For the third straight game, you could write a whole story about Bucks Players Who Played Well Not Named Giannis.
- Khris Middleton jump-started the blowout with 11 points in the first eight minutes, single-hot-handedly outscoring the Raptors during that time. Then he settled in as a distributor and finished with seven assists and not a single turnover. Meanwhile, Tony Snell helped hold DeMar DeRozan to zero field goals in a game for the first time since 2015 (coincidentally, that last time also came against the Bucks).
- Greg Monroe went for 16 points and seven rebounds in just 23 minutes while strengthening his case for being the second-best player in the series, on either team, through three games. Thon Maker continues to confuse everyone (most of all, the Raptors) with how well he recovers on defense.
- Malcolm Brogdon pushed a game-high nine assists on a night when the Bucks totaled 29. Matthew Dellavedova hit both of his threes and pestered the Toronto guards to the point where they were saying things like “we got our ass busted” and “it just sucks right now” in the post-game presser. Michael Beasley emerged after a DNP-CD in Game 2 to chip in 13 points in 20 minutes.
- Hell, Rashad Vaughn knocked down a couple triples to top it off.
- I am pretty sure that Vin Baker dunked on Jakob Poeltl late in the fourth quarter.
If ever there was a team win, this was it. And so far, that is the spirit of the series for the Bucks. Through three games, they have outscored the Raptors by 35 points, and if anything, it has felt like even more.
Giannis has been more than simply the best player in the series though – he has been the best all-around player (on either team) in each of the first three games.
He dominated Game 1 from the opening whistle in trademark Giannis ways, including kicking off the game with a dunk and finishing it with an exclamatory block.
Uncharacteristically, Giannis found trouble finishing at the rim throughout Game 2, yet ended up hitting a game-tying three late in the fourth quarter. Before that, he created little bits of new magic to keep the Bucks in the game, like tipping enough rebounds to himself or to teammates that I almost wrote a story about just that. In the end, he led both teams in points, rebounds and assists – on an “off night.”
Jonas Valanciunas (and you thought Greg Monroe looked for calls on every play?) appeared to have a clear look at a dunk to get the Raptors on the board in Game 3, but Giannis blocked it from behind – the Raptors still trailed 3-0 and hardly scored thereafter. That foreshadowed Giannis helping hold the Raptors to a season-low 77 points. He also scored 19 points on just 10 shots from the field, thanks in part to hitting both of his threes as well as a jumper.
Threes? Jumpers? Giannis? Toronto has (quite logically) dared him to shoot the entire series. And while we are working with a micro sample size, Giannis has been knocking down shots at a solid clip, both in the mid-range and from three.
The caveat here is the “jumper” term. Giannis made just 3-8 free throws on Thursday, after hitting 77.0 percent from the stripe during the regular season. As the series goes on, his free throw percentage will go up while his jumpers will not fall quite so often. And the Raptors will still be happy to allow him jumpers, even if they go in.
Nevertheless, the contrast after three games is heavy: The Bucks look like they have found ways to slow the Toronto stars, while Giannis is adjusting after each game and within each game. And where the Toronto stars can be defanged, reduced to one or two dimensions, Giannis is – as he seems always to be – growing, growing.