In a season of offensive dominance and the 3-ball explosion the series between the Raptors and Bucks feels more like an old school 90’s defensive battle. Each team makes adjustments to counter their opponents actions, but at this stage logically the side with greater depth and talent should be the team with the decided edge. Right? Well not so fast. As I scoured over the data there were some extremely concerning variances between the regular season, and post All-Star break in comparison to the postseason.
Again, a bad matchup can make a difference, I mean we aren’t that far removed from the a sweep at the hands of the Wizards to be naive. Still, the Raptors have dominated this Bucks squad winning 13 of the teams last 15 regular season games. Moreover, the Raptors are deeper, more experienced and better defensively than at any point they played them this season (including the last match which Lowry was out for).
As the series now shifts to a best of 3, I decided to dive into the numbers to see what Dwane Casey and his crew may be discussing as they head into tonight with the mind set of another must win scenario.
Offensive – Defensive Shifts:
Through 4 games the Raptors are averaging 88.25 points per game with a single game registering above 1oo. The Bucks also rank under 100 points with an average of 94.25 points per game. Putting this in perspective the cumulative offensive rank of the other 7 series shows some shifts but nothing is as dramatic as what the Raptors are experiencing.
Raptors: 88.25 (106.9 – differential of -18.65) – Bucks 94.25 (103.6 diff: -9.35)
Cavaliers 112.75 (110.3 diff: -2.45) – Pacers: 108.75 (105.1 diff: +3.65)
Celtics: 99.75 (108.0, diff -8.25) – Chicago: 101.75 (102.9 diff: +1.15)
Wizards: 108.0 (109.2, diff: +1.2) – Hawks: 107.0 (103.2, diff +3.8)
Warriors: 116.6 (115.9, diff: -0.7 ) – Blazers: 101.0 (107.9, diff: +6.9)
Spurs: 102.25 (105.3 diff: -3.05) – Grizzlies: 94.75 (100.5, diff: -5.75)
Rockets: 114.75 (115.3, diff: -o.55 ) – Thunder: 105.5 (106.6, diff: -1.1)
Clippers: 100.7 (108.7, diff: -8.0)- Jazz: 99.7 (100.7, diff -1.0)
How is it possible the Raptors have regressed this much over the regular season? There are some answers to point to, such as the length of the Bucks causing issues, Lowry still shaking off rust and becoming familiar with Ibaka and Tucker. But, does is seriously make sense Toronto has regressed by almost 20 points?
Examining the defense also offers some answers. But more so in terms of the Bucks sudden prowess as the top rated defense of the post season. They have improved from 18th in the regular season from a defensive rating of 106.4 to 94.1
No other playoff team has taken this much of a jump defensively.
Regular Season vs Post All Star Break Stats:
Next I dove into the squads performances over 82 games versus post All-Star Break to see where the squad regressed or improved. With the Raptors missing Lowry for 21 games it made sense the offense would take a dip. Other areas like three point shooting and steals also dropped off without Lowry in the lineup, but they were not as dismal as you might think. Likewise, the addition of Serge Ibaka and P.J.Tucker saw massive improvements for the Raptors defensively.
Diving into the Bucks comparison they did finish the season strong (behind only the Raptors in the East for win/loss), but there was no other area of the Bucks game which saw significant improvements other than opponent second chance scoring. Nor did Milwaukee make major improvements in areas they struggled. Rather, they gutted out wins and entered the post season with a negative -02 net differential.
Playoff Stats through 4 games:
So, what the hell happened for this Milwaukee team to virtually improve in almost every significant category and for the Raptors to regress so dramatically? In the following chart I pulled all the same statistical data focusing just on the 16 playoff squads. In the notes I compared the squads playoff statistics versus their post break stats (above). Once more the stats are head scratching as the comparison reveals the Raptors regressing in 15 of 19 categories and ranking bottom three in 8 playoff categories. Whereas the Bucks have improved in 7 of 16 categories and rank in the top 3 in seven categories.
I can’t simply look at this as a bad matchup or put everything on Kyle Lowry integrating back into the offense. Further, it seems illogical to simply point to adjustments or matchups given the Raptors recent dominance over the Bucks.
