Don’t be fooled by the score. The final of 120-102 isn’t a good indicator for what we saw transpire in game four. The Milwaukee Bucks had a prime opportunity to win one of the two games played in Toronto that would lead them to a commanding 3-1 lead before they head back home. Instead, Milwaukee decided to completely blow it and this series is now all even at 2-2.
This has to be one of the more painful losses of the whole season for this Bucks team. Unlike game three, shots were actually falling for Milwaukee and at a decent clip. Obviously, 46%/31% splits isn’t ideal but the way this series has gone it should definitely be enough for a win. But on this particular night, it wasn’t even close to enough. The NBA’s number one defense throughout the year turned into a bunch of fourth graders just wanting to go home.
Looking at the scorebook, you may wonder why I would think it shouldn’t have been this close. In fact, the team stats tell a story of two very similar squads in this particular game. Each team shot mid-40% from the field and mid-30% from deep as well as very similar numbers in rebounds, turnovers, fouls, etc. This is one of the rare games that the team stats do not tell the story.
In game three, Milwaukee’s bench unit showed up with an outstanding performance but still lost due to the starters not carrying their weight. That left optimism with Bucks fans, knowing that all that had to be different was a few more shots from the stars. Well, in game four, the Raptors bench was the one to show up and that completely threw off Milwaukee’s plan. Serge Ibaka, Norman Powell, and Fred VanVleet combined for 48 points compared to 23 points for the Bucks bench.
It wasn’t just the benches. It was the constant mindless plays from Milwaukee throughout all four quarters that killed them much like last game. Mirotic consistently tried to play a game that he is not familiar with by driving through traffic. Mirotic also looked completely checked out on defense, something I hope Coach Bud addresses in the harshest way. Giannis wasn’t without fault, as he made a number of uncharacteristic plays.
The real issue we have here and the one that hurts the most is that Milwaukee has had two terrible performances in a row. They have barely lost two games in a row, let alone in horrific fashion. Sure, game three went to double overtime. But even that wasn’t deserved. In game four, Milwaukee got what they had coming. Hopefully this two-game stretch only makes the Bucks roster tougher as it has all year.
The scary part is, there is no time to ease back into a rhythm. The series is now a best of three with the first and third being played in Milwaukee. A loss on Thursday at Fiserv Forum would expectedly crush the Bucks’ hopes of a Finals appearance. The 48 hours between game three and game four will be the ultimate test of what Milwaukee has learned this season. We know they’re capable of winning the next two games easily, but we also have reason to be extremely skeptical. All I wanted from game four was to be able to sleep soundly afterwards, and that was taken away from me. I think the Bucks are in order to right the ship and make the leap over Toronto.
Game five will be back in Milwaukee with tip at 7:30 p.m. Each game from here on out is the biggest game of the season without question. Fear the deer.
P.S., I think all of Wisconsin hates Drake now and I don’t blame them one bit.