After a blowout loss in Game Three, the Toronto Raptors were back in action for Game Four, Saturday. Head Coach Dwayne Casey made a welcomed change to the Raptors starting lineup, opting to start Norman Powell and, move Jonas Valanciunas to the bench. For Valanciunas however, moving to the bench was not a punishment. Over the course of the series, Toronto has struggled to handle the length of the Milwaukee Bucks. Moving Powell into the starting five, allowed the Raptors to combat the speed and length of the Bucks as well as, give Valanciunas more time guarding Greg Monroe who also, comes off the bench.
Setting the tone early
Early on it was evident that Toronto was going to bring the intensity. The Raptors held the Greek Freak to 0-5 shooting early thanks in part to strong defensive play from Serge Ibaka. Although they only shot 40% in the first quarter however dipped to a mere 36% at the half. The Raptors were able stay within their game and, looked more comfortable early on. Toronto was also able to generate a good amount of points from their defence early and often. Things did get sloppy at times however, the Toronto Raptors were able slow things down and whether the storm. Unlike in Game Three, the Raptors were able to keep Milwaukee shooting from well under 50%. Lastly, the Toronto Raptors did a great job pushing the ball up the court.
Shaking off poor performances
For DeMar DeRozan, Game Three marked the first time in his Playoff career he did not make a field goal. Saturday afternoon however, was a whole different story. DeRozan scored 21 points in the first half alone including, 15 in the second quarter. DeMar put the Raptors on his back scoring 52% of the teams points in the first-half alone. DeRozan also lead the team in rebounds at the half which, was very interesting. Kyle Lowry managed to shake off a poor first-half and re-found his scoring touch. Lowry finished the game with 18 points.
How about that Third Quarter
Coming out of the break, the Toronto Raptors were looking push the pace even more. While DeMar DeRozan continued to stay hot, Kyle Lowry finally came alive. At one point, Toronto was on a 9-0 run and, were forcing Milwaukee to force a lot of shots. As every minute passed, more members of the Raptors got in on the scoring and, defensive action. Although Toronto struggled from three-point range, Kyle Lowry and, Norman Powell both made shots from beyond the arc. On the defensive end, Jonas Valanciunas did a nice job of keeping Greg Monroe off the scoresheet. Although the Raptors struggled to score in the last few minutes of the quarter, their defence however, was tremendous.
With just 12 minutes left, the Toronto Raptors kicked things into another gear. PJ Tucker was instrumental in the Raptors’ success coming up with multiple, massive defensive stops down the stretch. Jonas Valanciunas also came alive, cashing in on two beautiful passes from Norman Powell. Speaking of Powell, the second-year guard finished the game with 12 points, 4 rebounds 4 assists, and, drew an offensive foul to give Toronto the ball back late. DeMar DeRozan put the team on his back and, finished with a near double-double, scoring a game high 33 points and adding 9 rebounds. Big performances across the board may just be what the Toronto Raptors need. Team defence was also tremendous.
With the series now tied at 2-2, Toronto will head home for Game Five, Monday night. Home court advantage awaits and, it could not come at a better time. You will not want to miss Game Five which, tips off at 7:00 PM EST