Breakfast Special: Bucks Die by the Sword in Toronto

Rigidity of doctrine, no matter where it crops up, is a killer. It’s how once-prosperous businesses fail, it’s how politics stagnates into nations and empires in decline, and it’s how armies lose wars before the first shot is fired.

For Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer, his rigidity of doctrine in terms of his offense and his commitment to minutes and rotations got him completely outcoached by Nick Nurse (!) as the Toronto Raptors beat Milwaukee 100-94 in Game 6 and won the series four games to two after dropping the first two games on the road in Milwaukee and looking completely overmatched.

And sure, we’ll point to the overtime in Game 3 as the turning point, and note that if you hold serve at home, you only need to win one road game—Game 5 was that one for Toronto—and this whole thing is a bog standard six-game series win for an underdog. Analytically, it makes perfect sense.

What made a lot less sense was Brook Lopez getting torched over and over again by the Raptors’ pick-and-roll down the stretch, a defensive pantsing so thorough that Lopez ended up minus-11 for the game, the worst number any Bucks player put up.

The Bucks hit just 12-of-34 from three (35.3 percent), and during the season Milwaukee shot exactly that percentage, good for just 15th in the NBA.

Yes, three is more than two, but what we’re coming to find first from the Rockets and now the Bucks is you can’t just fire away from long range at or below league average efficiency and expect your shot chart to win you the game.

For one thing, you’ve got to make your free throws! The Bucks shot 22-of-31 from the line in Game 6 (71 percent) and shot 77.3 percent during the regular season, good for 14th in the league.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, as good as he is, can’t carry a team that won’t do work from on his back; he had 21 points and 11 rebounds but hit just 7-of-18 from the field and 5-of-10 from the line.

Meanwhile, Toronto had an anything-you-can-do-we-can-do-better game.

For one thing, they hit the same number of threes on seven fewer attempts (12-of-27; 44.4 percent).

For another, they hit the two-pointers too, posting an overall field goal percentage of 48.6 to Milwaukee’s 40.0.

Only free throws (just 16-of-22 for Toronto) kept this from being a comfortable double-digit win.

What’s more, Nurse and his squad were able to control the pace, dragging it all the way down to 85.8, a Mike Fratello-like crawl that, quite simply, played into the home team’s hands.

Toronto was 15th in pace in the NBA during the regular season. Milwaukee was second. If you don’t let the Bucks run you off the floor, you can beat them in the halfcourt, and Nurse knew it.

The Raptors’ superstars were not particularly great in this one. Kawhi Leonard had 27 points but shot 9-of-22 to get it. Pascal Siakam‘s 18 came on 7-of-17.

But then again, Kawhi had 17 rebounds and played lockdown defense. And oh by the way, Kyle Lowry showed up for 17 points on 6-of-10 from the field and 3-of-4 from three.

And Fred VanVleet completed his bench scoring redemption with 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting and 4-of-5 from three to go with a game-best plus-12 during his 34 minutes.

This was a classic case of an underdog learning lessons from two games of a best-of-seven, making adjustments, getting a little bit of luck at the end of Game 3, and then taking what could’ve been meek surrender and turning it into as standard a six-game series (underdog wins its three home games, steals one on the road, there is no more orthodox way to do it) as you’ll ever see.

Is it good enough to beat the Warriors? It’s easy to say Golden State will just run them off the floor and kick them in the teeth, but the Raptors weren’t supposed to beat the Bucks either.

Try this tweet on for size and tell me Kevin Durant isn’t secretly thinking “I’m-a just stay injured for my legacy’s sake”:

Erasing a halftime deficit:


Kyle Lowry came to ball:

And Kawhilights:

Next Breakfast Special is May 31. Next feature is before that. And if you’ve got something you really want me to write about during this year’s Summer Reading, head on over to Twitter and blast it @RealFoxD.

Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!