Morning Coffee – Tue, Feb 25

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Eastern Conference Finals Preview.

Milwaukee Bucks to provide huge test for Toronto Raptors in elite Eastern Conference showdown – TSN.ca

“I mean I don’t know what their margin of error is, but when I do watch (the Bucks) it’s boring,” Nurse said. “It’s over by halftime half the time and nobody ever really makes a threat. They’re really good. They’ve really got it going. They’ve got more depth than a year ago, more experience than a year ago, more size than a year ago, they’ve really got it going. It’ll be a challenge, but we’ll be OK.”

The two teams last met Nov. 2 in Milwaukee, with the Bucks winning 115-105. Both teams were 4-2 after the game. Since then, the Raptors have surged after muddling through a mediocre stretch while decimated by injuries to key players. The Bucks have played at a consistently elite level, however, going 44-6 since that meeting.

Still, the Raptors (42-15), who upset the Bucks in six games in the 2019 East final, are heading into Tuesday’s meeting on a roll. They soundly defeated the visiting Suns 118-101 in their first game after the all-star break, then routed Indiana, a playoff-contending team, 127-81 on Sunday evening. The 46-point margin of victory is the largest in franchise history.

The win over Indiana showed how locked-in Toronto can be protecting its basket. The Raptors had 47 defensive rebounds, 10 blocks and nine steals in the game while holding the Pacers to a dismal 32.6 per cent shooting.

In fact, the Raptors have the second-best defensive ranking in the league, trailing only the Bucks. As much as the Raptors defence will be in tough trying to contain Antetokounmpo and Middleton, the Bucks will have their hands full if Toronto can limit one or both of Milwaukee’s stars.

“We definitely expect a hard-fought match,” Raptors forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson said. “(They’ll) come out locked in, ready to play. And they can expect the same from us.”

The Bucks and Raptors will meet twice more after Tuesday’s game in a home-and-home series to kick off April.

Why the upcoming Raptors-Bucks games should be considered anything but ‘regular’ – The Athletic

“I’m going to try to avoid a headline, so I’ll let you write whatever you want to in terms of my answer. But I’m having a lot of fun. I’m having a lot of fun,” Fred VanVleet said last week when asked if there was more joy to be found this season than last. “I think last year presented its own challenges and the championship made it mean something at the end. It kind of washed away all of the sins. But we’re having a lot of fun, just growing. If you look at it, I think we’ve got three or four guys averaging seven more points than they did last year, so that’s enjoyable, right? Who knows what we’ll do at the end, but for now, I think just staying in the moment, enjoying every day, enjoying the journey, just being the tight-knit group that we have is fun. It’s still hard, it’s tough, but going through it with you brothers, that’s what makes it all worth it.”

It must be said, however briefly, that it is impossible to resist the current temptation to compare the Raptors with their Scotiabank Arena co-tenants. The team that should not feel the need to prove itself, is playing like it has to do so every game, while the team that has not accomplished much of anything seems to take every other night off. The difference in identities is staggering.

Meanwhile, the Raptors’ opponents on Tuesday evening, the Milwaukee Bucks, give off the feeling of Raptors teams past: None of this success really matters.

Statistically, the Bucks are the best team in the league, and it is not even close. At 48-8, they own the best record in the NBA by 4.5 games. The (admittedly, very quiet) talk at the All-Star break of the Raptors trying to catch the Bucks for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference was always ridiculous.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2DKxNa9Ebg

Bring on the Bucks — the Raptors will be seeing a lot of the NBA leaders down the stretch | The Star

“We won the championship. I think we’re pretty OK,” Raptors all-star Pascal Siakam said about the matchup, after a franchise-record thumping of the Indiana Pacers on Sunday.

Those numbers are all slight improvements over last season, when they beat the Raptors 3-1 in the regular-season series. The Bucks’ defensive, offensive and net ratings have all dipped slightly since then, but they remain among the best in those categories, too.

The Bucks have thrived despite losing starting guard Malcolm Brogdon to the Pacers in free agency last summer, and their numbers are among the NBA’s elite even when Antetokounmpo isn’t on the floor. They’ve got more depth than last year, more experience, more size.
It’s been nine months to the day since Toronto sealed the Eastern final in six games and clinched the franchise’s first appearance in the NBA Finals. They did it the hard way, winning four straight after digging a 2-0 hole.

