MILWAUKEE (AP) – Pascal Siakam scored 33 points, OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr had 22 apiece and the Toronto Raptors beat the short-handed Milwaukee Bucks 117-111 yesterday.
Fred VanVleet added 19 points for the Raptors. They improved to 18-17 and overcame Milwaukee’s hot-shooting first half and late rally.
The defending NBA champion Bucks were without coach Mike Budenholzer after he entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
Milwaukee played without NBA Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo because of an illness unrelated to COVID-19. Grayson Allen, George Hill and Pat Connaughton also entered protocols on Wednesday.
Khris Middleton led the Bucks with 25 points. Jordan Nwora had 17 and Jrue Holiday and DeMarcus Cousins each had 15.
The Bucks were coming off a 115-106 home loss to lowly Detroit.
Milwaukee connected on 61 per cent of its shots to take a 77-68 at the half, tying the most points it has scored in the first half this season. The 77 points marked the most Toronto has surrendered in any half this season. The previous high was 72 in both halves of a 144-99 loss at Cleveland on December 26.
“You learn that it is a long game and sometimes you aren’t always going to be at your best,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said.
“They did a good job of not really overreacting to that first half. We got into the locker room and I told them we were pretty fortunate that it was only a nine-point game. It was just a matter of can we flip it around and start doing some of the things we do defensively, and we did.”
The Toronto coaching staff and bench became very vocal in the second half in an effort to boost the team’s defensive intensity, Nurse said.
“Everybody was energised and tuned in. That was fun,” he said.
Toronto erased a 14-point deficit and tied it at 85 midway through the third. The Raptors built a 15-point lead in the fourth, but the Bucks pulled within four points twice in the final minute.
“I’m not devastated,” Bucks acting coach Darvin Ham said. “I thought our guys played hard.”
Middleton said he was disappointed that the team couldn’t get a win for Ham.
“Overall, the coaching staff did a great job preparing us for tonight, we just let ourselves down in the third quarter,” he said.