersized and banged up Green. All season, the Raptors have been paper-thin at the forward positions, and it’s coming back to bite them.
10. Hurt: Lowry cooled off after his 30-point performance in Game 1 and shot just 4-of-13 from the field, including 2-of-9 from deep. Lowry was asked outright if he re-aggravated his left thumb injury at some point in the game, and he basically confirmed as much by saying: “It is what it is at this point.”
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