TORONTO – The game of adjustments will continue Tuesday night when the host Toronto Raptors try to even the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals against the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Raptors showed a few new wrinkles Sunday night in Game 3 when they defeated the visiting Bucks 118-112 in double-overtime.
The Bucks, who lead the series 2-1, will try to have answers in Game 4.
One adjustment Raptors coach Nick Nurse made Sunday was in dealing with Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was held to 12 points on 5-of-16 shooting, but gathered 23 rebounds, before fouling out early in the second overtime.
“(Nurse) said everybody is going to be guarding him,” said forward Kawhi Leonard, who scored 36 points and played a career-high 52 minutes on Sunday. “Pretty much everybody just has to be ready to step up and like I said before, one man can’t guard him. It takes the whole team, and that’s what we did. Everybody stepped up, took the challenge and just wanted to guard him.”
Antetokounmpo saw the double-overtime defeat as a missed opportunity.
“What bothers me is that we had a chance,” Antetokounmpo said. “Even though we didn’t play well, we still had a chance. If we play a little bit better we probably would have won this game and we’d be up 3-0.
“But at the end of the day, nothing’s going to be easy. I don’t expect this to be easy. We can’t allow Kawhi to have 11 field goals made when me, Khris (Middleton) and (Eric) Bledsoe had 11 (combined). As the leaders of the team, that cannot happen.”
Middleton and Bledsoe, each shot 3-for-16 from the field.
Antetokounmpo added seven assists and four blocks and made eight turnovers as Leonard guarded him with the Raptors also using frequent double teams.
“This is what makes average, good and great players,” Antetokounmpo said. “That’s the difference, when they can react and be basketball players. It’s way easier if I knew where my shots were going to come from. It’s way easier when I can figure out the defense and know who is going to guard me, but now they’re double-teaming me, showing walls. But I’ve got to be a basketball player, I’ve got to react, I’ve got to be in the moment. Usually, good basketball players, they can do that really well.”
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer figures some tweaking is in order.
“He’s making the right read,” Budenholzer said of Antetokounmpo. “He’s making the pass. And we’ve probably got to shoot it a little bit better. We’ve got to drive it a little bit better. Maybe we can create more space for him. We’ll look at all those things.
“But, you know, I think when somebody is committed to getting the ball out of his hands, we feel great about the shooting around him and the players around him. Hopefully, we can make teams pay. We were right on the cusp of winning a game when we didn’t play that well.”
The fact that Leonard was the primary defender on Antetokounmpo doesn’t change the five-man approach to guarding him.
“It’s a team deal with him,” Nurse said. “But, again, Kawhi did a great job. … He was up and not giving him quite as much runway to get flying off of. But so were the other guys that ended up on him in a switch or in different parts of the game. They were all a little bit more locked in. We took steps forward to get physical. The other night we were backing away from everything.”
Leonard seemed to be favoring a leg early Sunday and has logged considerable playing time.
“It was a lot of minutes, but I think he’s OK,” Nurse said.
–Larry Millson, Field Level Media