Gameday: Raptors @ Bucks, Feb. 18

5 mins read
Source: Getty Images

So nice I want it twice.

There’s a couple things running in my mind right now – maybe it’s the high from the Bucks win but just stay with me here for a second:

  • The Bucks are worse than their record and the Raptors are better than theirs. The Raptors started the season on the lowest of lows whereas the Bucks season has been a bit of a sine curve with up and downs, with heavy reliance on Giannis. The Raptors in contrast have played team ball right from the get-go – some nights it’s Fred, some Siakam, some OG and so on. There’s a more equitable distribution of offense on the Raptors than there is on the Bucks, and the Raptors are less reliant on one player having big games to win than the Bucks.
  • The Raptors at their best are better than the Bucks at their peak. This follows from the previous point – when the Raptors are getting reliable play from their big men, they become an entirely different proposition when they have to make up for their big men’s deficiencies. Their whole becomes greater than their sum of the parts by a bigger margin than when the Bucks are getting good play from their weak points. For example, the Raptors were able to out-rebound the Bucks in the last game which is a rarity for them. Controlling the boards allows them to dictate the tempo of the play and control when they’re able to run or slow down. Ultimately, controlling the style of play maximizes your advantages and minimizes your deficiencies. In short, control the boards, man.
  • Lopez wasn’t able to bait Siakam into bad shots. I loved watching Siakam pass up shots that the Bucks wanted him to take. It’s tempting to dribble and pull-up with 14+ on the clock when Lopez is giving you space, but Siakam resisted this urge and passed it along (often receiving the ball back in better positions). This patience is a sign of maturity in how Siakams is reading defense – there’s “good open” and “bad open” and Siakam is recognizing the difference. A similar parallel might be how Aron Baynes is always open for threes, it’s because the defense wants him to take those. Though Siakam and Baynes are on the opposite ends of the talent spectrum, the approach that teams play them is similar – bait them into lower percentage shots. Siakam has done well here.
  • The Bucks will probably make some adjustments and involve Middleton a lot more. Middleton had less than 10 FGAs in the last one and expect him to top that by some distance. You’ll see them try to isolate Norm Powell or Fred VanVleet, and the Raptors have to still feel confident in this situation. ​Though they lack in size, there’s enough muscle in their lower bodies to push Middleton out and challenge. The bigger problem with Middleton is off the ball, it’s when DiVincenzo​ drives and the Raptors defense predictably collapses that guys like Middleton drive off the catch. That can be problematic but hey, in any defensive configuration you will give up something and never shut everything down. This is where the Raptors just have to improve their rotations and close-outs.
  • Aron Baynes man, I was so impressed by his performance that I made a video of his screens. The guy has been shit on so much that he deserves a little love:

  • Fred man, I don’t think I’ve had any complaints about his play this season. I’ve written previously about how he’s checked off the boxes, but he checked another one as Sam Folk pointed out in the reaction podcast, of which a clip is below. He has learned how to take the middle when it’s on offer, and when you have shooters on both sides of the floor he doesn’t have to skew his drives in one direction just to get a pass off – another advantage of having OG out there.

The game is at 7:30 PM on TSN1, TSN3 and TSN4. Join us after the final whistle on YouTube or just watch below:

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