Toronto Raptors

Four takeaways from the Toronto Raptors five-point loss to the Milwaukee Bucks

Kawhi Leonard guarded by Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton (NBA Getty Images)

It may have been Game 28 of the regular season for the Raptors and Game 25 of the regular season for the Bucks, but Sunday night's game felt like it could have been played in mid-May.

On a night where there were 14 lead changes and eight ties, a late 3-pointer from Malcolm Brogdon gave Milwaukee the lead for good. Toronto had chances to win late but could not convert and their shortcomings from earlier in the game proved to be too much to overcome as it lost to Milwaukee 104-99.

With that in mind, here are takeaways from the Raptors' close loss to the Bucks.

Kyle Lowry's struggles

It's no secret - Raptors All-Star guard has hit a rough stretch after a record-breaking start to the season.

In Sunday night's loss, Lowry failed to score, shooting 0-for-5 from the field - each of his five attempts was from 3-point range. Despite being held scoreless, he did finish the game with seven assists and five rebounds.

Over the past five games, Lowry is averaging just 5.0 points while shooting 19.1 percent from the field and 15.6 percent from 3-point range. 25 of Lowry's last 28 field goal attempts have come from beyond the arc and he has attempted a total of four free throws in the same five-game span.

When asked about his recent play, Lowry told reporters "I've gotta be a little more inside the paint, inside the arc. I definitely do." Getting to the rim opens things up for the Raptors offence, and it's something he must get back to in order to get the most out of this team.

Defensive Intensity

The defensive intensity Sunday night was reminiscent of that in a playoff game.

Each team shot under 42 percent from the field for the game and their scoring numbers were outliers in comparison to results from earlier in the season. The Bucks' 104 points are the least they have scored in a win this season while tonight was just the second time the Raptors failed to score 100 points.
Both defences were flying around, forcing contested looks and playing passing lanes. Defence led to some offence for the Raptors, who scored 11 points off of 13 Bucks turnovers. Milwaukee forced 11 turnovers but only scored five points off of them.

In a game in which Kawhi Leonard and Serge Ibaka were held to shoot a combined 17-for-39 (43.5 percent), the efficiency of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez proved to be a major difference. The Bucks duo combined to score 38 points on 15-for-28 shooting (53.6 percent).

Getting to the line

Toronto attempted a season-low seven free throws Sunday night. Seven.

It's an alarming trend for the Raptors, who entered the night in the middle of the pack, averaging 21.7 free throw attempts per game. Toronto's 44 3-point attempts were over 10 more than its regular-season average of 33.6 per game, suggesting the team should look to attack more in order to get to the line. To take things a step further, the Raptors took just 35 shots in the paint - nine less than they attempted on the perimeter.

Credit goes to the Bucks defence for forcing the Raptors to depend heavily on their 3-point shooting, but the team must look to get downhill and force more fouls moving forward.

Seven is an absurdly low total of free throw attempts for a team that features Leonard, Lowry and Valanciunas among many others that are capable of drawing fouls. Toronto can and will be better moving forward.

It gets no easier

Toronto loses its second straight close game ahead of a difficult four-game Western Conference road trip that features four prospective playoff teams.

A back-to-back with the Clippers and Warriors kicks things off before the Raptors close with games in Portland and Denver. On one hand, Toronto could be discouraged by embarking upon such a difficult trip while it isn't playing its best basketball. Conversely, what better time to get back to elite level play than when visiting some of the toughest teams in the league.

In order to retain its spot atop the league by holding league's best record, the Raptors must regroup and bounce back on their upcoming trip. It isn't unfamiliar territory, as the team responded to its last losing streak with an eight-game win streak.

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