The Milwaukee Bucks have had their fair share of struggles against the Toronto Raptors over the last several years, but Jason Kidd’s squad left no doubt as to which was the dominant team Saturday night.
Kidd’s crew used a spectacular defensive effort to slow the high-octane Toronto offense in a decisive 97-83 victory to steal home-court advantage in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
Led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, who scored a team-high 28 points and also grabbed eight rebounds, the Bucks outscored the Raptors by 19 in the second half to take a 1-0 series lead.
“I thought our energy was high on the defensive end, using our length, trying to make it tough,” Jason said. “They’ve got a lot of talented players over there. I thought Thon did that in the second half and I thought Moose (Monroe) did a great job, too, knowing they were going to put him in the pick-and-roll. And he was up for it.”
While Antetokounmpo had a terrific offensive performance, it was an 11-5 Bucks run with him on the bench that was actually the turning point in the game.
“When he came out I thought his teammates picked him up,” Kidd said. “That just shows we’re growing, being a young team, that they trusted one another with Giannis out.”
Rookies Malcolm Brogdon and Thon Maker had a tremendous impact for the Bucks in their playoff debuts.
Brogdon started the game for Milwaukee and finished with 16 points and six rebounds. Maker also earned the start and ended the game with four points, three rebounds and three blocks.
“I thought Thon made some great plays there in that third quarter blocking shots,” J-Kidd said. “I thought sharing the ball on the offensive end, Khris (Middleton) didn’t have his typical offensive night, but I still think he had a big imprint on the game by passing, finding open guys and the guys delivered.”
As Kidd mentioned, it was a tough shooting night for Middleton, who shot just 4-of-15 from the field and 0-of-2 from beyond the arc. However, Middleton actually had the highest plus-minus rating of any player with a plus-27.
Coach Kidd was thrilled with the defense his team played, especially on Raptor All-Star Kyle Lowry, who was limited to just four points on 2-of-11 shooting.
“But our defense was up to par this evening by just playing hard,” Jason said. “We’re a young team, and it starts with playing hard and trusting one another and they did that this evening.”
If Kidd can keep his team as motivated the rest of the playoffs as they were Saturday night, they will be a tough out.
Game 2 is Tuesday night in Toronto.