On – Off Court Comparison:
By this point, I’m so confused I decide to dive into the on- off court ranking for both teams. The following charts showcase on-off court figures for each team in terms of the full regular season. Then I further delineate by comparing the 4 regular season games versus the 4 playoff games. Finally, some actual palpable evidence can be pointed to in terms of why the teams have shifted so dramatically
Raptors Seasonal On Court: Offense/Defense/Net Rankings
Raptors Seasonal Off Court: Offense/Defense/Net Rankings
No big surprises here, the team plays best with Lowry on the court and dips defensively with DeRozan on court while it improves defensively without him.
Bucks Seasonal On Court: Offense/Defense/Net Rankings:
Again, no big surprises other than the Bucks aren’t necessarily dominating with or without Antetokounmpo on or off the court.
Buck Seasonal Off Court: Offense/Defense/Net Rankings
Raptors 4 regular season games versus Bucks:
On Court Offense:
Clearly Lowry and DeRozan were stellar offensively in the 3 games they played in season versus the Bucks. As for Carroll, pocket that stat for the moment.
On Court Defense:
In season both Cory Joseph and Carroll were among the squads best on court defenders.
On Court Net:
Likewise Carroll and Joseph played well in the Bucks regular season series.
Bucks 4 games versus Raptors in Regular Season On Court Rating:
Although there were solid offensive outings from the Bucks take a close look at how Beasley, Monroe and even Antetokounmpo performed in season versus the Raptors.
Raptors Off Court Rankings versus Bucks In Season:
Once more the logical answers occur with the data highlighting how much better the Raptors perform with Lowry on the court. Check out Carroll’s stats specifically as it provides the first clue moving forward. To wit, the squad still achieved 110.0 points offensively when he rested and didn’t dip dramatically defensively.
Bucks Off Court Rankings:
The big shocker here is how much better the Bucks performed with Dellavedova on court as well as how much better the Bucks defense was without Antetokounmpo on the floor.
Playoffs On – Off Court Playoffs:
Now let’s dive into the 4 games played through the post season to see how dramatically the numbers have shifted and more importantly get an understanding of why the Raptors have struggled. Or should I say who is lending to those struggles:
On Court Offense:
Clearly Cory Joseph and Patrick Patterson are not offering much in terms of offense. But the number for me which stands out is DeMarre Carroll… in the Raptors 4 games versus the Bucks this season he posted an on court offensive rating of 116.8 versus his post season rating of 95.0 -that is a 21.8 shift.
On Court Defense: The Raptors could likely live with Carroll not producing on offense, but he has to produce defensively on court. Yet, his in season defensive rating versus the Bucks of 99.7 has regressed to 110.8- that’s a whopping 11.1 differential. Which begs the question, why isn’t PJ Tucker starting?
On Court Net
Off Court Offense:
The off court numbers also lend themselves to give further ammunition for giving Powell more run since the offense doesn’t regress when he stays on the floor. Though the move to match Valanciunas up against Monroe makes sense, his numbers do showcase he is one of the the better offensive contributors.
Off Court Defense:
Hard to argue these numbers against DeMarre Carroll – his on court defensive rating through 4 games is 110. 8 versus the teams defense rating of 95.1 when he sits. Bottom line a 15.7 differential punctuates how much worse the Raptors perform with Carroll on the court. For a defensive specialist this isn’t going to cut it. Sure, you can pinpoint Antetokounmpo as a tough cover, but when you compare his numbers to PJ Tucker the argument to bench him grows. To wit, Tucker’s on court defensive rating is 93.1 and off court rating is 110.0, so the Bucks score 17 points less when he is on the floor!
Off Court Net:
Finally, the net differential also points to keeping Powell and Tucker on the court as much as possible along with Lowry. In terms of Joseph and Patterson its slightly less worrisome given their numbers while not demonstrating prowess on either end also aren’t showcasing dramatic shifts like Carroll. In their cases it just might not be an ideal matchup, but I have more faith either could provide short spells of positive defense if called upon.
Lessons Learned in Game 4:
While scouring the box score Saturday two distinct stats stood out to me. Although plus-minus differential doesn’t offer a complete story of what’s happening on court, it does offer hints to which unit is finding success. To that end, it was telling every starter for the Raptors finished with a plus differential and a cumulative plus +54. Conversely, the entire starting unit for the Bucks posted negative differentials of a cumulative minus -61. That’s a 115 point variance!
