Raptors News

Pre-game news & notes: No Jurassic Park viewing party for Game 3

Not much doing before tip-off.

Well, a quick turnaround between games certainly feels better than a long one. And hey, after this there’s an even quicker turnaround time with a 3 p.m. game on Saturday. The series is really moving now. Or something. It’s been a long couple of days. Shut up.

Anyway, the Toronto Raptors are in Wisconsin to take on the Milwaukee Bucks, with the winner taking a fairly commanding 2-1 lead in the series. Despite coughing up home court by losing Game 1, the Raptors remain in decent shape for the series as a whole, having evened things out at 1-1 and pushing most metrics (BPI, the Vegas line, historical precedent) back slightly in their favor. Based on how they’ve handled the postseason (and even the regular season) the last couple of years, maybe it’s best that they don’t know that. Head into Milwaukee, hope that the experience edge plays up on the road as head coach Dwane Casey suggested it will, hope the Bucks have some home-court jitters of their own, and don’t give the young upstarts much time to breathe.

“We’ve been here before, in a hostile environment,” Casey said of the series situation before identifying playing “within yourself” as the key to combating it.

For the Raptors, playing within themselves will mostly mean doing the right things on defense and not forcing the issue through heavy pressure on offense. Weird though that may seem since it’s not really in Toronto’s identity (and therefore maybe not within themselves), it was the key to the first half and fourth quarter of Game 2. Seeing more of that would be nice, and it’s a lot more likely to result in a victory than the panicked approach of Game 1.

“You know, it’s going to be a hostile environment, their first game and we have to be able to match and go over their intensity tonight,” DeMar DeRozan pre-echoed at shootaround.

It’s not, uhh, the greatest that the Raptors are so comfortable and experienced with 1-1 splits as the favorite, but they are where they are, and let’s let them take whatever confidence they can from it. Or whatever.

The game tips off at 8 on NBA TV (Spero Dedes, Grant Hill, Richard Hamilton, and Jennifer Hale) and TSN on TV and on Sportsnet 590 on radio. You can check out the full game preview here. Your officials areDerrick Stafford, Derrick Collins, and Zach Zarba.

Required reading
Here’s what you need ahead of Game 2, assuming you haven’t been keeping up.

Raptors updates
I think by now I’ve covered the rotation stuff, but a brief refresher: Delon Wright should see 8-12 minutes again, Patrick Patterson eating into Carroll’s minutes and playing with P.J. Tucker and Serge Ibaka often is the right call, and, that trio with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are your most likely closers, and the team should maybe change course and let Jonas Valanciunas loose on the offensive glass since they’re not defending well in transition despite punting a major potential advantage. Here’s a look at the Toronto lineups that have played five or more minutes together in the series so far:

As a side-note, Bruno Caboclo and Pascal Siakam were recalled from Raptors 905 and joined the team in Milwaukee today. They’ll be the inactives in this one and then head back to the 905 whenever they have a D-League Finals schedule to prepare for.

PG: Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell
SF: DeMarre Carrol, P.J. Tucker, Bruno Caboclo
PF: Serge Ibaka, Patrick Patterson, Pascal Siakam
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl, Lucas Nogueira
TBD: None
ASSIGNED: None
OUT: None

Bucks updates
The Bucks starts remain fairly effective with a plus-10.3 net rating in 24 minutes, and Milwaukee’s four most-used groups have actually all had strong net ratings. Basically, their best groups are getting it done, and the peripheral ones are slipping up, something that most would have predicted given the gap in quality on the rosters as you get further down the depth chart. Mirza Teletovic has been shaky, Matthew Dellavedova has struggled at everything but screen-setting, and Tony Snell and Thon Maker have made cases for heavier usage. Here’s a look at the Milwaukee lineups that have played five or more minutes together in the series so far:

PG: Malcolm Brogdon, Matthew Dellavedova, Gary Payton II
SG: Tony Snell, Jason Terry, Rashad Vaughn
SF: Khris Middleton, Michael Beasley
PF: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Mirza Teletovic
C: Thon Maker, Greg Monroe, Spencer Hawes, John Henson
TBD: None
ASSIGNED: None
OUT: Jabari Parker

Pre-game news and notes

  • Dwane Casey’s pre-game address talked mostly about meeting what’s sure to be a high energy level from Milwaukee on their own court. It’s interesting that both teams define themselves so much by their energy. I mean, all 30 teams probably do because it’s a good catch-all for just playing well, but it’s funny to hear the two coaches and rosters basically sound like RZA.
  • Jason Kidd on how the Bucks are playing as well as they are despite their youth and inexperience: “One thing we’ve learned is trust. We trust one another.” That’s nice.
    • Here’s the full quote: “We’ve been young all year, so there’s no need to change. We’re all going to make mistakes. You can’t play a perfect game, but we do try to minimize mistakes and I think the one thing we’ve learned in trust. When we take the floor, we understand we’ll make mistakes but we have to move on quickly to the next play and that comes with trust and communication.”
  • These posts are kind of dry for road games when nobody is injured to update, I realize.

Assorted

  • A few random fun stat nuggets from Krishna Narsu of Nylon Calculus, using his KOBE metric (a way of grading shot selection):
    • The Bucks have the third-best mark in the league, the Raptors 26th. That the Raptors remain a great offense despite this is quite remarkable.
    • On the defensive side, Milwaukee gives up a slightly above-average shot quality, while the Raptors are exactly average. That’s a decent base to start from for the Raptors, and I’d be interested to see that broken down by season segment.
    • Individually, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan both ranked in the top 10 in terms of beating their expected points total. DeRozan was eighth, Lowry 10th. In other words – and this should come as no surprise – both are very good shot makers.
  • The viewing party at Jurassic Park/Maple Leaf Square has been cancelled on account of the lightning in the forecast. More specifically, the basketball gods promised to strike down everyone there who had a “Trade Lowry” or “Raptors in 4” sign. Crisis averted.
  • The Raptors twitter and IG accounts have been tweeting out pics of Raptor fans in Milwaukee. As always, kudos to you if you travel or support the team from other locales. It’s one of the best things about this fan base, how impossible it is to gain a full home-court advantage playing the Raptors. Chris Paul would be so impressed.

The line
Game 1: Raptors -7.5 (Series Raptors -350) (Bucks 97, Raptors 83)
Game 2: Raptors -8 (Series Raptors -165) (Raptors 106, Bucks 100)
Game 3: Bucks -1.5
Series: Raptors -210 (implied probability of 67.7 percent)

At Bucks -1.5, the market is factoring in a huge swing for home court in this playoff series, it would appear. The line moving 9.5 points between games without any fundamental shift in team health or identity means that there’s more than the usual three-to-four points swinging for location (going Toronto to Milwaukee could have been expected to move the line seven or eight points, normally). That line has also held steady throughout the day. There’s also a chance the market likes the Bucks better now than at the start of the series, a reasonable take, but the Raptors remain strong series favorites nonetheless. The over-under is at 197, up slightly from 196.5, following totals of 180 and 206.

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