The Bucks and Raptors meet on New Years Day in Toronto in their first matchup since a somewhat surprisingly close first round playoff series last season. The more fancied Toronto ended up winning that series in six games but the plucky Bucks gave them more then a minor scare, winning two of the first three in the series.
Both teams came into this season with high expectations and to this point the Raptors are the only one out of the two teams that are where they expected to be. With a 24-10 record, Toronto sit second in the Eastern Conference standings and only 3 games back of the Boston Celtics.
In keeping their roster largely in tact, Toronto are still led by one of the leagues most damaging guard duos in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. After a slow start to the season scoring the ball, Lowry is now averaging 15.9 points, 7.1 assists and 6.1 rebounds per game, doing a bit of everything on offense.
As a group however their record should come as no surprise given they currently sit in fifth position league wide, for both offensive (109.9), and defensive rating (102.3).
For Milwaukee, they found a way to win their last two games against formidable opposition in Minnesota and Oklahoma City. The second of those, on the road in OKC, was a much deserved victory after leading the entire game until the last minute but came in controversial circumstances. With the scores tied at 95, Giannis backed down his opponent and spun baseline to throw down a dunk on Russell Westbrook with only 1.3 seconds left on the clock. A stunning play. But the issue was his foot was clearly out of bounds as he made the spin move, the referees missed the call and the game was over. Milwaukee was thankful, Oklahoma furious, a lucky break indeed.
In the first of two meetings between these teams this week, the Bucks will be hoping to continue their winning streak and avoid a New Years hangover after spending the last two nights in Toronto. The series between these two teams was at times chippy in the playoffs and you can expect this to be a hard fought contest.
Kane’s Keys To Victory:
- Calm The Canadian’s: The Air Canada Center is a formidable arena to play in for opposition teams, especially so when the Raptors are in form. With a capacity of 20,000+, it is one of the leagues biggest arenas, and loudest. With a 13-1 record at home, Toronto holds by far the best home record this season so far. The Bucks impressively handled the hostile environment in Game 1 of the playoffs last season to record a brilliant victory. A quick start tonight to quieten the crowd is crucial. With the last two games from Milwaukee producing absolute polar opposite beginnings, it’s as crucial as ever they come to play.
- Three Point Defense: The Raptors are a very high volume three point shooting team, though not a great three point shooting team. Racking up the 4th most three point attempts per game in the league (31.9), they rank 26th in the league for three point percentage (35%). With DeRozan, Lowry, Serge Ibaka and CJ Miles firing away, they will continue to shoot in an attempt to blow you away. It’s imperative the Bucks are aware of this and contest (without fouling) at all times. The Bucks opposition three point shooting has been as expected falling back to the mean the last two weeks, they will be hoping that trend continues tonight.
- Quick Trigger Tony: Tony Snell, often passive on offense found his trigger against OKC. Jacking up 10 attempts from deep, Snell was receiving the ball with his feet set, ready to fire. On a team that doesn’t shoot nearly enough from deep, this is the Snell the Bucks need every night. Sitting 25th in the league for three point attempts, the Bucks sit a ridiculous 20 attempts per game behind the league leading Rockets. Now, we shouldn’t expect the Bucks to get anywhere near Houston in attempts but they are still criminally low in that stat in todays NBA. Keep shooting Tony, it’s a good thing.
Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus