Man, has it felt like forever since we last got a chance to watch some Bucks basketball. For those who haven't been paying close attention, the Milwaukee Bucks were sent abroad by the NBA last Thursday to London in the 3rd Annual NBA Global Games event and ended up walloping a bruised and broke New York Knicks team. Since then, the Bucks have had ample time to return to Milwaukee to rest up and get ready to resume the remainder of their regular season in North America.
The first opponent up for Milwaukee since returning is a Toronto Raptors team that appears to be in a bit of a slide at the moment, and if things break the Bucks way, they can hopefully get this week started on a high-note by adding to the Raptors misery.
Who knows what is going on up on Toronto?
After getting off to a sizzling 24-7 start to the year, often trading win-for-win with the Atlanta Hawks at the top of the Eastern Conference standings, the Raptors have seemingly fallen off the rails, going 3-7 in their last 10 games. They have used every strategy in the book to try and calm the waters, from a players-only meeting, to the reinsertion of DeMar DeRozan to the starting lineup from injury, yet to no avail. Such a losing streak, though, can only make the Raptors a more dangerous opponent, as they will desperately be looking to get a road win in Milwaukee to hopefully cure themselves of their ails and get back on a contending track.
The return of DeRozan must have seemed like a godsend for Toronto after missing him since the end of November when he went down with a groin injury. In his first three performances since getting back on the court, he's shot at a 54% clip from the floor, averaging 22.3pts/3.3rebs/2asts per game in that stretch. So, overall, he's been pretty good, even if he is taking a ton of shots in an attempt to spark the offense.
Interestingly enough for the Raptors, they literally have no other injuries that need reporting, outside of probably a few bumps and bruises that come naturally with a lengthy NBA season. Head coach Dwayne Casey will thus have a full toolbox to work with when trying to exploit any matchups that he might deem favorable.
But oh how the basketball gods have chosen to spurn Milwaukee with the injury bug. The most recent addition to the sadly long list of those out for the season is Kendall Marshall, who went down with what looked like a knee injury during the game in London. It was quickly confirmed after the fact that it was a fully torn ACL in his right knee, and that his year is over. Get better, Kendall!
Rounding out the list for Milwaukee are the usual suspects in Jabari Parker (knee), Damien Inglis (foot), and Larry Sanders (personal reasons/drug suspension).
For Toronto, they're an odd team of dichotomies, and that shows through when comparing their stellar offense (1st in the league) and fairly poor defense (24th). Going along with the league's 6th best effective field goal percentage is the 5th best offensive turnover rate, which means that the Raptors rarely give away the ball without getting at least one shot up per possession.
If the Bucks aren't able to generate turnovers at a high rate, then they're going to have to be cleaning up the defensive glass all night long to keep Toronto's offense grounded. That won't be an easy task, as the Bucks have one of the worst defensive rebounding ratings in the NBA (24th), while Toronto has a top-10 offensive rebounding rate. Minimizing Raptor second chance opportunities will be critical down the stretch.
Key Matchup: Khris Middleton vs. DeMar DeRozan
It can't be stated enough that Toronto has built an offensive force to be reckoned with; they currently sit atop the entire NBA in terms of offensive rating, and a lot of that stems from a guard corps that is willing to get the ball moving, especially when Kyle Lowry is the lead offensive instigator. That being said, DeMar DeRozan still operates as one of the main point producers for Toronto, and he will take as many shots as he deems necessary (averaging 16.3 FGA/gm).
Thus, it falls on Khris Middleton's shoulders to at least make DeRozan's life a bit difficult from the floor in an attempt to contest as many shots as possible. DeMar will fire from all over the court, and he has a penchant for driving to the basket for acrobatic shot attempts at the rim, so the job isn't solely on Middleton -- the frontcourt for Milwaukee will need to keep their heads on a swivel to make sure that easy layups don't get DeRozan on track early.
|2014/2015 NBA Season|
|January 19, 2015|
|BMO Harris Bradley Center | Milwaukee, WI|
|FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ|
|Kyle Lowry||PG||Brandon Knight|
|DeMar DeRozan||SG||Khris Middleton|
|Terrence Ross||SF||Giannis Antetokounmpo|
|Amir Johnson||PF||Johnny O'Bryant III|
|Jonas Valanciunas||C||Zaza Pachulia|
|2014/15 Advanced Stats|
|93.4 (18th)||Pace||93.8 (15th)|
|113.1 (1st)||ORtg||103.6 (23rd)|
|107.5 (22nd)||DRtg||102.3 (5th)|