Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo threw down the gauntlet to every NBA team with yet another marauding display, and not against any team, but the defending champions Toronto Raptors, a team which recently had a franchise-record 15-game winning run.
It was a rematch of last season’s conference playoffs. They are the top-two teams in the East, and yet, the Bucks eased past them 108-97 at Scotiabank Arena to mitigate some of the pain the defeat in the finals inflicted on the franchise. This win is also a sign of the team’s current fortunes and an indicator of what we can expect in the playoffs.
Giannis Antetokounmpo didn’t have his usual 30-plus points night, but he didn’t have to shift gears either due to his teammates’ better execution on the court. Khris Middleton remained hot, and carried over the 40-point night he had against Washington Wizards into this match and dropped a joint game-high 22 points on 50% shooting. Eric Bledsoe had 17 points, Brook Lopez scored 15, while the bench erupted for 28 points, led by Marvin Williams and George Hill’s nine points each.
Our All-Stars stuffed the stat sheet:
Giannis: 19 PTS | 19 REB | 8 AST | 3 BLK
Khris: 22 PTS | 8 REB | 3 AST | 50% FG pic.twitter.com/Cgmj9xWdSz
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) February 26, 2020
As for the Greek-Freak himself, he struggled with his offence, scoring only 19 points on 5-for-14 from the field. But the reigning NBA MVP has too many weapons in his arsenal to affect the game. He almost nullified Pascal Siakam’s threat with his defence, while also grabbing 19 boards, and clocked eight assists, and add three blocks to his efforts, which gave the Bucks +/- of plus-13, you know this is serious champions stuff.
Raptors were led by Pascal Siakam who had 22 points, but it was an uncanny performance by the champions’ leading scorer. Giannis forced Siakam to go for the 3-point, and although he was good 5-for-9 from beyond the arc, he struggled inside the paint, his strong zone, and could manage a meagre 1-for-5.
The win stretched Bucks’ current run to four wins, and 50-8 on the season. If the Bucks manage to remain hot, they could touch the magical 7-win mark for the regular season, but they need 20 wins from the final 24 games. Considering, Giannis and Co have lost only 8 times in 58 games, it’s very much achievable. Bucks will play host to Oklahoma City Thunder in the next game at Fiserv Forum on Saturday morning (IST).
For the Raptors, it was a stark reality that they don’t have an extra edge this season which they had last year with Kawhi Leonard, who averaged 30-point per game in the NBA finals last season. They are 42-16 on the season and will return to the base for a home tilt against the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday morning (IST).