Welcome to the 10 things recap by theScore features writer William Lou, which serves to highlight emerging trends from a Raptors perspective.
Recovery: The Raptors followed up an embarrassing no-show against the Spurs with a determined bounce-back effort against the best team in the East. Milwaukee made a push and took the lead in the fourth quarter but the Raptors consistently got a response from one of their veterans.
Sensational: Pascal Siakam continues to be nothing short of sensational on both ends. Siakam made life hell for Giannis Antetokounmpo and even blocked him at the rim, while also setting a new career high with 30 points on 11-of-15 shooting. Siakam consistently came up with huge plays down the stretch, including a corner three and a massive offensive rebound to give the Raptors some breathing room.
Closer: The Raptors still have to be more efficient in how they deliver the ball to Kawhi Leonard in the fourth, but he's pretty much unstoppable in a one-on-one setting. Khris Middleton was allowed to grab, hold, bump, and claw at Leonard for most of the night, and yet Leonard still delivered a baseline and-1 to keep the Raptors ahead. Leonard finished with 30-6-6-5 on 8-of-16 shooting.
Hero: Serge Ibaka continues to feast against the Bucks. Ibaka neutralized Brook Lopez (five points), gave timely help at the rim, and came up clutch with a turnaround hook shot as part of his 25 points. He's now averaging 26 points per game against the Bucks this season in large part because Milwaukee's defensive scheme intentionally leaves the big men wide-open on pick-and-pops, and those happen to be Ibaka's specialty. He's a lot more productive in the other areas of his game if he can knock a few of those down early.
Glue: Danny Green continues to come up with timely plays when the Raptors need it most. He beat the shot clock with a dagger three down the stretch and ripped the ball away from Eric Bledsoe in the dying moments to secure the result. Green is just a heady veteran who never panics and is always in the right position on defense.
Role: Fred VanVleet finally found the right balance between running the offense and taking a backseat. VanVleet prioritized setting up Ibaka on the pick-and-pop and was otherwise happy to let Siakam and Leonard run the show. VanVleet would then blend into the background before popping up for a catch-and-shoot three. In short, he played Kyle Lowry's role, and the starting unit thrived because of it.
Smart: Nick Nurse wisely rode his starters for extended minutes because the bench simply wasn't cutting it. OG Anunoby, Norman Powell, and Delon Wright all couldn't hit shots, Greg Monroe was invisible, and they were bleeding points in transition. Nurse benched Monroe altogether and played Siakam at center in the second half, and brought in Leonard earlier than usual.
Reciprocity: It's up to the bench to carry the starters in tomorrow's game against Indiana. Nurse said before Saturday's game that Leonard is finally ready to play in his first set of back-to-backs, but that was before he logged 38 hard-fought minutes against one of the toughest teams in the league.
Strategy: Milwaukee still managed to score 116 points with 13 triples and 49 percent shooting from the field, but the Raptors had the right idea defensively. They played Giannis straight up on his drives and sent timely help whenever he turned his back to the basket or if he stepped inside the paint. Giannis only finished with four assists.
Scary: Toronto and Milwaukee are clearly the best two teams in the East, and both teams should approach the trade deadline with the other in mind. The Raptors could use a backup big who can play pick-and-pop, while the Bucks could use a bigger wing defender to throw at Leonard.