The Toronto Raptors are set to visit the Milwaukee Bucks, just a few days after the Bucks visited Toronto. In that meeting, DeMar DeRozan scored a franchise-record 52 points in an overtime victory for the Raptors. It was a lot of fun. Maybe the most fun game of the season so far for Toronto. Here’s a quick look back at the Four Factors in that one:
(Sorry about the error in Oreb/DReb % being flipped weirdly.)
This is only one way to look at the game, of course. The Raptors shot pretty well, protected the ball, got to the line, and abandoned the offensive glass. The Bucks, meanwhile, shot pretty well, protected the ball, got to the line, and abandoned the offensive glass. The game came down to execution, timing, variance, and DeRozan going off like no Raptor ever has.
That means the Raptors will probably need to play better – defend better, in particular – to sweep the home-and-home. Milwaukee remains a good measuring stick for their stylistic changes, and Giannis Antetokounmpo remains a terrific challenge for any defense. How the Raptors respond here dealing with traps, switching more carefully, and generally asserting control of the game will be telling.
The game tips off at 8 on TSN 2 and Sportsnet 590. You can check out the full game preview here.
In a bit of troubling news, Kyle Lowry confirmed to Eric Koreen on Friday that he has been dealing with some soreness, although it’s not in the wrists as expected. Lowry’s been wearing tape around his wrists to help prevent fractures, sprains, and any more loose bodies moving around, but it’s actually his fingers that have given him the most trouble. “They are pretty sore and swollen,” he told Koreen. Lowry went on to basically say it’s just one of those things you deal with over an 82-game season. The Raptors have done a better job of managing Lowry’s minutes this year, and he’s likely gotten plenty of practice time off, so we’re working on limited information here. Given the lessons of the last few playoffs, the guess here is that they’ll look for more ways to buy Lowry rest, especially if the finger issues linger.
Outside of that issue that warrants monitoring (on, like, a week-to-week, not necessarily possession-to-possession basis), the Raptors come in healthy here. That means you should have a good idea of which 10 players will get the first call, and you can use foul trouble for the centers or ineffectiveness for the guards and wings as a window for Lucas Nogueira or Norman Powell, respectively. With two days off after this one, there’s not a massive incentive to expand the rotation, unless the team really wants to get their 11th and 12th man into the mix to keep them in the flow of things.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell
SF: OG Anunoby, C.J. Miles
PF: Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl, Lucas Nogueira
905: Alfonzo McKinnie, Malcolm Miller, Bruno Caboclo, Lorenzo Brown
As noted in the pre-game, the Bucks made a bit of a change on Wednesday. After sitting out the Raptors game, DeAndre Liggins played a big role. Liggins is an interesting piece against the Raptors, as he’s a former D-League Defensive Player of the Year with nearly a 7-foot wingspan, a natural fit in the Bucks’ blitz-heavy scheme for guarding Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Liggins is also a solid playmaker, though he’s not much of a threat from outside, nor is he a particularly willing shooter. If Jason Kidd uses him here, there’s a potential offense-defense tradeoff the Raptors might be happy with if the ball movement is in a good place.
Elsewhere, Kidd’s top eight guys are pretty well known. Liggins, Jason Terry, and Sean Kilpatrick will draw straws for the extra time.
Asked Raptors coach Dwane Casey what goes through his mind when he sees Giannis Antetokounmpo leading the All-Star vote at the first check-in. The first word that came out of Casey's mouth: "Scary" pic.twitter.com/ZkynXbqZ4s
— Matt Velazquez (@Matt_Velazquez) January 5, 2018
PG: Eric Bledsoe, Matthew Dellavedova, Malcolm Brogdon
SG: Tony Snell, Jason Terry, Sean Kilpatrick, Sterling Brown, Rashad Vaughn
SF: Khris Middleton, DeAndre Liggins
PF: Giannis Antetokounmpo
C: John Henson, Thon Maker
OUT: Jabari Parker, Mirza Teletovic
Wisconsin: Joel Bolomboy, D.J. Wilson
- Voting for the NBA All-Star Game is now open. You can refresh yourself on the voting procedures here. Make sure to hit that hashtag #NBAVote for DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry (separately – double-player tweets don’t count).
- Shout out to our pal and noted Raptors fan Christian Stoinev, who is doing the halftime act in Milwaukee tonight.
When you’re the halftime performer in Milwaukee but also a die hard Raps fan. 👊🏾 @CAStoinev
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 6, 2018
- Raptors 905 are on the road for games tonight and Sunday while the parent club is on the road elsewhere. Bruno Caboclo, Alfonzo McKinnie, Lorenzo Brown, and Malcolm Miller remain in the G League, as the Raptors have 12 healthy bodies even without them.
- A good round-up of the 905’s seven-game winning streak from our boy Vivek Jacob here.
- Another good piece from Vivek, this one on OG Anunoby. Hey guy, you can still write here, too, you know.
- Over at The Athletic, I wrote about how the Raptors have operated in clutch situations this year, something we’ll hopefully get more info on in January. RR readers can get 20 percent off a subscription here.
- It appears as if Andrea Bargnani may be retiring:
Andrea Bargnani on Facebook wrote a long message with an update on his career that sounds like a retire: “I am not looking for a team now. The reasons why I am not looking for a club now are a lot and almost all of them personal”
— Sportando (@Sportando) January 5, 2018
- It was hard not to make an “oh, your fingers hurt? well now your back is gonna hurt,” joke with the Lowry thing.
- The G League Showcase goes down in Mississauga next week, Jan. 10-13. You can use promo code RRSHOW at this link for discounts off of all the games.
The Raptors are 1-point underdogs after opening as 1-point favorites. That’s a notable swing because it changes who the favorite is, and it means the swing from the game in Toronto is now 8.5 points, which is on the higher end for a home-and-home adjustment. The over-under is at 216, up from 214.5 last game but down half a point from earlier on.