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VanVleet’s Big Second Half Leads Raptors Past Reigning NBA Champions

The Toronto Raptors struggles at home has been a topic of much discussion.

Fred VanVleet was determined to change that narrative – even if it’s for just one night.

As the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks rolled into town, the Raptors point guard simply refused to let Toronto let another home game slip away. After a slow start to the game, the second half belonged to VanVleet as he poured in 26 points in the final two quarters of the contest, helping the Raptors secure a 97-93 victory. In the final minutes of the contest, everyone in the building knew who the game belonged too and it was VanVleet who made sure the Bucks were unable to climb back.

“It was one of those moments: playing so hard, working so hard, obviously given the circumstances, I think we really deserved that win,” said VanVleet, who also added five rebounds and four assists on the night. “I just wanted us to give us some energy and some momentum going into those last two or three minutes.”

Despite the absence of Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Raptors understood that they desperately needed a hard-fought win against a marquee opponent to get back on track. As has been the case time and time again this season, the young rookie Scottie Barnes played a vital role in the team’s success.

“When we found out Giannis was not playing, we were deciding what our game plan on Middleton would be, and Scottie stepped up and said ‘I’m gonna guard him, I’m gonna guard him hard,’ so let’s start with that,” said Raptors coach Nick Nurse. “So he did and I thought he did a good job on him, made him work.”

Barnes finished the night with 13 points and seven rebounds, while Pascal Siakam added 20 points in the win. Jrue Holiday led the way for the Bucks with 26 points while Khris Middleton scored 22 points of his own in the loss.

The Raptors stretch of home games will continue on Sunday when they take on the Washington Wizards.

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