The Bucks look a little different from the last time they visited Scotiabank Arena. They’ve added 7-time All-NBA star Damian Lillard, who’s presence has been an added boost for the team that was already on top of the Eastern Conference last season.
Through their first three games together, Dame and Giannis Antetokounmpo (or “Freak Time” as they shall henceforth be known) have been a force to be reckoned with. Going 2-1 to start the season, the Freak Time duo has led the team in scoring in each of their contests. Combined with the return of a healthy Khris Middleton and the continued defensive presence of last year’s DPOY runner-up Brook Lopez, Milwaukee projects to be a top contender again this season.
The same cannot be said for the Raptors thus far. They’ve dropped three in a row after winning their home opener over the Minnesota Timberwolves a week ago. Largely, their losses have been a result of their offensive struggles. First year head coach Darko Rajakovic was brought in for a fresh scheme to directly address the offensive woes from last season, and early on they’re experiencing some growing pains.
Toronto sits second last in True Shooting percentage, dead last in pace and are the only team in the NBA averaging less than 100 points per game. To make matters worse, they’re coming off a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers in which they shot 13.8% from three.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the Raptors currently, as Scottie Barnes has been a lone bright spot for this squad. The third year forward seems to have taken that step in development that many had expected from him last season. His counting stats are up across the board so far, with an improved ability and willingness to shoot (and make) the three ball.
In their final game on home court for over a week, Barnes and Raptors will look to turn the season around and take down one of the top dogs in the conference.
Here are the details:
How to Watch:
TSN, at 7:00 p.m. ET
Toronto: Dennis Schroder, OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl
Milwaukee: Damian Lillard, Malik Beasley, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez
Toronto: Christian Koloko (Out - Respiratory), Precious Achiuwa (Doubtful - Groin)
Milwaukee: MarJon Beauchamp (Probable - Illness)
Depend on the Defence
Toronto will need to slow down Milwaukee’s top stars if they hope to win tonight. The foundation of this team’s defence was put down years ago under Nick Nurse, and still shines through even under new leadership.
The Raptors sit third in the NBA in defensive rating, and have limited their opponents to an average of 103.5 points per game. For reference, that would rank 27th in the league. Instead, the Bucks sit 9th in points per game and 11th in offensive rating.
Though Damian Lillard’s three point shooting has been down from his career average of 37% to start the season, locking him up from behind the arc will be key in this matchup. The Raptors have the size to limit (or more realistically, attempt to limit) Giannis from getting to the rim, so containing Dame and Malik Beasly from knocking down the deep ball will be the difference tonight.
Another Return to the SBA
For the second time in what feels like only a few days (because it is), the Raptors have a former coach returning for the first time. Adrian Griffin, former assistant coach with Toronto, faces them for the first time tonight.
Some Raptors fans, which may or may not include myself, thought Griffin was the natural replacement for Nick Nurse after the former coach of the year was let go. Instead, Milwaukee swooped in and made him their most noticeable acquisition of the off-season, or at least the first few months of it.
Expect the Bucks to compete a little harder tonight to help their new coach get the best of his old team in their own building.
We know the Raptors offence isn’t clicking just yet, so taking advantage of what the defence gives you will be huge tonight. Traditionally, Milwaukee has boasted one of the better defences in the association. Much of this can be attributed to the fact that they have two 7-footers (I know Giannis is 6’11 I’m rounding up) on the interior protecting the rim. It also doesn’t help their opponent’s case that one of those players is a former Defensive Player of the Year, and the other was last season’s runner up for the award.
The one kink in the armour of the Bucks defence could be their guard play. While they’re stellar shooters, Damian Lillard and Malik Beasly aren’t known for their defence. Toronto will need to exploit their defensive deficiencies, needing big games out of Dennis Schroder, OG Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr and Gradey Dick. After an abysmal shooting performance, they have to hit threes at a better clip than 17%, right? Let’s hope so.