Toronto Raptors fall 105-92 to conference rival’s Milwaukee

Kawhi Leonard’s 22-game streak with 20-plus points came to an abrupt end. Kyle Lowry scored just 10 points hours after being named to his fifth consecutive all-star game. Serge Ibaka looked so out of sync, he was trending on Twitter in Canada — for all the wrong reasons.

It was a rough night for Toronto’s key players. And it cost the Raptors both a 105-92 decision Thursday to the Milwaukee Bucks for first-place in the Eastern Conference, and Nick Nurse the honour of coaching in the NBA all-star game.

“I’m probably more concerned that there isn’t a little bit more solid play from our main guys than the fight,” Nurse said. “I’m more concerned with how we’re playing. I want to go out and play well, and I don’t think we played well tonight.

“There’s maybe a little more time (needed) and chemistry. If you go through our guys, especially the starting five, you’d say well, ‘He’s having a great year. Kawhi’s scoring more than he ever has. Pascal (Siakam) is playing great. Serge is having a good year … There’s a group of our guys that are really playing well in the context of the whole season, we just gotta make sure we keep them fired and keep them together.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 19 points to lead the Bucks (37-13), whose victory guaranteed Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer will coach in the Feb. 17 all-star game in Charlotte.

Siakam scored 28 points to pace the Raptors (37-16), who saw their 10-game home winning streak come to an end. Leonard had 16, Ibaka had 12 points on woeful 4-for-15 shooting. Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell chipped in with 10 apiece.

The game was a battle for first in the East, and the final regular-season meeting between the conference rivals. Milwaukee arrived in Toronto a half game ahead of the Raptors for first in the Eastern Conference, and with a 2-1 record in their previous three meetings.

The Bucks were the better team on the night. The Raptors? They looked at times like they’d just met.

“We still need to get better,” Leonard said. “But it’s not about the first unit. It’s about the whole team. That’s how you win games. Everybody being connected, linked together, having the same mindset, the same goals, the same energy. You can’t have your first unit clicking and have the second unit come in and play bad, or vice-versa. Or even three guys. Everybody has to be linked together.”

Trailing by nine at halftime, the Raptors came out of the break a step behind, allowing Khris Middleton to score seven straight points and put the Bucks up by 16. Milwaukee didn’t let up, and when D.J. Wilson threw down a dunk midway through the third quarter it gave the visitors a 24-point lead. The Raptors showed some life with a 7-0 run to end the third, pulling to within 87-76 to start the fourth.

An energetic Siakam scored seven points to start the third, therefore pulling Toronto within six, and infusing some hope in the Scotiabank Arena crowd of 19,800. A basket by Leonard put the Raptors to within six again with just under two minutes to play, but a three by Malcolm Brogdon with 1:03 to play ended Toronto’s hopes for a win and sent the crowd pouring toward the exits.

Furthermore, the Raptors shot just 26 per cent from three-point range, and 40 per cent from the field.

Lowry’s all-star nod was the lone bright spot on an otherwise dismal night. The point guard was voted in as a reserve by the league’s coaches.

“It means the world. Because it means the coaches respect what I do,” Lowry said. “I go out there and do my job and play hard and try to lead my team the best I possibly can. If it wasn’t for my teammates, I wouldn’t be in this position.”

Neither team led by more than four points through the first quarter until Siakam drilled a three-pointer with 1:15 left that put Toronto up by five. The Raptors took a 25-22 advantage into the second.

The Bucks opened the second with a 12-2 run capped by a Brogdon three that put the Bucks up by seven. They would stretch it to 11 midway through the frame, before taking a 56-47 lead into the halftime break.

The Raptors were without Danny Green for much of the game. Because he was battling a stomach virus.

The Raptors’ previous loss at home was also to Milwaukee on Dec. 9.

Next up, the Raptors host the Los Angeles Clippers on Super Bowl Sunday.

Peace,

Burke

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