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The Milwaukee Bucks earned a 104-99 win over the Toronto Raptors on Sunday in a possible Eastern Conference Finals preview.
Malcolm Brogdon hit back-to-back threes in the closing minutes, including one with 41 seconds left, to give the Bucks a lead for good:
Malcolm Brogdon knocks down two triples to put the @Bucks ahead for good!
FINAL in Toronto:
#WeTheNorth 99 https://t.co/4RaXUSjdwm
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 19 points, 19 rebounds and six assists in the road win at Scotiabank Arena, helping the Bucks improve to 17-8 while going 8-0 following a loss this year.
Kawhi Leonard scored 20 points with eight rebounds, but the Raptors (21-7) still suffered their third loss in the last four games.
Giannis Must Be More Aggressive on Offense
Antetokounmpo is one of the most talented players in the NBA, and he showed his skill set once again Sunday in an incredible all-around performance against the Raptors.
Still, his ability to fill up the box score overshadowed another relatively quiet night on the offensive end.
The forward was unstoppable at times, attacking the basket with the same ferocity we have seen all year:
However, he still gave up the ball too often and only took six shots in the whole first half. He finished the game 8-of-15 from the field, including 1-of-4 in the fourth quarter. Brogdon made the clutch three-pointers in this one, but you’d rather trust the ball in Antetokounmpo’s hands if possible, like on the final dunk to seal the win.
If there is one complaint about the forward this season, it’s that he seems to be holding back when he could do so much more on the court.
Despite making 57.5 percent of his shots this season, the Bucks star is averaging just 17.5 field-goal attempts per game. This puts him on par with Tim Hardaway Jr., CJ McCollum and Donovan Mitchell instead of elite players he should be matching like James Harden and LeBron James.
Giannis only took 13 shots in a loss last game to the Golden State Warriors and entered Sunday averaging just 14.3 attempts per game in December.
Obviously, defenses are keying in on the Bucks’ best player, and the Raptors put a lot of energy into getting the ball out of his hands. Leonard spent some time guarding Antetokounmpo at the 4, and the double-teams in the post were often impressive:
.@Raptors team defense! 🙌🙌
1:00 left in Q1 on @NBATV https://t.co/kfJ2kn9QRL
With that said, the Greek star has the talent to score 30 or more every single night. Even with other options on the roster, he can’t be afraid to take over offensively if needed and carry his team to victory.
Raptors Are in Trouble Without More Production from Kyle Lowry
Although Leonard is the team’s leading scorer for the season, Kyle Lowry might be the team’s most important player, at least offensively. The four-time All-Star entered the day leading the league with 10.1 assists per game and often came through with big shots when needed.
Unfortunately, he has been mostly invisible since the start of December.
After missing one game with a sore back, Lowry had just 15 points combined over the next three games, shooting 4-of-23 from the field during this stretch. The Raptors lost two of those three games.
The point guard wasn’t any better against the Bucks, finishing with zero points on 0-of-5 shooting in a losing effort.
This showing was especially disappointing after Lowry admitted after last game that he was “too passive right now,” per Josh Lewenberg of TSN.
While he did add seven assists while playing strong defense, the Raptors need more points from their talented guard.
Toronto has one of the deepest teams in the NBA and can survive a few games without points from a key player. However, this has to turn around in a hurry, or the squad won’t have the league’s best record for too much longer.
Faizal Khamisa of Sportsnet noted the issue:
Faizal Khamisa @SNFaizalKhamisa
Lowry is so good at almost every part of the game, but you need him to be the secondary scorer to win some of these. Another tough loss, that you could argue should’ve gone the other way. No concern yet.
Serge Ibaka (22 points) and Fred VanVleet (19 points) each had strong games against Milwaukee, but Lowry’s struggles are a major concern for Toronto during this recent slide.
The Bucks have a quick turnaround before their next game, facing the Cleveland Cavaliers at home Monday night. The Raptors will begin a West Coast road trip Tuesday at the Los Angeles Clippers.