The Toronto Raptors (29-12) got a much-needed win against the Milwaukee Bucks (27-11) on Saturday, beating their Eastern Conference rival by a final score of 123-116.
The Bucks still hold a lead in the season series, but the Raptors will have an opportunity to tie it up on Jan. 11 when they play Milwaukee for the fourth and final time before a potential meeting in the playoffs.
From a dominant showing from Toronto's starters to a monster performance from Giannis Antetokounmpo, here are four takeaways from the game.
This game was all about the starters for the Raptors.
It started with Kawhi Leonard, who led the way with 30 points, six rebounds, six assists and five steals. He was at his best in the second quarter, when he scored 10 points to prevent the Bucks from making a big run, but he came up big down the stretch with a clutch shot over Khris Middleton that iced the game.
Kawhi: 30p, 6r, 6a, 5s- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 6, 2019
Take action & VOTE 👉🏽 https://t.co/QkJfeSAJ0b pic.twitter.com/d0EP1bimyh
Pascal Siakam also scored 30 points for the Raptors, setting a new career-high for the fifth time this season. He made 11 of his 15 field goal attempts and tied a different career-high by making three of his five 3-point attempts.
WATCH Siakam put up a CAREER-HIGH 30 PTS in the @Raptors win!#WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/HaGu4i6Fal- NBA Canada (@NBACanada) January 6, 2019
Then there's Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka, who combined for 46 points. Whereas VanVleet did his best Kyle Lowry impression by draining five 3-pointers and dishing out eight assists, Ibaka protected the rim on defence and punished Milwaukee's bigs on offence by scoring five of his 11 baskets outside of the paint.
Toronto's starters ended up outscoring Milwaukee's by 27 points.
If you're wondering how the Raptors won by only seven points despite that differential, it's because they didn't receive much help.
The bench was basically non-existent for the Raptors.
OG Anunoby scored three points on 1-for-6 shooting, Norman Powell scored two points on 0-for-5 shooting (his two points coming from the free throw line), Delon Wright went scoreless on 0-for-4 shooting and Greg Monroe didn't get off a shot in his five minutes on the court.
That means the second unit scored a total of five points on 1-for-15 shooting from the field. Nick Nurse barely went to the bench in the second half, leaning heavily on VanVleet, Danny Green, Leonard, Siakam and Ibaka instead to get the job done.
They did, of course, but it could prevent Leonard from playing tomorrow, when the Raptors take on the Indiana Pacers on the second night of a back-to-back, a game he was expected to play in prior to this one.
The 3-point game
The Raptors and Bucks each made 14 3-pointers in the game, but Toronto did it on only 31 attempts compared to 37 for Milwaukee.
That's important for two reasons. The first is that 3-point shooting has been a trend in the Raptors' losses this season, with them shooting over 35.0 percent in their wins and under 30.0 percent in their losses.
The second? Only the Houston Rockets are taking more 3-pointers per game than the Bucks this season. The volume with which they make and take 3s has been a huge reason for their success, and the Raptors were able to beat them at their own game on Saturday.
It wasn't the case in their first two meetings, as the Bucks combined to make 34 of their 84 3-point attempts compared to only 24-of-89 for the Raptors.
When the Raptors are making shots from outside, they continue to be a tough team for anyone to handle.
This game was a good example of why Giannis Antetokounmpo is still in the No. 1 spot in our MVP Power Rankings.
While it came in a loss, the Greek Freak scored a game-high 43 points on 16-for-25 shooting form the field. He gave the Raptors all he could handle in the fourth quarter, when he scored 18 of Milwaukee's 34 points, nine coming from the 3-point line.
One of his 3-pointers even gave the Bucks their first lead since the opening seconds of the second half.
Giannis caps a 15-4 @Bucks run with this three!#WeTheNorth 100#FearTheDeer 96- NBA (@NBA) January 6, 2019
📺: @NBATV pic.twitter.com/JKtvLdwWKL
Antetokounmpo also pulled down 18 rebounds and dished out four assists in the game. It just wasn't quite enough to lead the Bucks to their sixth straight win and their fourth straight over the Raptors.