The Bucks comprehensively defeated the Raptors 97-83 to silence what had been a ferocious Toronto crowd on Saturday. But Ibaka made consecutive jumpers to restore a nine-point lead, and Dallas got no closer than six after that.
Most expect either Harden or Westbrook to take home the MVP trophy on June 26 after both players had stellar regular seasons.
The "gut-punch" of this game came in the second half of the third quarter when the Bucks went on an 11-6 run with Giannis Antetokounmpo on the bench for 4:33 and the Raptors were in the bonus.
Then it got weird and the offence all but disappeared.
Kyle Lowry, playing just his fifth game after missing 21 with a wrist injury, had just four points on 2-for-11 shooting. He just blocked one of the best shooting guards in the game today in a playoff game in his place. We were just totally out of rhythm in the second half. "In the second half after the All-Star break, we played great basketball, team basketball".
Playing his second career playoff series, Antetekounmpo made 13 of 18 shots, and added eight rebounds and three assists. The Raptors actually tied Cleveland with identical 51-31 records, but the Cavs own the tiebreaker, thus earning the #2 seed. While the Greek Freak may lead statistically in every category, they still have many risky pieces that could make them a threat to make a decent run in the playoffs. "That's what happened tonight".
"I'm just more excited that we don't have the noon game", Kyle Lowry said. "I thought they played hard longer than we did. It's all going to be different", Terry said. "I'm more accepting of it this time around, understanding how teams are going to play me, the attention I'm going to draw defensively so it's on me to make things easier on my teammates".
Casey's counterpart, Jason Kidd, a guy he coached in Dallas, saw things pretty much the same way. "He has a lot of Dirk [Nowitzki] in him if you ask me", Terry said. As a leader, he stepped up and didn't take the bait. To cap off the game he rudely rejected a DeMar DeRozan lay-up to earn a technical foul. For all the metrics (which I subscribe to) and film breakdowns (which I try and incorporate), there are elements which exist in the ethereal of a basketball game.
Realistically, the Toronto Raptors are the clear-cut better team on offense and defense.
Serge Ibaka: This is the player the Raptors have needed for years and they finally have him within the flow of the team, just in time for the playoffs. If the Milwaukee Bucks can execute a specialized game plan and create enough chaos, a 6-seed taking out the 3-seed wouldn't be that far-fetched.
The Milwaukee Bucks will tip off the 2017 NBA Playoffs in Toronto on Saturday, April 15, at 4:30 p.m. (CT), the league announced last night.
The league did away with the 12:30 opening tips this year, much to the delight of everyone in a Toronto uniform after the team annually got those early starts nearly automatically it seemed. They have more depth and after taking the Cavs to six games in the Eastern Conference Finals past year, they should have the confidence to pass the first round without a sweat.
"He plays so hard, the kid plays so hard, he has a heart as big as this table", said Casey - sitting at a six-foot-long table.
If there is a reason for optimism, it is that the Raptors' streak of poor starts has also routinely been followed by strong bounce-back games.
"We are terribly saddened by the tragic loss of Chyna Thomas", the Celtics said in a statement Saturday.