There’s basically two schools of thought in the conversations surrounding the Raptors right now:
- The Raptors played bad, pushed the Bucks and, provided that they play better, they can steal Game 2. This is the stance of a great deal of Raptors fans, as it should be.
- The Raptors starters played 40+ minutes, the Bucks shot 25-percent from downtown. and the Raptors took their best shot at the Bucks and missed. Think Game 1 of the Finals last year. This is the stance taken by a great deal of Bucks fans, as it should be.
As is the case with most things, there’s fragments of truth in both camps. Game 2 is where we learn whether or not those fragments come together to create a picture that is whole and affirms our preconceived ideas of what will play out. As a fan base, it seems we have collectively identified with our Jungian shadow. Acknowledging the less ideal parts of the Raptors history, swallowing the most painful moments, not to forget them but to digest them (Vince Carter’s shot) and overcome them (Kawhi Leonard’s shot). We wear the anxiety of our past failures on our sleeves, strolling forward with the most cautious optimism. The fact that our anxiety and failures are part and parcel of the dialogue around the Raptors in the playoffs has obliged us to accept the shadow as part of the whole rather than separate, and we’re better for it.
A couple players on the Raptors have to indulge the shadow a little bit themselves for the Raptors to find success in this game. Marc Gasol can unlock a chunk of the Raptors offense if he appeals to a selfish nature outside himself and shoots more jumpers. One of the first things you’re taught when learning to shoot is to look at the back rim. It’s difficult for Gasol to follow this simple rule of shooting when his head is already swivelling to whatever pass he has idealized will be there but might not. Gasol’s potency from beyond the arc dictates how much space Pascal Siakam and Leonard in particular have in the paint. Brook Lopez is tall and long but not especially fast. If Gasol can move him out of the paint, tons of Raptors will benefit from that.
Kyle Lowry, one of the least selfish players league-wide, needs to maintain the assertiveness from game 1. He’s spent the last 5 years of his career servicing all types of players, helping them earn fatter contracts, increasing their viability on the floor and occupying a role in which everyone benefits from his presence. It’s important for him to maintain his wonderful intangibles but also to make sure he’s delivering the finishing punch on more possessions than we’ve seen lately (excluding game 1). If the Raptors want any shot at the Finals, Lowry has to bring the scoring punch along with the intangibles. If he does that, he hits a ceiling that no one else, save for Leonard, can reach on the Raptors. And there’s nothing more important than ceiling in the playoffs.
I talked to Andrew Goodman from BrewHoop to tee up game 2. Before we get into that, you can read Adam McQueen’s breakdown of the Raptors game 1 defense here and my search for positives after game 1 here.
Samson Folk: In our podcasts previewing this series I talked about how highly I rate Malcolm Brogdon and was surprised at Budenholzer’s decision to play Mirotic in the starting lineup instead of him. With Brogdon’s performance in Game 1, do you expect him to enter the starting squad going forward?
*Brogdon is expected to come off the bench in Game 2*
Andrew Goodman: Brogdon certainly didn’t look like a guy who missed a few months earlier in the season in Game 1. I pondered whether or not Coach Bud should insert him into the starting lineup, but Milwaukee’s current starting five has shown great chemistry throughout the postseason that I feel like it would be unnecessary to fix something that is not broken. I believe Brogdon will continue to come off the bench the rest of the postseason. Having his scoring and defensive ability off the bench is huge, especially when playing against an elite Toronto Raptors team.
Folk: The Raptors have been playing their main guys very heavy minutes. Pairing that load along with the toll that comes with contending with a super physical threat like Giannis for a full game seems like it could lead to some problems down the road. Do we expect a lot more trips to the line for Giannis in game 2? Do the Raptors defy the odds and maintain these minutes?
Goodman: I feel like Nick Nurse’s hand is being forced here. Although the Raptors did get some good burn in the first half of game one, they (the bench) were pretty nonexistent throughout the rest of the game. When you’re dealing with a historically great Milwaukee Bucks team, you’re going to need all hands on deck. I feel like coach Nurse really has no option but to play his starters heavy minutes the rest of the way because of how the Bucks continuously keep attacking both offensively and defensively. While I don’t think it’s a great strategy, there’s no real alternative. As for Giannis and the FTA, he’s going to be getting to the line more. Sorry, y’all. There were countless possessions in game one where he would get blatantly whacked and there would be no foul call, much to the chagrin of Bucks fans. Giannis is just such an incredibly tough player to officiate, though.
Folk: Brook Lopez had an awesome game highlighted by his shooting, but his interior scoring was the big takeaway for me. Unfortunately (for the Raptors) interior scoring is usually a bit more sustainable. Do you expect the Raptors to let Lopez operate with the same freedom going forward?
Goodman: Brook Lopez was freaking awesome. Like you said, his interior scoring was phenomenal two nights ago against the Raptors. It’s easy to forget that when he was on the Nets, he was one of the best low post scorers in basketball. I also thought his defense, specifically on the interior, was exquisite. Toronto had a really tough time converting shots around the rim over Lopez, and he also got the best of Kawhi a few times in the fourth quarter. Milwaukee’s top rated defensive rating has A LOT to do with the arrival of Lopez. I doubt we see another offensive explosion like in game one, but it was great to see him find a rhythm offensively for the first time this postseason.
Folk: Were you happy with the pace and aggressiveness that Giannis played with in this one? Is there something you’d like to see more of from him?
Goodman: I was pleased with how Giannis played; he came out with a lot of energy in the opening frame. He’s a rhythm scorer, so it usually takes him a bit to get going offensively. He had a few jaw-dropping finishes, which has been the norm for the last two seasons. I actually thought the Raptors did a solid job at being physical with Giannis and trying to keep him off balanced. He’s just so long and strong that it’s impossible to stop him when he has a full head of steam or is in the paint.
Folk: What was the biggest problem the Raptors posed for the Bucks in game 1 and do you think the Bucks can suppress that advantage going forward?
Goodman: The Bucks defense was a bit loose in the first half in game one, and they gave up a ton of good looks from deep. However, the Bucks have given up looks from deep at a high clip, even in the regular season. I still feel like they gave up more open looks than they would have liked, they just (luckily) did not get burned by it. I believe a lot of that has to do with the tired legs from Toronto’s starters. A good majority of their threes in the fourth quarter missed way short. With a day off in-between, it’ll be interesting to see if those threes end up falling for the Raps.
Folk: Who wins game 2?
Goodman: I have Milwaukee winning game two by double digits on Friday night, but I fully expect Toronto to come out and make a run early in the game.
Tipoff: 8:30 EST | TV: TSN | Radio: TSN1050 | MIL -6.5
OG Anunoby (appendectomy) is at least a week away from a return. Patrick McCaw (personal) is day-to-day.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Jeremy Lin
SG: Danny Green, Norman Powell, Jodie Meeks
SF: Kawhi Leonard, Malcolm Miller
PF: Pascal Siakam
C: Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Chris Boucher, Eric Moreland
DJ Wilson (ankle) is day-to-day, Pau Gasol (foot) is out, Donte DiVincenzo (heel) is out.
PG: Eric Bledsoe, George Hill
SG: Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon, Pat Connaughton, Sterling Brown
SF: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Tony Snell
PF: Nikola Mirotic, Ersan Ilyasova
C: Brook Lopez
Cross your fingers ladies and gentlemen, the Bucks are really good.
Have a blessed day.