— Tamberlyn's Tip-Off (@TTOTambz) April 22, 2017
The other key stat was bench production where Jonas Valanciunas provided 12 points in his reassignment to match up versus Greg Monroe. But, what stood out was JV was the only reserve to score a point. Moving forward the Raptors need someone else to provide offensive production. Perhaps this is another hint as to why the Raptors offense is much lower than their seasonal output.
Granted, Patterson and Joseph only played 8 minutes each, but their production through the first 3 games didn’t warrant more. In terms of Delon Wright, from my perspective his length has been a plus for the Raptors to throw back at the lengthy Bucks, so his limited run is a positive counter move by Casey.
Heading into Game 5 the Raptors need to emulate specific items which served to help them garner the win. Specifically, Toronto needs to control the pace not allowing the Bucks to push their desired offense where they excel in transition and fast breaks. Lowry and DeRozan need to lead the charge in terms of ball movement and player motion as it will force the younger Bucks into situations where they have to move on defense and are more likely to commit errors.
From an individual matchup adjustment perspective, the Raptors did a great job on everyone with the exception of Tony Snell and Greg Monroe. The question is do you do more to counter those 2 and possibly sacrifice the successes you are getting versus Antetokounmpo and Middleton who are more concerning. If Joseph, Patterson, Wright and Poeltl could offer some solid run in reserve minutes perhaps they can counter their production without losing ground against the players the Raptors seemingly have figured out a game plan for.
Finally, the Raptors must continue to play physical and aggressive.
Point Guard: *Cory Joseph, Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet
Small Forward: P.J. Tucker
Power Forward: Patrick Patterson,
Center: Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl, Lucas Nogueira
Injuries: Lowry back stiffness, probable, Joseph under the weather – probable (see Blakes’s twitter updates)
BUCKS STARTING 5:
Point Guard: Malcolm Brogdon
Shooting Guard: Tony Snell
Small Forward: *Khris Middleton
Power Forward: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Center: Thon Maker
Point Guard: , Matthew Dellavedova, Gary Payton II
Shooting Guard: Jason Terry, Rashad Vaughn
Small Forward: Michael Beasley
Power Forward: Mirza Teletovic
Center: Greg Monroe, Spencer Hawes, John Henson
Injuries: Middleton missed practice due to illness, listed as probable
Recent History: The Bucks hold the all-time record 47-35. The current success of the Bucks is extremely confusing given the past 15 regular season games has the Raptors holding a decisive advantage of 13 wins to 2 losses.
Referee Assignments: James Capers (#19), Pat Fraher (#26), and Courtney Kirland (#61) with alternate: Sean Corbin (#33)
The Venue: Air Canada Center, Toronto, OntarioThe Tip: 7:00 PM ESTTV: TSNRadio: TSN Radio 1050 Toronto
Game 1: Raptors -7.5 (Bucks 97, Raptors 83)
Game 2: Raptors -8 (Raptors 106, Bucks 100)
Game 3: Bucks -1.5 (Bucks 417, Raptors 39)
Game 4: Bucks -2 (Raptors 87, Bucks 76)
Game 5: Raptors -7
Based on the strong edge the odds makers are giving the Raptors it may point to the fact they are also believing the larger sample size of wins and depth of Toronto is due to take control. The over-under for Game 5 is 191.5 points.
As if the Raptors need further motivation, with the Cavaliers closing out the Pacers in a sweep they now know LeBron and company can sit back and relax while at least 2 additional games are played. That can be looked at as a positive or a negative. Because the series is so physical it will take a toll on the players. On the other hand, Lowry is still getting his rhythm back and developing chemistry with the Ibaka and Tucker.
In the final frame at the Bradley Center on Saturday Lowry looked much closer to the version of himself than he has throughout most of this series. And, as the series progresses his high I.Q. should be considered a major bonus over anyone on the Bucks getting significant minutes, because they simply haven’t been in this situation.
If we are to believe the reason for teams to play consistently through 82 games is so they develop habits and improve through the repetition of them than it stands to reason at some point the only Eastern Conference team to finish ranked top 10 offensively and defensively will surface. Failing that, I’ll count on Kyle Lowry unleashing his bulldog as he goes full on deer hunting tonight.
Check back throughout the day for more playoff coverage and the quick react following the game.
Let’s go Raptors!!