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Milwaukee Bucks

Milwaukee Bucks hold off Toronto Raptors as comeback falls short

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Giannis Antetokounmpo, Pascal Siakam [NBA Getty Images]

If you only watched the first quarter of this game and then checked back to see the final score, you would have assumed the Toronto Raptors were blown out by the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Bucks led by as much as 26 points in the first half, taking advantage of a rocky start to the game from the Raptors. But Toronto didn't stop fighting.

Behind a monster game from Kyle Lowry, the Raptors cut Milwaukee's lead to just four points in the fourth quarter. Giannis Antetokounmpo and company held strong to prevent another early-season meltdown, however, closing things out to win, 115-105.

For more on this battle at the Fiserv Forum, we have you covered with takeaways below.

Raptors slow start

You can't get off to much worse of a start than the Raptors did in this contest.

Toronto's first quarter had them chasing the Bucks the entire game, getting behind the 8-ball early with bad defence, a handful of turnovers and a large number of missed shots.

Pascal Siakam's first quarter was cut short as the Raptors' franchise player got a little too aggressive in his matchup with Giannis Antetokounmpo. Siakam picked up two quick fouls while defending The Greek Freak, forcing him to head to the bench early with zeros across the board in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.

The Raptors shot 3-for-18 (16.7%) from the field in the first frame with two of their three makes coming in the form of Kyle Lowry 3-pointers in transition. Their offence was stagnant, they were forcing tough shots and they had five turnovers to just one assist.

The Bucks, on the other hand, had nine different players in the scoring column, shooting 50.0% from the field and 45.5% from 3-point range with zero turnovers, building a 19-point lead going into the second quarter.

Spotting any team that big of a lead in the first quarter is a tough task to overcome, never mind a team like Milwaukee, who many believe to be the best team in the Eastern Conference this season. The Raptors did a great job of battling back and making things close, but their slow start is to blame for the loss in this one.

Bucks close out a big lead

The Bucks have had a problem holding onto leads so far this season.

Last year, the team that won an NBA-best 60 games excelled at putting games away when they built a big lead - especially if they were up at the half. They were 25-0 in games in which they led at halftime and entered tonight's contest 0-2 with halftime leads this season.

According to NBA.com, the Bucks have outscored opponents by 17.3 points per 100 possessions in the first half of games, the best net rating in the league. In the second half, opponents have outscored Milwaukee by 0.8 points per 100 possessions, ranking them 18th in the league in net rating.

They blew a 17-point lead against the Miami Heat at home and blew a 16-point lead to the Boston Celtics on the road a few days later.

Leading by as much as 26 points in the first half, Milwaukee looked like they were in firm control of the game. The Raptors began to chip away at their lead, cutting the deficit to 16 points at the half.

In the third quarter, Toronto wouldn't go away and the Bucks' biggest concern of the season began to creep up on them again. The Raptors were able to make it a five-point game heading into the fourth quarter and got it as close as four points in the final frame, but Milwaukee fought off the comeback and closed things out.

Perhaps this will be a turning point for the Bucks surrendering big leads, but it raises concerns that the Raptors were able to cut it as close as they did.

Lowry's big game

We talked about the Raptors slow start, but that didn't include Kyle Lowry, who was the only player that could get anything to go.

Lowry was the sole bright spot in Toronto's horrible first quarter, scoring eight points on 2-for-4 shooting from beyond the arc with the team's only assist. He continued to do everything he could to keep the Raptors in the game, heading into halftime with a team-high 17 points.

In the third quarter, Lowry was the catalyst that sparked a monster run to bring the Raptors back in the game. Acting as the team's engine - as he always does - Lowry was bombing away from 3-point land, going 3-for-3 from beyond the arc, which led to 17 points in the third frame alone.

Without Lowry's efforts, this game would have gotten even more out of hand than it did in the first half and would have stayed that way, too.

The All-Star guard finished with a massive game of 36 points, six assists and four rebounds on 11-for-18 (61.1%) shooting from the field and 5-for-9 (55.6%) from 3-point land. This adds to Lowry's fantastic start to the season, averaging 24.0 points, 6.8 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game.

Antetokounmpo dominates

As we've seen so many times before, Giannis Antetokounmpo dominated this game from start to finish.

The Greek Freak's final stat line speaks for itself - 36 points, 15 rebounds, eight assists, four blocks and a steal while shooting 14-for-20 (70.0%) from the field, including one dagger 3-pointer in the fourth quarter to spoil the Raptors' comeback hopes.

But there was more to it than just a huge stat line. Antetokounmpo's aggressiveness in attacking the rim put Toronto's defence on its heels. He drew two quick fouls on Pascal Siakam early in the first quarter, which forced the Raptors star to play cautiously the rest of the game, not allowing him to get into much of a rhythm. Siakam ended up fouling out of the contest in the fourth quarter and a lot of the credit can go to Antetokounmpo attacking him time-and-time again.

Antetokounmpo brought it on the defensive end as well. His four blocks can give you an idea of the type of energy he brought to that end of the floor.

And lastly, he flirted with his second triple-double of the season in tallying eight assists, which brings his average to 7.7 assists per game on the season.

We know Antetokounmpo is a force in the paint on the offensive end, but watching him grow as a passer is an encouraging sign from a player who draws as much attention as he does. It gives The Greek Freak another weapon in his arsenal to beat teams aside from bulldozing his way to the basket.

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