After dropping Game 2 in Milwaukee by 22 points, their worst defeat of the post-season, they continued to talk the talk. Asked where the Raptors would go from there, star forward Kawhi Leonard said bluntly: “I’m going to Toronto for Game 3.”

As the dust settled last spring, Raptors coach Nick Nurse called beating the Bucks four times in a row “mind-boggling,” but added that they never felt they were out of it.

Milwaukee’s dominance this season does nothing but add to the accomplishment. The Raptors didn’t just stop an NBA powerhouse. They stopped a team that was still very much on the rise.

The Bucks, tops in the league at 48-8, have dominated just about every area of the court, leading the NBA in points (119.7), defensive rebounds (42.3) and total rebounds per game (51.9). They also lead the East in field-goal percentage (48.2), assists per game (26.2) and blocks (6.3).

Defence wins championships VanVleet says of Raptors, Bucks ahead of big meeting | Toronto Sun

Toronto hasn’t seen Milwaukee and reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo since a loss in early-November, but know what they will be up against and why Milwaukee is so good.

“It’s stability. It’s every night,” Raptors guard Fred VanVleet told Postmedia after Sunday’s blowout win over Indiana.

“You look at those guys, I don’t remember them losing. It just feels like, I don’t remember any of their losses. Every night you’ve got a shot and that’s because of the way you play defence and you share the ball and make some shots and you’re dangerous,” VanVleet said, talking about the Bucks, but also the Raptors, who try to do those same things.

“I watch them play and they win every game by 20 points and I don’t know what to make of it other than nobody can even come close to them,” said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse.

“I don’t know what their margin of error is, but when I do watch them it’s boring. It’s over by halftime half the time and nobody ever really makes a threat. They’re really good. They’ve really got it going. They’ve got more depth than a year ago, more experience than a year ago, more size than a year ago, they’ve really got it going. It’ll be a challenge, but we’ll be OK,” Nurse said of the first of three meetings between the Eastern Conference powers in the next five weeks.

Milwaukee surrenders a minuscule 101.6 points per 100 possessions, the best mark by any team since 2015-16, when the NBA was a much lower-scoring place. VanVleet isn’t surprised that Toronto has the league’s second-best defence (104.5 points allowed per 100 possessions) even in a time where all everyone seems to talk about is the offensive explosion that has been powered by the three-point revolution.

Bucks to provide huge test for Raptors in elite Eastern Conference showdown | StCatharinesStandard.ca

The Bucks visit Toronto on Tuesday in a clash of the top two teams in the East, and the game will be a true test of just how good the Raptors are. Twelve of the Raptors’ last 18 wins have come against teams with losing records, and none have come against a team in the top four of either conference.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse expects a different level of opponent in Tuesday’s rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference final.

“Each game’s different, each one takes on its own life,” Nurse said. “We’ve all got to come in with physicality and a defensive mindset. … If you don’t come out ready to go, you’re going to be battling uphill and you don’t really want to be battling uphill.”

“I watch (the Bucks) play and they win every game by 20 points and I don’t know what to make of it other than nobody can even come close to them,” he added.

The Bucks, led by hulking forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, were 48-8 as of Monday and had already clinched a playoff spot. They averaged 12.4 more points a game than they gave up heading into the game against Washington, well ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers, who had the second-best differential at 7.4. The Raptors were third at 7.2.

While Antetokounmpo is the Bucks’ undisputed superstar — he’s averaging 30 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists a game — he’s not doing it by himself. All-star Khris Middleton is averaging 20.7 points per game this season and shooting a blistering 44 per cent from the three-point line. Point guard Eric Bledsoe is contributing averages of 15.7 points, 5.4 assists and 4.7 rebounds. Centre Brook Lopez is averaging 2.5 blocks per game and George Hill is shooting 53 per cent form three-point range off the bench.

“I mean I don’t know what their margin of error is, but when I do watch (the Bucks) it’s boring,” Nurse said. “It’s over by halftime half the time and nobody ever really makes a threat. They’re really good. They’ve really got it going. They’ve got more depth than a year ago, more experience than a year ago, more size than a year ago, they’ve really got it going. It’ll be a challenge, but we’ll be OK.”

Good time for Raptors and Bucks to renew rivalry – TSN.ca

They’re not just winning games, they’re steamrolling the competition. Their league-leading point differential of plus-12.4 per contest is 5.0 points better than any other team. They’ve been a regular season juggernaut, an unstoppable force in the Eastern Conference and at the very top of the NBA.

