Breaking down the Bucks 2017-18 schedule

MILWAUKEE — The NBA released its full schedule of games Monday night, highlighted by some key dates for the Milwaukee Bucks.

While the Bucks will have fewer nationally televised games in the 2017-18 season than in past years (16, down from 20 the past two seasons), they’ll still be part of some marquee matchups. That includes games on Halloween (vs Thunder), New Year’s Day (@ Raptors), Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 4 @ Nets), St. Patrick’s Day (vs Hawks), and Easter (@ Nuggets).

Milwaukee’s schedule should be a little less taxing, with 14 back-to-back games, down from 17 last season.

The full schedule can be found here.

Key Matchups
Oct. 18 @ Boston Celtics
The Bucks have opened the season at home each of the past two seasons, so it’s their turn to open on the road in 2017-18. Milwaukee went 1-2 against Boston last season, finishing the regular season with a 112-94 loss at the TD Garden.

Oct. 20 vs Cleveland Cavaliers
One of the Bucks’ top opponents comes at the start of the schedule, with LeBron James and company heading to the BMO Harris Bradley Center to hand Milwaukee another early test. It remains to be seen if Kyrie Irving will be part of that roster.

Jan. 1 @ Toronto Raptors
The Bucks will have to wait until New Year’s Day to get a measure of revenge against the team that knocked them out of the first round of last year’s playoffs. It could also help decide what direction Milwaukee heads with the All Star break slated for mid-February.

Return to The MECCA?
For months, the Bucks have been teasing a return to the UW | Milwaukee Panther Arena, formerly known as The MECCA, where the team called home during its only championship in 1971. That year, the Bucks beat the Washington Bullets for the championship, so it’s possible the highly-anticipated return could take place on either Nov. 20 or Feb. 27 when the Washington Wizards are scheduled to visit Milwaukee.

Brewers bats quiet in 4-3 loss to Blue Jays

MILWAUKEE — The red-hot offense that led the Milwaukee Brewers to first place in the National League Central was relatively quiet in a 4-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays Tuesday night.

The Crew recorded five hits, while striking out 11 times. Oddly enough, second baseman Jonathan Villar, who’s been on a cold spell as of late, accounted for the majority of Milwaukee’s run production. He drove in a pair of runs in the fifth inning with a well-placed single to finish 1-for-4 on the night.

“The big thing for [VIllar] is to just get on base,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “More than the stolen bases or anything like that, just get on base. That’s going to put us in…the other team’s got to defend the steal and make pitches. And that’s what we’re looking for.”

Ryan Braun was 0-for-3 at the plate, still hitless after two games since returning from the disabled list. He also left five runners on base.

Jimmy Nelson (2-3, 4.20 ERA) was responsible for allowing all four Blue Jays runs to score, giving up eight hits along the way. He struck out three over five innings. Rob Scahill, Carlos Torres, and Neftali Feliz combined for a shutout the rest of the way for Milwaukee.

Raptors eliminate Bucks despite Antetokounmpo’s 34 points

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks went on a 34-7 run to erase a 25-point deficit, but were eliminated by the Toronto Raptors 92-89.

Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 34 points on 13-of-23 shooting, but he made perhaps a critical error that could have provided Milwaukee a better chance to win. Down by three with less than 11 seconds remaining, Antetokounmpo dribbled out the clock at the top of the key, but instead of setting up a three-point shot, he drove in for a dunk with 3.5 seconds left.

DeMar DeRozan drained a pair of free throws on the other end to extend Toronto’s lead back to three points and Milwaukee’s in-bounds pass was intercepted, handing the Bucks their third-straight loss in the series.

Milwaukee was leading the series 2-1 before heading back to the BMO Harris Bradley Center for game four. It’s the first time in Toronto history the Raptors have won three straight games in a playoff series.

Khris Middleton returned from an illness to score 19 points in 42 minutes of action. Matthew Dellavedova was next on the team in scoring with 12 off the bench.

