Just before tonight’s Raptors game, the one that sees them take on the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks, the squad that definitely appears to be Toronto’s largest obstacle to another Finals appearance, coach Nick Nurse was optimistic. Yes, he offered up the usual caution when thinking about a regular season game and what it could mean; but right at the end of his pre-game scrum, when asked if he’ll ever have his full complement of players, Nurse positively beamed.
“Yes,” Nurse said. “I’m confident of that. When? I don’t know.”
Are you actually confident of that?
“Yes, I am. I am. Just at the right time.”
There are a few takeaways here. One is that the Raptors and Bucks playing in the regular season offers a chance to see how these two teams measure up now — a valuable insight, but not the most important one. Two is the caveats, which are obvious: tonight’s game is not in the hothouse in the post-season; the Raptors are yet to become whole; the Bucks are on a back-to-back and also not entirely healthy (though it appears Brook Lopez will play). And three involves the discussion as to what Nurse may test out in tonight’s game against Milwaukee. There’s reason, of course, to believe his experiments won’t work or that we won’t see them occur again. (And there’s no word on what those ideas of Nurse’s are — the mad scientist strikes again!)
Still, it will mean something for players like Terence Davis, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Chris Boucher and the like to run up against the Bucks. For most of 2020, the Raptors have had a rollicking time taking on, well, their lessers. They’ve handled business of course (and staged some truly memorable comebacks), but it’s all meaningless — at least to a certain extent — if they can’t be their best selves against a truly elite squad. The Bucks represent exactly that. Things may be different down the line for both of these teams, but that fact will remain the same.
Viewed through that lens, Nurse’s optimism, his “just at the right time” chuckle, carries a lot of guarded weight. This version of the Raptors is steeling itself for another serious run — and they know the Bucks stand in their way.
Now to prepare, catch up with Dylan’s preview from this morning and check out the updated game details. Then, let’s watch.
Where to Watch:
TSN at 7:30pm EST
Toronto — Fred VanVleet, Kyle Lowry, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka
Milwaukee — Eric Bledsoe, Wesley Matthews, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez
Toronto — Marc Gasol (hamstring – out), Norman Powell (finger – out), Patrick McCaw (flu – out), Dewan Hernandez (ankle – out)
Milwaukee — Kyle Korver (back – out)