“I watch them play and they win every game by 20 points and I don’t know what to make of it other than nobody can even come close to them,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said. “When I do watch them it’s boring. They’re really, really good and the game’s are over by halftime most of the time.”

You watch the Bucks, as Nurse does, and you see them embarrassing some of the top teams in basketball. You see the way they share the ball and shoot the three. You see their league-best defence and marvel at their reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

They haven’t lost consecutive games since the Raptors overcame a 2-0 series deficit to beat them four times in a row and knock them out of the playoffs last May. The more you see of these Bucks the more impressive it is that Toronto, or anybody, was able to take four straight games off them. Although, that’s not the way the Raptors see it.

“I mean, we won the championship,” Pascal Siakam reminded a few reporters, with a laugh, on Sunday night. “I think we’re pretty OK [too].”

There’s a mutual respect between these old rivals, but if you think the Raptors are intimidated by the Bucks and their regular-season success, you’re not giving this Toronto team enough credit.

The Raptors will host the Bucks in a highly anticipated showdown of the NBA’s two hottest teams on Tuesday. It’s their first meeting since Nov. 2 and Milwaukee’s first trip north of the border since Toronto’s series-clinching win in Game 6 of the Conference Finals last spring.

The defending champions come in having won 17 of their last 18 games. Their most recent, a wire-to-wire 127-81 drubbing of the Indiana Pacers on Sunday, was the largest margin of victory in the franchise’s 25-year history.

The Rap-Up: Toronto Raptors Games for February 24 – March 1 – Raptors HQ

The Raptors are entering the Ides of March.

The meaning of that term actually refers to the first full moon (i.e. “Ides”) of the new year (March was the first month of the consular new year, up until 45 B.C.). On the actual date, March 15, several religious observances were marked and, specifically, Romans would settle their debts.

What debts do the Raptors need settling?

For starters, Toronto’s pre-season acquisitions, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson, owe a debt of gratitude to Masai Ujiri.

At some point this week, RHJ will be playing for a 43-win team. He’d never experienced that over his first five seasons with Brooklyn. A couple wins later, Johnson will be playing for a 45-win team. He’d never experienced that over his first four seasons with Detroit and New Orleans. Reminder, the calendar still reads February!

The Raptors owe the Bucks a dent in their relatively unblemished armour. Over their last 26 games. dating back to Christmas, Milwaukee has played only six against teams with +.500 record. The Bucks were 3-3 over those games.

Pascal Siakam, Chris Boucher, and Serge Ibaka owe the basketball analytics community for capturing how versatile they’ve been all season. Siakam taking the top spot shouldn’t be a huge surprise. He’s played whatever role Nick Nurse has needed, whether it’s handling the ball up the court and directing offensive possessions, or banging down low with the NBA’s biggest behemoths — only to put them through the spin cycle!

Raptors bucks best nba rankings

Just how good are the Toronto Raptors? If a franchise-record 46-point evisceration is any indication, then really, really good.

Toronto has 13 more matchups against teams with records of .500 or better to close its season, including three more with the league-best Milwaukee Bucks starting with a matchup between the Eastern Conference heavyweights Tuesday. This is a prime opportunity to find out just how good the Raptors actually are.

And turning attention to the other two teams at this level, Sunday’s game between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers was an absolute barn-burner. It’s unfortunate the officials couldn’t get out of the way at the end of the game, but that’s the kind of quality basketball we should all expect from the game’s elite.

One thing of note to the Raptors and Bucks from that Celtics-Lakers matchup, Jayson Tatum may have just taken a superstar turn, something that will surely make the top-heavy East even more interesting.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse says watching the Bucks is boring because they blow everybody out – CBSSports.com

They’ve only met once this season (a 10-point Milwaukee win on Nov. 2), so Toronto coach Nick Nurse’s impressions of his upcoming opponent are largely from watching them from afar. And Nurse hasn’t found their games to be particularly compelling. 

“When I do watch them, it’s boring,” Nurse said. 

The problem is that the Bucks are too good. Their victories often resemble that Raptors-Pacers drubbing, in which the losing team never has a shot. Giannis Antetokounmpo is only averaging 30.9 minutes, an absurd and unprecedented number for a player on the verge of winning consecutive MVPs, because his team rarely needs him on the court late in games. 

