The Milwaukee Bucks are low on motivation. The Toronto Raptors are high on saving their best plans for the biggest moments. What does that suggest for what’s supposed to be a battle of two Eastern Conference heavyweights?
Nothing good, except rest for the stars.
The latest injury report has the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo listed as out to undergo an oral procedure as he’s dealing with some toothache, while Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka are all listed as questionable.
Milwaukee took the first two battles prior to the COVID-19 hiatus and thus the season series, leaving absolutely nothing to play for. The Bucks pulled out decisive wins in both those contests, sparked by a dominant first quarter in Milwaukee and then pulling away in the third quarter in Toronto. It’s hard to take too much away from the second game, though, as the Raptors were missing both Marc Gasol and Norman Powell, players who will likely figure decisively in a potential series.
OG Anunoby has been tasked with guarding LeBron James and Bam Adebayo already in the seeding games, but he’ll have to settle for Khris Middleton tonight. When asked how he would manage a back-to-back scenario featuring the East’s top seed on the back-end, Nick Nurse turned to an old adage his dad taught him when they played baseball together.
“My dad used to tell me, when we were playing a doubleheader in baseball, ‘We’re going to pitch our ace and pray for rain in the second game,'” Nurse said. “So, we’re going to concentrate on this one and then we’ll figure out the second one later.”
Offensively, it would be nice to see the likes of Pascal Siakam and Powell continue to build on the momentum they gained against the Memphis Grizzlies Sunday, as there should be value in ensuring they find a rhythm they can hold onto heading into the playoffs.
Turnovers are also something Toronto needs to clean up heading into the post-season, currently holding the second-worst mark in the league through five games in the bubble at 19 percent. That’s almost five percent higher than where they were through 64 games before the stoppage, and hopefully that’s just a reflection of rust. Obviously, the elevated quality of the five opponents relative to the 64 games before that must be considered as well.
“It’s a little bit of a concern,” Nurse said after 25 turnovers in the Grizzlies game. “I can’t quite read a lot into things, I think everything’s such a different playing field that you have to take some stuff with a grain of salt. It wasn’t very pretty tonight, it was hard work but it was good defence and timely plays when he needed them and it’s a ‘W’ and it’s a 4-1 record in the bubble, it’s a 50-win season. It’s okay.
“I don’t expect Kyle [Lowry] to have nine turnovers very often in a game. It was a lot of turnovers, we’ll take a look at them, see what we can do to clean them up. I think it’s probably just a little bit of an anomaly.”
The Bucks have given very little to evaluate during their time in the bubble. They’ve had barely anything to play for the entire time, have rested Eric Bledsoe for a few games, and have been finding time for their other stars to ride the pine as well.
This game is already underwhelming considering the absence of the league’s reigning MVP, and if those questionable for Toronto are also out, there’s really not going to be anything to remember about this one.
Time: 6:30 p.m. ET / 3:30 p.m. PT.
TV: Sportsnet ONE. Radio: None listed.
Patrick McCaw is out of the bubble to receive treatment for his lingering issue in the back of his left knee. In what is likely some gamesmanship, Lowry (lower back soreness), VanVleet (right knee hyperextension) and Ibaka (right knee contusion) have all been listed as questionable on the injury report. Oshae Brissett is also out with right knee soreness.
PG: Terence Davis
SG: Norman Powell, Matt Thomas, Malcolm Miller
SF: OG Anunoby, Paul Watson, Stanley Johnson
PF: Pascal Siakam, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
C: Marc Gasol, Chris Boucher, Dewan Hernandez
GTD: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka
OUT: Patrick McCaw, Oshae Brissett
Giannis Antetokounmpo is the only name on the Bucks’ injury report. After initially being listed as probable dealing with a toothache, he is out and will undergo an oral procedure.
PG: Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, Donte DiVincenzo
SG: Wesley Matthews, Patt Connaughton, Sterling Brown
SF: Khris Middleton, Kyle Korver
PF: Marvin Williams, Ersan Ilyasova
C: Brook Lopez, Robin Lopez
OUT: Giannis Antetokounmpo
The Raptors are currently 5.5-point underdogs with the over/under set at 225.5.