The Bucks will look to win their second game in a row tonight when they travel down to Florida to take on the Tampa-based Toronto Raptors. Let’s take a quick look at the basics before jumping into some things to watch.
The Game: Milwaukee Bucks (10-6) @ Toronto Raptors (7-10)
The Place: Tampa, Florida, where the Raptors are playing their home games due to Canadian travel restrictions.
The Time: 6:30 Central
The TV: FS Wisconsin
The Likely Starters:
Bucks – Holiday, DiVincenzo, Middleton, G. Antetokounmpo, Lopez
Raptors – Lowry, VanVleet, Anunoby, Powell, Baynes
Raptors: Pascal Siakam (knee) is questionable. He will slot in for Powell in the starting lineup if he’s available to start. Patrick McCaw is out.
WHAT TO KNOW –
- Raptors better than record suggests
Toronto is 7-10, but that record won’t tell the full story. The Raptors have won five of their last seven since a 2-8 start. That stretch includes wins over the Mavs, Pacers, Heat, and Hornets. They also look a lot better if you dig into the stats. Toronto is 15th in scoring efficiency and 16th in defensive efficiency, making them one of just ten teams to be in the top 16 in both. They’re 12th by net rating (offensive efficiency – defensive efficiency) and average point differential, and they’re 15th by SRS, which combines margin of victory with strength of schedule. While those numbers aren’t particularly overwhelming, they do put the Raptors in a better place than their record (T-21st). This is not a bottom-of-the-league team.
- Bucks dominating teams under .500
The Bucks are 8-2 against teams with losing records, and they’ve won seven in a row since their loss down in Miami. Their average margin in those ten games is +11.5, which is as good it gets. Milwaukee is quite simply rolling the bad teams almost every time they play them. Much like last season, they’re taking care of business in the games they should win. While any single game can go haywire, expect to see this overall trend continue throughout the season.
- Bucks controlling regular season series with Toronto
In his two years at the helm in Milwaukee, Mike Budenholzer has gone 5-2 against the Raptors during the regular season. Now, the elephant in the room is the 2-4 loss in the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals. That will never go away, but it doesn’t mean that the Bucks can’t claim regular season success against Toronto. If you take out the bubble, they’re up to 5-1, and they haven’t lost a true, non-playoff road game against the Raptors since January 1st, 2018. Does that mean anything for this game? Probably not, but it’s at least a stat to feel good about.
- Raptors ruled by committee
With most NBA teams, you’ll see a clear leader or two at the top of the offensive ladder. The Bucks, for example, have Giannis averaging 27 points per game, Middleton averaging 21, and then only Holiday (16) topping 12 points among the rest. That’s not the case in Toronto, where six players are scoring between 13 and 20 points per game. Here’s the list:
Fred VanVleet (19.4)
Pascal Siakam (18.6)
Kyle Lowry (17.8)
OG Anunoby (14.6)
Chris Boucher (14.3)
Norman Powell (13.6)
Limiting this offense is going to require a full-team effort rather than a focus on one or two guys. The good thing is that only Lowry, VanVleet, and Siakam are averaging more than 2 assists per game. It’s a little easier to have a focused plan for controlling the playmaking, especially if Siakam can’t go.
- Both teams can shoot
The Bucks are 6th in the league in three-pointers attempted per game, and they’re 4th by percentage made. The Raptors are 2nd and 9th in those categories, respectively. Both teams also give up a ton of threes, as they sit in a virtual tie for 5th-most three-point attempts allowed per game. Whatever happens tonight, expect the perimeter to play a big role.
WHAT TO WATCH –
Here are a few quick things to keep an eye on in this one:
- Siakam’s availability
Much has been made of Siakam’s struggles, but he’s still a very good player even if he’s fallen short of true stardom so far. The Raptors are simply a better team when he plays. He will impact this game if he can go.
- Torrey Craig’s minutes
Craig provided some instant impact in thirteen minutes last time out against the Hawks. It was only his third appearance of the season and his longest by minutes played. Injury issues have been a reasonable explanation for his absence so far, but this will be a big test of whether Budenholzer actually sees him as a viable rotation piece. If he doesn’t play at all after a good showing, then it’s definitely time to start asking some questions about his role.
- Lopez continuing his best stretch of the season
Brook has scored in double figures in four consecutive games. He’s only 6-19 from deep in that stretch, but this is the most productive he’s been offensively in consecutive appearances so far. Can he keep it going tonight?
- Beating the Raptors
It’s never a bad thing to beat up on the team that snatched a finals appearance from us. It may not make up for what happened two summers ago, but it does provide some satisfaction. Let’s hope we get another one of those wins here tonight.
Bucks 121, Raptors 110
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