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The Rap-Up: Wrapping up the re-seeding schedule

Just like the Raptors, we need to play out the string. With the season’s final Rap-Up, this week’s slate of games begs one question: can we just bubble wrap the top-7 until next Monday?

Milwaukee Bucks v Toronto Raptors Photo by Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images

All good things come to an end.

For the Raptors — or maybe just Raptors fans — dreams of an undefeated bubble run came crashing down against the rival Celtics. For five West teams, dreams of a playoff run will come to a heart-breaking end. (Sidenote: Count me as one of the many doubters who thought all West teams would still be in playoff contention with three games left.) For the NBA, the entertainment value is probably taking a hit as more teams clinch their spots and monitor player minutes.

On the plus side, we can put an end to any speculation of who the Raptors will face in round one. I’ll save my thoughts on Brooklyn for the podcast. For now, let’s get to this week’s games... ahhh, okay, maybe just one thought.

August 10 @ Milwaukee Bucks

This was supposed to be a marquee matchup. The top two teams in the East. A rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference finals. The two best defenses slugging it out. However, with this matchup landing in the back-half of each team’s re-seeding schedule, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that both have already clinched the top two spots.

Sure, Mike Budenholzer and Nick Nurse can do some chest puffing and roll out their starters, but what benefit does that offer? There’s nothing to gain from giving rotational players more than 15 minutes (if that).

This game should remind Milwaukee fans that Toronto has a Bucks killer on the roster (more on him below), and hopefully, another one (Terence Davis) waiting in the wings.

Fun Fact That May Only Interest Me

Since this is a rare instance where a Raps-Bucks matchup has no stakes, allow me to steal this chance to remind you of the most fun fact involving these franchises.

The 2015 Bucks really thought Michael Carter-Willams, Jerryd Bayless, Tyler Ennis, and O.J. Mayo were not adequate enough to run point as a group, that they traded Norm Powell and a future first round pick (OG Anunoby) for another backup point guard, Greivis Vasquez!

Prediction

The Bucks have yet to put on a dominant performance in the bubble. They have a 2-3 record in the bubble with a tight win over Boston and an incredible comeback victory over Miami. This prediction is garbage if either team decides to play their stars with any semblance of regular minutes. However, I’m going to assume both Coach of the Year finalists will make the right call and rest their guys. The Bucks couldn’t even get past the Nets without Giannis (in the second half). Maybe I’m not giving enough credit to the Raptors’ first round opponent, but that’s not a good sign for the rest of Milwaukee’s roster. Toronto notch their first victory over the Bucks this season, winning 109 - 100.

August 12 @ Philadelphia 76ers

It simply can’t be overstated that the loss of Ben Simmons to a knee injury is devastating — both to the player and franchise. Despite a tumultuous season where the Sixers under-achieved, prognosticators could not count them out. Predictions ranged from first-round exit to surprise NBA champions. A healthy Simmons, plus replacing Al Horford with Shake Milton, provided a glimmer of hope that the Sixers could salvage their season. However, they lost to the only +.500 team they faced (Indiana) in their re-seeding schedule before Simmons went down.

Fun Fact That May Only Interest Me

Shake Milton’s real name is Malik Benjamin Milton. Personally, I’d be more intimidated to face Malik Milton.

Milton’s move to the starting lineup was supposed to help provide more outside shooting for Simmons. In five games as a starter, Shake is shooting 33 percent from beyond the arc, with three games where he hasn’t hit any triples.

Prediction

If we work under the impression that Nurse will manage players’ minutes, Joel Embiid will be happy to not see as much Marc Gasol. (This also assumes that Embiid’s ankle injury is not serious). Josh Richardson played very well in the first matchup with Toronto (25 points, 5 threes), missed the second, and got injured in the first few minutes of the last matchup. His stellar performance on Sunday (34 points, 6 threes) shows he’s ready to pick up the slack in Simmons’ absence. In the unlikely case that Philly remains in the sixth spot and upsets Boston, we may never get another opportunity to crack Embiid-going-scoreless-on-Gasol jokes. This game could follow the footsteps of the Celtics game, in that the other team has more to play for. Let’s throw the Sixers a bone, they’ve suffered enough this season (and to Toronto). Philadelphia defeats Toronto, 118-107, but Embiid refrains from airplane celebrating.

August 14 vs. Denver Nuggets

I was really looking forward to this game to see how Nikola Jokic would fair against Gasol. Denver has the distinction of being the last team to defeat the Raptors outside of the bubble. It’s bad enough that visiting teams need to battle the altitude, but Toronto entered this matchup without Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet, and Gasol. The two-time All-Star from Serbia took advantage of Toronto’s lack of height and got a triple-double: 23 points, 18 rebounds, 11 assists.

Toronto would not lose again for an NBA record 159 days.

Both teams look much different this time. While Toronto figures to have Gasol and FVV back in the starting lineup, Denver should have three different starters. Replacing Jerami Grant, Will Barton, and Gary Harris, are Michael Porter Jr., Torrey Craig, and Paul Millsap. Two of those players were not in uniform on March 1, while Craig went for 17 points and 3 triples off the bench.

Fun Fact That May Only Interest Me

In the March 1 matchup, OG Anunoby became only the second player this decade to amass 32 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 steals(!). What doesn’t get mentioned enough is that all of those numbers (except one rebound) were collected in the first three quarters!

Prediction

MPJ has been a revelation inside the bubble, dropping 37 points and 12 rebounds on OKC, then 30 points and 15 rebounds against San Antonio, both victories, by the way. It would’ve been great to see how he’d do with Anunoby as his defender. Instead, we’ll probably get a healthy dose of Bol Bol battling Chris Boucher in the post. Nuggets wrap up the re-seeding schedule with a 114-107 victory over the Raptors.

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Last Edition’s Record: 2-2

Season Record for Predictions: 49-20