After winning six games in a row, the Toronto Raptors have hit a lull. Dwane Casey’s Pistons won their 5th straight game against the Raptors on Friday night, 103-87. Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet led as usual, but again as usual, bench production was dismal. Detroit’s Trey Lyles finished with 21 points himself off the pine, surpassing the 16 points from the Toronto second unit. On the front end of a back-to-back, the bench gave no relief, as Siakam and VanVleet finished with over 40 minutes.
The Milwaukee Bucks, on the other hand, just obliterated the Golden State Warriors on Thursday, leading at halftime by 39 points. Giannis Antetokounmpo missed the first two meetings against Toronto, both of which were Milwaukee losses. Having a 2-time MVP at your disposal is not a weapon every team has. On the second night of a back-to-back, this is a tough task for Toronto. Here are the details for tonight’s contest.
Where to Watch:
TSN, 6:30PM EST
Toronto – Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Precious Achiuwa
Milwaukee – Grayson Allen, Wesley Matthews, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bobby Portis
Toronto — Gary Trent Jr (ankle – out), Khem Birch (nose – out), Goran Dragic (personal – out)
Milwaukee – Langston Galloway (health and safety protocols – out), Jrue Holiday (ankle – out), Brook Lopez (back – out)
A little help perhaps?
It’s no surprise the Raptors are top heavy and Friday night was just another example of that. Pascal Siakam, Fred Van Vleet, and OG Anunoby shouldered most of the scoring, posting 23, 24, and 16 points respectively while Scottie Barnes added 8. The other eight players who saw court time combined for just 16 points.
Since there are few consistent performers on the team, Nick Nurse plays the same group major minutes. Siakam and VanVleet both saw north of 40 minutes last night. The bench depth has been a problem all season and one of the worst performing benches in the association. When the one of the starters gets injured, the offence is a struggle. Its been three games since Gary Trent Jr last played and it shows.
Buying, selling, or staying put?
A few things to watch with the trade deadline looming: is Ben Simmons still a Sixer? Likely. Will John Wall be bought out? Unlikely. Will the Raptors buy, sell, or stay put? History shows Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster don’t make trades to just make trades. The starting lineup – when healthy – has shown the ability to compete with any starting five in the league. The bench however? See above.
Rumours have been floating, and they’re just rumours, that Chris Boucher is available. What else? The Raptors are in conversations with San Antonio for Poeltl and Indiana for Turner. Mo Bamba is also being shopped by Orlando. Every season, trade proposals float and 95% of them are just smoke. It could just be that again but lets see if Toronto makes some positive moves.
Giannis Antetokounmpo has missed the past two Raptors-Bucks contests — both Raptors wins. Is Giannis afraid of Nick Nurse’s defense? We know that, going back to the 2019 playoffs, the Raptors have done as good a job as anyone bottling up the two-time MVP, forcing him into tough shots and a high number of turnovers.
But Giannis looks different this season. Winning the title, and getting that “can’t get it done in big moments” rep, have lifted a weight off his shoulders, and it shows in his play on the floor.
All signs point to Giannis playing tonight, and we’ll see how the “new” Giannis carries himself against the extra-long Raptors.