Not that the Raptors (and their fans) needed more reasons to feel nervous today, but here we are. The news from shootaround this morning is that Serge Ibaka will be a game-time decision to play in Game 2. One imagines the Bucks already salivating at the prospect.
Ibaka went through shoot around but Casey says he'll be a game-time decision. His left ankle was heavily taped. Would expect him to play— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) April 18, 2017
In Game 1, Ibaka came down on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s foot after a 3-point attempt and was slow to get up. He finished the game and put up a solid line of 19 points (on 8-of-14 shooting), 14 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Sadly, no foul was called on Giannis for unfurling his considerably lengthy leg underneath the descending Ibaka. What a world.
For Game 2, with the Raptors reeling, it stands to reason Ibaka will be all the more important to Toronto’s success. Given the Bucks employ one true big man in Greg Monroe (who put in work in Game 1), the push for the Raptors to go small with Ibaka in the middle, flanked by some combination of DeMarre Carroll, Patrick Patterson, and P.J. Tucker, makes sense. Without Ibaka, or with Ibaka diminished, Toronto may have to try to go big with Jonas Valanciunas to smash the Bucks smaller frontline, or rely on Patterson more heavily — he played only 19 minutes in Game 1. Both options have their well-documented pros and cons.
Since this is the playoffs, I’d wager Ibaka plays in Game 2. The Raptors need him, and they need to avoid going down 0-2 before heading to Milwaukee. How effective he’ll be in chasing around the speedy Bucks — and the unholy terror that is Giannis — remains to be seen.
More as this develops.