ST. FRANCIS, Wis. — Sometimes, a young team needs to learn from failure to get better.
Milwaukee Bucks coach Jason Kidd hopes his players build on the lessons learned from a stinker of a Game 5 in their opening-round playoff series against the Toronto Raptors. They need to regroup quickly to avoid elimination when the Raptors and Bucks meet Thursday night at the Bradley Center.
The Bucks got a day off from practice after the 118-93 loss in Toronto that gave the Raptors a 3-2 series lead. They returned to practice Wednesday after a brief break from what has been an increasingly rugged series.
After getting blown out in Game 3 by the Bucks, the Raptors won the next two games in part by being more physical and slowing down Milwaukee.
“Yeah, I hope so,” Kidd said when asked about whether his players learned from the blowout loss. “Today, I thought guys were focused, understanding what we have to do. It’s not hard, but for us the process of being able to be consistent is the one thing that we struggle with.”
Workaholic forward Giannis Antetokounmpo might have been the only player who didn’t want a breather.
“I don’t know, for me, I didn’t need an off-day. But for sure some guys played a lot of minutes, their bodies are sore,” Antetokounmpo said. “I think for some guys it’s good to get some rest so we can bring more energy tomorrow.”
For all of his athleticism, the 22-year-old Antetokounmpo lacks playoff experience when compared to the post-season-tested Raptors.
Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton are playing in their second career playoff series after the Bucks lost in six games to top-seeded Chicago in 2015. Antetokounmpo’s role has changed now that he’s the focal point of the offence, so he faces more defensive scrutiny.
The team surrounding Antetokounmpo and Middleton has been almost completely made over since then, with injured forward Jabari Parker and centre John Henson the only other holdovers. Henson has only played three minutes against Toronto.
Two other starters, guard Malcolm Brogdon and centre Thon Maker, are rookies. Even centre Greg Monroe, a seven-year veteran who provides scoring punch off the bench, is making his playoff debut. Fourth-year players Tony Snell (Bulls) and Matthew Dellavedova (Cavaliers) joined the Bucks this season, brought to Milwaukee in part because of their post-season experience.
In contrast, the Raptors have been through about every conceivable playoff situation after losing to Cleveland in the Eastern Conference finals last season. Led by one of the best backcourts in the game in DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, Toronto is no stranger to adversity.
“You definitely see that experience come into play and we just understand the moment probably a little bit more than them. That’s not to take away (anything) from them,” DeRozan said. “They are a great team, a young team and this is definitely going to be an experience they will learn from and carry over but for now it’s something we have to keep in mind and understand the moment of going into every single game … to try and close this thing out.”
Milwaukee’s transition game is off track with 31 turnovers over the last two contests.
“That’s the physicality part, because it’s the playoffs, because it’s more intense. You get away with slaps, holds, grabs and that’s a trick of the trade,” said Jason Terry, a 17-year veteran who is averaging about 10 minutes a game off the bench for the Bucks this series.
“If you haven’t (been) through that, you don’t know it until you face it,” Terry said. “I think for us being a young team, now that we’ve seen it four or five games consecutively, hopefully now we can adjust.”
NOTES: Middleton missed practice with an illness that has been bothering the Bucks’ second-leading scorer (14.7 points) all week. Middleton was 3 of 8 for eight points in 35 minutes in Game 5. Kidd said he didn’t think the illness was a factor, and that Middleton had good looks and played well defensively. He expected Middleton to start on Thursday. … Kidd said he wasn’t pondering any lineup changes for Game 6.