Every team needs to get knocked down an inch to leap a mile, right? That's a comforting thought.
To take the long view, there is no need to panic right now. No team in the NBA is immune to the adversity and struggle presented by the grueling 82-game schedule. Take a look around the league -- the Pacers are still facing an identity crisis, the Bulls are invading social media with their internal drama, LeBron is still up in arms about the Cavaliers (championship) roster and the Knicks, well, who could forget about the Knicks? Oh, yeah that's right...
Despite losing five straight contests, the Raptors are still clinging onto that second seed in the Eastern Conference by (don't look now) just half a game. Sadly, they'll be without their All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan for a third straight game, meaning that his back court counterpart Kyle Lowry will once again have to carry much of the load.
Losing DeMar is tough for a number of reasons. The obvious omission of his offensive capabilities is one thing, but his absence also triggers a domino effect in terms of how the team operates. DeRozan drives to the hoop 10.9 times per-game and converts these opportunities at a click of 55.6 percent, keeping the defense honest inside and in turn creating ample opportunity for shooters around the perimeter. Over the past two contests without DeRozan, the Raptors have shot 16-for-59 (27 percent) from three-point land and are often far too easy to contain.
Tonight will be no small task for the Raptors. The Milwaukee Bucks are just 21-24 on the season and 3-7 over their last ten games, but they have one of the most transcendent players in recent NBA memory in Giannis Antetokounmpo and have collected victories over the likes of the Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies and Cleveland Cavaliers. With a little more experience and a healthy Khris Middleton, the Bucks have the potential to be in the NBA's top tier of competition in coming seasons. Needless to say, the Raps will have to bring it tonight on their home hardwood. Round one went to the good guys back on December 12th in Milwaukee by a score of 122-100. Now, it's time for the repeat.
If you're not fully up to date on tonight's contest, check out our preview from our man Sean Woodley.
Lets get it!