Raptors blow out Bucks in Game 5 to take series lead

TORONTO — All five starters scored in double digits as the Toronto Raptors blew past the Milwaukee Bucks 118-93 in Monday night’s game five of the NBA playoffs.

Norman Powell had a playoff career-high 25 points to lead a Raptors team that shot nearly 58 percent from the field. Serge Ibaka followed with 19 points, six rebounds, and three blocks.

Fighting through an illness, Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton only contributed eight points in Milwaukee’s losing effort. Giannis Antetokounmpo poured in a game-high 30 to go with his nine rebounds.

Milwaukee started out sluggish, turning the ball over three times, while Toronto opened up an early lead. That lead grew to 19 late in the first half, but the Bucks were able to close it to six just before intermission. But coming out of the locker room, the Raptors slowly built the lead back up, grabbing 40 of the game’s 63 rebounds.

The series moves back to Milwaukee for a possible series-deciding game six on Thursday, with the Raptors holding a 3-2 series lead.

Bucks steal game 1 in Toronto 97-83

TORONTO — The Milwaukee Bucks hadn’t won a road playoff game one in 17 tries, but 28 points from Giannis Antetokounmpo helped snap that trend in a 97-83 win over the Toronto Raptors.

Antetokounmpo shot 72 percent from the field in the win, adding eight rebounds and two steals to the stat sheet. Perhaps more importantly, his supporting cast did their part, with five other Bucks players scoring in the double digits. Greg Monroe was particularly effective, logging 14 points and 15 rebounds off the bench.

Toronto scored just 32 points in the second half, struggling to 36 percent shooting overall. The Raptors couldn’t take advantage of 47 total rebounds, turning the ball over 10 times. DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 27 points and eight rebounds.

Bucks finally tame Raptors, 101-94

MILWAUKEE — With Toronto Raptors star Kyle Lowry sidelined after wrist surgery, the Milwaukee Bucks ended a seven-game losing streak to the Raptors by a score of 101-94.

Khris Middleton led the Bucks in scoring with a season-high 24 points, doing so playing in back-to-back games for the first time since returning from his torn hamstring that caused him to miss the first 50 games of the season. Giannis Antetokounmpo added 21 points, Malcolm Brogdon poured in 17, and Spencer Hawes provided 16 off the bench.

It was the first game action Hawes saw for Milwaukee since being traded from Charlotte last month. He played 17 minutes, adding eight rebounds and an assist.

”I’ve been fortunate to be in this league a long time now,” Hawes said. ”That experience kind of teaches you ups, downs, staying ready, being professional when your number’s called.”

Milwaukee used a 41-23 scoring advantage in the second quarter to take the lead for good, also out-rebounding Toronto 42-36. The transition points and bench scoring made up for the Bucks’ inability to convert from three-point range (22.2 percent, 6-27). Milwaukee was also able to hold DeMar DeRozan to single-digit scoring for the majority of the contest. He finished with 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting in 31 minutes of action.

Raptors withstand Bucks comeback, win 122-100

TORONTO — The Milwaukee Bucks battled back from a 26-point deficit but the Toronto Raptors went on a 14-2 run to hold them off for a 122-100 win Monday night.

DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 30 points, while the 14-2 run was sparked with seven points from Terrance Ross. Ross finished second on the team with 25 points, all off the bench.

The Bucks only lead of the game came in the first quarter, but their shooting woes from three-point range (4-of-24) prevented them from ever becoming a real threat. Milwaukee was outrebounded 48-37, eight of which were grabbed by Giannis Antetokounmpo. He added 30 points on 13-of-23 shooting.

Defense was another specific area of concern, said coach Jason Kidd.

”It was easy the whole night, no matter threes, layups, [the Raptors] were in character the whole night from the start,” Kidd said. ”We weren’t, we just didn’t put up any resistance, our defense was non-existent.”