“Hopefully we come in with the physicality and defensive mindset ’cause if you don’t, you’ve seen those guys play,” Nurse said. “Every game i watch them play it’s 32-12 at the end of one (quarter). Every single one — 32-22 at, like, the closest. So if you don’t come out ready to go, you’re going to be battling uphill. And you don’t really want to battle uphill against them.”

Nurse likes that Toronto gets to play Milwaukee three times during the stretch run. (They have a home-and-home at the beginning of April.) He just isn’t sure what to make of the Bucks’ dominance, aside from the obvious: “Nobody can even come close to ’em on most nights.” Their 119-98 win on Saturday against the Philadelphia 76ers was their 18th by 20 or more points and their 23rd by 15 or more. Milwaukee has won 16 of its last 18 games and is 48-8 on the season, and there is a massive gap between their league-best net rating (plus-11.8) and the second-best mark (plus-7.1, shared by the Raptors and the Los Angeles Lakers). 

“They’ve got more depth than a year ago, more experience than a year ago, more size than a year ago,” Nurse said. “They’ve really got it going. So it’ll be a challenge. But we’ll be OK either way it goes next game. We’ll be fine. Keep on keeping on till we get to where we need to go.”

Toronto will be seen as the underdog despite being at home and having won 17 of 18 games. This is fair, based on the Bucks’ track record and that early-season game in Milwaukee, in which the Raptors did find themselves battling uphill: They lost the first quarter by 19 points, trailed by as many as 26 in the first half and needed to mount a furious comeback to make the final score look respectable. 

Raptors rookie Terence Davis: ‘I’m in love with the city, honestly’

What would you describe as the most important thing that fans should know about you?

I’m just happy to be in this situation. Like I said, I can’t complain about anything. My family is healthy. My son, he was born six days before the draft. He’s just been like a spark into my life from a motivation standpoint. He made draft night better for me. It helped me grow up, honestly. Being 20, 21, coming out of college, just turning 22 and then having a son. It helped me grow up, man, and become a young adult, think things through, really putting someone before me. because that’s what it’s all about. I have someone else to think about and it’s not just about me anymore. That helped me grow up into a young man. That helped me get in front of my family and tell them I wasn’t going to take a two-way deal. I’m not getting drafted. The grind, it’s not done here. It just helped me grow up, man. He helped me grow up. He’s really been a light into my life. I need that, man.

I’m curious what you have maybe picked up from teammates like Chris Boucher who also went undrafted but have since made a role for themselves in this league?

TD: Just playing hard, man. Whatever circumstance there is, play through it. Stay ready whenever your time comes. When it does come, then you can just prove to people that they were wrong.

What have been your most noteworthy observations about playing in the NBA so far during your rookie season?

TD: Man, things happen fast. Offensively, defensively, the little things matter. There are a lot of things that I have picked up in such a short time. There is still a lot to learn, too, but mostly small things. Details on the defensive side of the ball. You have to be in your spots because guys come in quick.

Similarly, then, what have been some of the biggest surprises about the league?

TD: There are just biggers guys. It’s a whole different thing when you are going against guys in their 30s and they are facing me in my first year. They have been in the game for so much longer and know where they are always supposed to be on the court. The pace of the game is definitely way faster too with a 24-second shot clock. It is all about positioning and getting open and it is definitely different.

Dissecting a wild Raptors-Pacers season series and its potential playoff implications – The Athletic

Matchup review
Game 1, Dec. 23: On the heels of a dramatic 30-point comeback against the Mavericks, the Raptors tried it again in Indiana. Here, Kyle Lowry brings the group back from down 15 to take the Pacers to overtime, only to come up short, 120-115. Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, Norman Powell, Victor Oladipo and Malcolm Brogdon all miss the game.

Game 2, Feb. 5: The Raptors fall behind big again, this time at home, watching a 12-point lead turn into a 19-point deficit. And again, they find their way back, ultimately beating the Pacers 119-118 on a clutch Ibaka three to set a franchise record with their 12th straight win. Gasol, Powell and T.J. Warren miss the game.

Game 3, Feb. 7: OG Anunoby takes centre stage in the state where he played his college ball, contributing 16 points and five steals in a 115-106 victory. Gasol, Powell and Warren miss the game.

Game 4, Feb. 23: The Raptors never trail, opening up a 13-1 lead and refusing to look back. Led by another strong Siakam performance, they cruise to a franchise-record 46-point victory, 127-81. Gasol, Powell and Oladipo miss the game.

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