The Defending NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks roll into town tonight as the Toronto Raptors attempt to improve their home record among injuries and roster instability. The Bucks currently sit at #4 in the Eastern Conference with a record of 14-8, while the Raptors sit at #12 and are 9-13.
After losing to the Memphis Grizzlies at home Tuesday night, the Raptors hope to contain MVP Giannis Antetokuonmpo despite still lacking essential height in their lineup due to injury. The Bucks on the other hand are on an eight-game winning streak and will most likely use the Raptors’ lack of height in the post to their advantage.
It will be up to rookie Scottie Barnes to defend Giannis while also being responsible for scoring enough points to keep the Raptors in this one. In Tuesday’s matchup against Memphis, Scottie scored 19 points, and knocked down some impressive three pointers down the stretch. If he can repeat that performance and improve on it, his first matchup against Giannis could be a night to remember.
The Raptors are still plagued with injury though, as OG Anunoby and Khem Birch are both listed as OUT for tonight, and Gary Trent Jr. is questionable. Anunoby is struggling through a hip pointer injury, while Khem Birch is having knee issues and Trent suffered a deep calf bruise last week. All three players have been missed, with Trent and Anunoby being essential offensive forces for the Raptors and Khem providing key points at the post.
There were a few positives to the Memphis game, as Yuta Watanabe continues to return from a calf injury that kept him out of the first part of the season. Watanabe had 11 points and six rebounds on Tuesday and provides energy off the bench that the Raptors need.
So can the Raptors get out of their rut and improve their home record against a fiery hot championship Bucks team? Tune in tonight to find out.
Here are tonight’s game details:
Where to watch:
TSN, 7:30 p.m. EST
Toronto — Fred VanVleet, Svi Mykhailiuk, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Precious Achiuwa
Milwaukee — Giannis Antetokuonmpo, Khris Middleton, Bobby Portis, Grayson Allen, Jrue Holiday
Toronto — OG Anunoby (hip – out), Khem Birch (knee – out), Goran Dragic (personal – out), Gary Trent Jr. (calf, – out).
Milwaukee — Brook Lopez, (back – out), Donte DiVincenzo (ankle – out), Semi Oleleye (calf – out)
After Tuesday’s disappointing loss, Fred VanVleet was quoted saying “It really doesn’t have anything to do with being home, to be honest with you. We could play on Pluto for all I care, it’s just disappointing to lose. We expect to win around here.”
This comes as Fred tries to rally his young team in the absence of key veteran players, with him and Pascal Siakam being some of the only players on the roster who are 1) healthy and 2) have a lot of NBA experience. You know your team is young when 24-year-old OG Anunoby and 22-year-old Gary Trent Jr. are being considered up and coming vets.
Tonight, Fred will have to not only carry most of the offensive load, but also a lot of defensive as well, as the Bucks are a strong team. Hopefully he can repeat another epic steal from Giannis among other things.
Fred VanVleet RIPS the ball from Giannis pic.twitter.com/YKnfyAgEbg— Sideline Sources (@sidelinesources) February 19, 2021
Rally The Rookies
One of the keys to a win against Milwaukee will be getting our young guys some points. Scottie Barnes is not new to scoring 20+ point games, already having a handful of them this season. Though, he has only scored 20 points or more once in the last five games.
Scottie currently averages 15.4 points per game, 8.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists. It will be essential for him to not only score but to use the defensive energy we’ve seen from him in the past to get stops and points in transition. He will also need to make sure to stay out of foul trouble as losing him for any amount of time will be detrimental to the Raptors’ success tonight.
We are also hoping to see a bit more Dalano Banton tonight, as he provides energy off the bench — especially during home games. I mean, who doesn’t love a Rexdale boy? Banton brings mature ball-handling skills for his age and can be a great player at the point to relieve VanVleet of those duties and allow him to focus on getting points.
Defend the Fortress
The Raptors’ defense has been struggling as of late — understandably so with OG Anunoby, Khem Birch, and Certified Cookie Monster Gary Trent Jr. injured. The Raptors NEED to bring energy to their defense tonight, especially against Giannis, but it is key to keep those fouls down.
Not only do we need every player we can get down the stretch, but having to watch Giannis take a 15-second free-throw gets more painful with every trip to the line.
With Gary Trent Jr. currently questionable, hopefully he can play tonight and get back to being a leader on the defensive end. It will also be key to keep Precious Achiuwa out of foul trouble, since Khem is out.
Getting a win — especially against the reigning champs — would be a great way to get the Raptors back on track.