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Milwaukee Bucks

Eight thoughts: Milwaukee Bucks fend off Toronto Raptors in battle between Eastern Conference's top teams

The Toronto Raptors brought the energy in the first half, but couldn't put the Milwaukee Bucks away early.

The Bucks continued to fight their way back into the game before completely swinging the momentum heading into halftime. Milwaukee never looked back after that, taking a commanding 108-97 win over Toronto.

Here are seven thoughts on the heavyweight battle between Eastern Conference contenders.

1. Pascal Siakam's quiet night

Pascal Siakam was bottled up by Giannis Antetokounmpo. There's no other way to put it.

The All-Star forward finished with 22 points, but in an uncharacteristic fashion, the majority of his scoring came from the 3-point line. Siakam shot a solid 5-for-9 from 3, but in and around the paint where he typically does his damage, he was an ugly 1-for-5.

Antetokounmpo - Siakam's primary defender - was willing to let the Raptors star beat the Bucks with the 3-ball, but he wasn't going to let Pascal get comfortable and get to his spots around the basket. Siakam looked flustered on the offensive end for the majority of the night and the Raptors offence stalled at times as a result.

2. The rest of the starters weren't much better

Aside from OG Anunoby who posted a solid 11 points shooting 4-for-8 from the field, the rest of the Raptors starters struggled offensively.

Kyle Lowry scored 10 points shooting 2-for-12 from the field and 1-for-7 from 3.

Fred VanVleet scored 14 points shooting 5-for-14 from the field and 3-for-9 from 3.

Serge Ibaka scored five points shooting 2-for-12 from the field and 1-for-10 from 3.

For those keeping track at home, that's a combined 29 points shooting 9-for-36 (25.0%) from the field and 5-for-26 (19.2%) from 3.

Less than ideal for a team trying to pick up a statement win over the best team in the NBA.

3. The MVP finds other ways to dominate.

Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with just 19 points - only his sixth time being held under 20 this season.

In a game where the MVP-favourite scores only 19 points shooting 5-for-14 from the field, you would assume the Bucks would've been in some trouble. But what makes Antetokounmpo so special is that he can impact the game without scoring 30.

As already mentioned, he locked down Pascal Siakam. He also grabbed 19 rebounds, dished out eight assists (in a near-triple-double effort) and came up with three blocks all while going for a team second-best +/- of plus-13.

And when the Raptors were making their one final push to try and mount a comeback, Giannis buried a 3-pointer to put the nail in the coffin.

The great ones can benefit their team even when they can't get it going offensively. That's what we saw from Antetokounmpo in this one.

4. Giannis Antetokounmpo, meet Chris Boucher

In his first shift of the first quarter, Chris Boucher made his presence felt early. He knocked down a 3-pointer, took a charge on Giannis Antetokounmpo, then had a ferocious put-back dunk on The Greek Freak.

There aren't many ways to provide a spark off the bench than that.

5. Raptors bench puts on a show in first half

The Raptors bench was the difference-maker in the first half, being the main reason they were able to get out to an early lead.

Chris Boucher was the team's leading scorer at halftime with 10 points, while rookie reserve Matt Thomas checked in and buried three 3s in his first five minutes of playing time. Toronto's bench outscored Milwaukee's 21-10 in the first two quarters, giving the Raptors an unexpected jolt when they needed it most.

6. Bucks claw back with end of first half run

In a half that was anchored by scrappy play and defence, and though Toronto was thriving in that type of playstyle, the Bucks were able to hang around and keep things close.

Trailing by 12 with under three minutes remaining in the second quarter, Milwaukee turned things on to give themselves a much more manageable deficit. They closed the half on an 11-1 run as Marvin Williams, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton all buried 3s, followed by an easy layup from Antetokounmpo.

Though it felt like they were dominated and completely out-energized by the Raptors, the Bucks were able to head into halftime trailing by a slim margin of two points, swinging the momentum of the game.

They carried that into the third quarter and combined with the final three minutes of the first half, outscored Toronto 45-20 to take a 13-point lead into the final quarter.

7. The Bucks winning ways are extraordinary

With this victory, the Bucks advance to a ridiculous 8-0 on the second night of a back-to-back this season. That's unheard of.

To add to that, they become the first team in the NBA to reach 50 wins this season, owning the league's best record at 50-8. And not only are they the first team to reach 50 wins this season, they're tied for the fourth-fastest team to reach 50 wins in NBA history!

This Milwaukee team is on pace to become just the third team in NBA history to win 70 games and quality road wins against top-tier teams help that cause.

8. What's next for the Raptors?

With the loss, the Raptors fall to 42-16 on the season, dropping to eight games behind the Bucks for first place with a slim two-game lead over the Celtics for second place. They'll have two days off before they return to action, hosting the Charlotte Hornets on Friday.

The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.

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