If you can defend Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, you have a pretty good chance of beating the Toronto Raptors. Jason Kidd’s Milwaukee Bucks were up to the challenge on Thursday night and defeated the Raptors 104-77 to take a 2-1 series lead.
“I thought our defense was active, and guys were picking each other up,” Coach Kidd said.
Lowry had an underwhelming 13 points and five assists, but Kidd’s crew was even harder on DeRozan, who finished with just eight points on 0-of-8 from the field.
“We just tried to make it tough,” Kidd said. “We’ve got to make him work and I thought we did that on both ends tonight.”
The game was close up until about tip-off, when the Bucks took a quick 3-0 lead and did not trail for a single second of the game. It was a strong bounce-back performance from Khris Middleton, who led the Bucks with 20 points and added seven assists in the wire-to-wire victory.
“I think we all understand and appreciate Khris,” J-Kidd said. “We know what he can do. We thought in the first two games he had some great looks that just didn’t go down for him. We trust him. He lets the game come to him. He’s not going to force things if he doesn’t have the shot. He moves the ball and he keeps things really simple. I thought he set the tone, but so did Giannis. And the crowd was into it from the beginning.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo chipped in 19 points and eight rebounds. Greg Monroe came off the bench to score 16 points and grab seven rebounds.
Coach Kidd and the Bucks rely heavily on Antetokounmpo and Middleton, but the team also shows a great deal of trust in rookies Malcolm Brogdon and Thon Maker.
“I’m a young coach, so I think we all fit,” Kidd said. “Thon and Malcolm being two rookies, but we believe they can do the job and we’ve seen that during the season. When they’re on the floor, the guys on the bench support them. We try to keep things simple and have fun with it.”
Both rookies provided a big boost Thursday night. Maker scored 11 points in 21 minutes, while Brogdon stuffed his stat sheet with four points, nine assists and seven rebounds in 28 minutes.
Through the first three games this young Bucks team has been very impressive. If they continue to play this well, there is no telling how far they can push this playoff run.
They have the chance to take a commanding 3-1 series lead Saturday afternoon in Milwaukee.