Milwaukee Bucks beat Toronto Raptors to extend unbeaten start to season
Hosts Milwaukee Bucks held the Toronto Raptors without a field goal for the first 4:11 of the second quarter Monday night, establishing an early lead before pulling away for a 124-109 victory in a battle of unbeaten teams missing their Most Valuable Player candidates.
The Bucks improved to 7-0 despite the absence of Nike Athlete, Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was recovering from a concussion, and took advantage of the Raptors’ decision to rest their star, Kawhi Leonard.
Milwaukee filled Antetokounmpo’s void with balanced scoring, placing seven players in double figures, led by Ersan Ilyasova’s 19 points.
Ilyasova finished with his first double-double of the season, complementing his season-best point total with 10 rebounds. He got plenty of support from double-figure scorers Malcolm Brogdon (17), Eric Bledsoe (17), Khris Middleton (14), Donte DiVincenzo (12), Thon Maker (11) and Tony Snell (11).
Serge Ibaka had a season-high 30 for the Raptors, who fell to 6-1.
What was supposed to be as marquee as a Monday night match-up could be in October, the first ever meeting of two team with 6-0 records, had some air let out of it from the get go. Since neither of the teams biggest stars – Giannis Antetokounmpo for Milwaukee and Kawhi Leonard for Toronto were fit for the match-up.
They still couldn’t keep up with the Bucks, who eclipsed the 110-point mark for the seventh straight game even without the high-flying Antetokounmpo, who averages 25.0 points and 14.2 rebounds.
Ilyasova, starting for Antetokounmpo, helped pick up the slack, setting the tone with an active night on the floor and adding a team-high 10 rebounds.
The Bucks didn’t stop moving when they have the ball either, especially at the 3-point line.
First-year coach Mike Budenholzer wants his team to hoist 3-pointers, and an 11-3 run in the fourth quarter sparked by two 3s from Khris Middleton helped turn a 15-point advantage into a 113-90 lead with 7:39 left.
It was the first game in NBA history between teams that both enter with a record of 6-0 or better, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The Bucks’ defense tightened after allowing the Raptors to start 12 of 17 (70 per cent) from the floor with 2:37 left in the first quarter.
Toronto went on to shoot 31 per cent from that point to the fourth quarter, when the Bucks’ lead swelled to 15.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse said his team needed better help defense to stop the Bucks’ cuts and straight-line drives. When the Bucks weren’t taking it straight to the hoop, they were kicking the ball out for perimeter shots.
Nurse said: “When we sat back they shot over which is what they are going to do to you and what they have done every game this season. I just think they played really well, and we didn’t have our best game and that wasn’t going to be good enough.”
Raptors guard Keyle Lowry echoed these views, he said: “Their game plan was great. They wanted the bigs to score, not the guards.”
Raptors return home to host the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday evening. There will be a boost for the Raptors as Nurse has confirmed that Kawhi Leonard will be back in the lineup for the match-up. He said: “We met after practice (Sunday) and we were still deciding. He’s going to play one of the back-to-backs, we’re still in that phase. With a West Coast triple (later this week) we decided we’d give him two less plane flights and for from there.”