A week ago, the Bucks' early season ambitions were probably something along the lines of "get off to a fast start!"
Two dispiriting losses later, they're probably now thinking more along the lines of "GOOD LORD CAN WE STOP ANYONE???"
Alas, the Bucks roll into Toronto on Sunday having surrendered a league-worst 122.8 points per 100 possessions, a number so bad that no other team is within five points of them. Yikes. After allowing 122 on opening night to the Knicks, the Bucks wasted a 27-point night from Giannis Antetokounmpo by surrendering another 118 in Friday's loss to Washington. They've only allowed that many points three times during Jason Kidd's tenure in Milwaukee, and yet they've now come in three consecutive games dating back to game six of last spring's playoffs. DOUBLE YIKES.
The plus side is that their offense has had no such troubles, ranking among the league's top ten in the very early going of the season. Then again, Kidd has suggested that might be part of the problem: after struggling offensively and winning games on the defensive end a year ago, the Bucks have appeared a bit too focused on simply outscoring opponents since the start of camp. Our Aron Yohannes reports:
So what's going wrong? Well, being a step slow in their rotations would seem to be a major issue, manifesting itself in the league's worst opponent three point percentage (48%) and free throw rate (.404 FTA/FGA). Opponents are getting plenty of easy buckets in transition as well (18.0), another area where the Bucks excelled a year ago. All those numbers will eventually regress to the mean (and hopefully below it), but it's obvious that the Bucks can't just phone it in and expect to be a top five defense for a second straight season.
Raptors Scouting Report
Those concerns figure to be especially acute against the Raptors, who come into Sunday's game having already beaten the Pacers and Celtics this week. It's not clear how good the Raps can actually be; after a franchise record 49 wins a year ago, Dwane Casey's bunch crashed and burned in a first round sweep at the hands of the Wizards, while the summer saw them add DeMarre Carroll but lose depth in the form of Amir Johnson, Greivis Vasquez and Lou Williams. Pretty much everyone expects them to make the playoffs, but no one seems sure of how they take the next step beyond that.
That said, the first two games have at least been promising. The newly extended Jonas Valanciunas and newly svelte Kyle Lowry joined DeMar DeRozan in scoring 20+ points in an opening night win over the Pacers, while DeRozan, Carroll and sixth man Terrence Ross did the same in Boston on Friday. In short, there's no shortage of firepower in Toronto.
John Henson (Achilles) and O.J. Mayo (hamstring) did not travel to Canada, while Jabari Parker (knee) and Bucks' Resident Canadian Tyler Ennis (shoulder) also remain out. Presumably that means another start for Johnny O'Bryant, who replaced Chris Copeland against Washington and was surprisingly not terrible (2/5 fg, 9 pts, 2 rebs, 2 ast in 28 minutes). I'm surprised Kidd continues to throw JOB the odd start given how disastrous he's been over the past year, but...well, there you go. He was actually totally fine (by his low standards) on Friday, though it'd be really nice to see Jabari, Giannis and even Damien Inglis gobbling up the majority of those power forward minutes sooner rather than later. Antetokounmpo also had Jared Dudley roll onto his knee awkwardly in the first half on Friday and appeared to be in occasional discomfort in the third quarter as well, though he played through it and there's been no talk of him being in doubt tonight.
As for Jabari, there's been talk that we might see Parker sometime this week, though I'm not going to bank on anything at this point. The Bucks are in Brooklyn on Monday and Parker's surgeon David Altchek is based out of New York, so there's been talk that he could get the all-clear to return early this week. The Bucks return from Brooklyn to take on the Sixers on Wednesday. Fingers crossed.
The news is better for Toronto; as of this writing, the Raps are expected to be at full strength.
|15/16 NBA Season|
|November 1, 2015|
|Air Canada Centre | Toronto, ON|
|FS Wisconsin / NBATV | 620 WTMJ|
|Kyle Lowry||PG||Michael Carter-Williams|
|DeMar DeRozan||SG||Khris Middleton|
|DeMarre Carroll||SF||Giannis Antetokounmpo|
|Luis Scola||PF||Johnny O'Bryant III|
|Jonas Valanciunas||C||Greg Monroe|
|15/16 Advanced Stats|
|106.5 (1st)||Pace||97.7 (21st)|
|102.9 (14th)||ORtg||107.4 (5th)|
|94.9 (8th)||DRtg||122.8 (30th)|