Bench Mob Back

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Kyle Lowry, Bench Mob Lead the Raptors in a Game 4 Blowout

Khris Middleton woke up a sleeping giant.

The All-Star wing predicted the Milwaukee Bucks would bounce back and take a strangle hold on this best-of-seven series only to be obliterated by the Toronto Raptors on the road. And with a hobbled Kawhi Leonard, it was the sorely missed Raptors bench that finally broke out as a unit.

In the first quarter, it was Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol, similar to Game 2, coming out strong and going shot for shot with a hungry Bucks team.

Heading into the first quarter with a one point edge, cue the return of the Bench Mob!

Fred VanVleet, after providing gritty minutes for the Raptors at the end of a Game 3 overtime victory returned from the dead on Tuesday night. Resilient and feisty on the defense end, VanVleet went 3-for-3 from beyond the arc, finishing with a huge 13 points.

Norman Powell and Serge Ibaka logged in big minutes of their own.

The Bucks just don’t seem to have an answer for Playoff Norm, who finished with 18 points, shooting fearlessly from beyond the arc, hitting four of his 13 three-point attempts. Meanwhile, Ibaka brought the energy with 17 points, 13 rebounds, dunking the basketball down the throats of the Bucks defense and grabbing every clutch board imaginable.

On a night in which Leonard was very clearly not at 100-percent it was the defense on the team play that set the tone. Furthermore, the Raptors won the battle of the boards, finishing the game with a +4 in total rebounds and a +3 on the offensive glass. With all the talk about the Raptors fatigue going into Game 4, it seemed like the Bucks were the team caught out of sorts and unprepared.

Not to be outdone, Leonard was still there to deliver one more massive gut punch.

As in most Raptor playoff wins, Kyle Lowry, once again was the unsung hero, very quietly reaching 25 points, making the right basketball play, pushing the pace of the game, and making the right passes whenever necessary. Finishing the night with a net rating of plus-five the Raptors will continue to rely on Lowry to keep pushing their team forward. If the Raptors hope to reach their first Finals berth, they will be required to game one game on the road and after squandering a perfect opportunity in Game 1, it will be up to the more veteran team to pull out yet another gutsy performance.

The Bucks are now heading home and with a big bounce back game from Middleton, it is to be expected that the Bucks will come out similar to how they did in the first quarter tonight. The Raptors cannot allow Game 2 to repeat itself. Their defensive tenacity must be there, their fight on the boards must be there, and Danny Green must give the Raptors his first complete game of the series. Still struggling to get going with his shot, the Raptors will desperately need Green to step up, especially if Kawhi limps into Game 5.

In the word’s of almost every professional athlete, the Raptors cannot allow themselves to get too high or too low after two big home wins. They were in a similar predicament in the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers and it will be up to the Raptors to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.

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