Bucks vs. Raptors Preview: Milwaukee begins road trip against improved Toronto

Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

Fresh off their latest humbling loss, the Bucks head north to kick off a four-game road trip in Toronto.

2012/2013 NBA Season
Tor
(14-22, 10-7 home)
vs.
Mil_medium
(18-17, 8-8 road)
January 11, 2012
Air Canada Centre | Toronto, ON
12:00 CT
No Local TV | 620 WTMJ
Probable Starters
Jose Calderon PG Brandon Jennings
Landry Fields SG Monta Ellis
DeMar DeRozan SF Luc Mbah a Moute
Ed Davis PF Ersan Ilyasova
Amir Johnson C Larry Sanders
2012/13 Advanced Stats
90.0 (25th) Pace 93.8 (6th)
105.5 (12th) ORtg 102.1 (25th)
107.2 (23rd) DRtg 103.1 (8th)

On the Raptors: Raptors HQ | RaptorBlog

Andy on the block. Are Andrea Bargnani's days in Toronto (finally) numbered? Six years removed from being taken first overall by Bryan Colangelo and company back in 2006, the 7-foot Italian is once again on the shelf (bruised knee) and our friends at Raptors HQ are among the many Toronto fans looking to sell:

Raptor update. Don't be thrown off by the Raps' place in the standings. Since starting 4-19, the Raptors have won 10 of 13 games while averaging 110 pts/100 possessions and allowing just 100 pts/100, though it's probably worth noting that only two of those teams were over .500 (Portland and Houston) and their schedule has been decidedly home-heavy of late. Either way they're playing better ball than the Bucks right now, and it's mainly because of their depth. Jose Calderon might be overpaid, but he's also been efficient enough (18.9 PER, 57.8% true shooting) to keep Kyle Lowry coming off the bench--which is damn impressive when you consider Lowry is putting up the best numbers of his career. Acquired from Houston back in June, Lowry is playing 29 mpg and putting up career-highs in PER (21.4), true shooting (57.8%) and WS/48, giving the Raptors the best one-two punch of point guards this side of Chris Paul and Eric Bledsoe.

The Raptors come into the game off back-to-back home blowouts over the Sixers and Bobcats, the latter featuring major contributions from rookie Quincy Acy and another highlight reel dunk from lottery pick Terrence Ross. Up front, Amir Johnson and Ed Davis have deputized quite nicely for Bargnani and space-eating (in a good way) rookie Jonas Valanciunas (broken finger on December 27, out 4-6 weeks), though the injuries leave Toronto with only one traditional big man (Aaron Gray) off the bench.

The Bucks are...the Bucks. At this point it seems like the Bucks only play well in order to make stinkers like Friday night's home loss to the Pistons that much more agonizing. The Bucks led by eight at halftime before suffering another third quarter meltdown, with Greg Monroe and the Pistons dominating Milwaukee's front line in a 33-11 . After the game Jim Boylan suggested the Bucks may have had heavy legs from playing three games in four nights, but it's tough to accept that as much of an excuse given the day off they had Thursday. Then again, it's nothing we haven't seen before. The Bucks haven't shown much backbone defending their homecourt all season, all the while showing a worrying tendency to play up or down to their competition.

That doesn't mean they're looking forward to a four-game road trip of course. The Bucks face Toronto before heading West for games against the Lakers, Suns and Blazers, marking Milwaukee's first Western trip of the season. The bad news is that the Bucks normally don't fare so well on the left coast; the good news is that only one of those teams is currently in the playoff picture--the 7th seeded Blazers.

Lamb to the D-League. Rookie Doron Lamb is about to be getting a big bump in minutes--it just won't be in the NBA. The Bucks assigned Lamb to the D-League's Fort Wayne Mad Ants on Saturday, and he should see his first action on Wednesday. The John Hammond-era Bucks have been notoriously loathe to make use of the D-League, generally preferring to keep youngsters practicing with the big club rather than getting them regular minutes in Fort Wayne. You could certainly argue that guys like Tobias Harris and Lamb would be better served at times getting real minutes rather than just sitting on the bench, and at least Lamb will get a chance to do just that. Larry Sanders is the only current Buck to have seen any burn in Fort Wayne, and even that was only for a couple games two years ago.

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