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NBA Playoffs Preview: Toronto Seeks Revenge Against Milwaukee in Game 2

The Bucks lead the Raptors 1-0 in their first round series of the 2017 NBA Playoffs.

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NBA: Playoffs-Milwaukee Bucks at Toronto Raptors John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks may not have surprised everyone with their win against the Toronto Raptors on Saturday, but they certainly surprised most of us with just how convincing they took the victory.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, the NBA superstar who seems to somehow still be gaining notoriety, led the way with 28 points / 8 boards in Game 1, but the Bucks defense is what truly put the Raptors into a 1-0 hole in the series. Shooting only 36% from the field (including 21.7% from deep) submarined any hope the Raps had of regaining control of the game, as they failed to crack 20 points in either the third or fourth quarters.

Against an opponent that won 51 games, though, the Bucks would be wise to remain vigilant and resist complacency. Just because Giannis was the biggest, strongest, baddest dude on the court does not mean that he will always be able to impose his will like we saw a few days ago.

Of course, it’s Giannis we’re talking about, so maybe he can.

Bucks Update

Milwaukee’s success in Game 1 was based on their ability to manufacture points despite a slow pace (87.5) and the Raptors’ protection of the ball (only 10 turnovers committed by Toronto). But their shooters hit enough shots (9/23), even if the volume was lower than we would like to see, and Giannis continually found space where a lesser player could find none. I also made a guest appearance on Locked on Bucks to chat about potential adjustments and what to look for in Game 2 with Eric Nehm.

Khris Middleton will look to shake off an awful shooting debut, as he was 4/15 from the field (despite dishing 9 assists vs. 0 turnovers). Thon Maker and Malcolm Brogdon will both work to add to their already-stellar rookie seasons (by their respective standards) and hold down the Bucks’ defense on the perimeter. And I do mean both of them will defend on the perimeter, because Thon can do this:

In other news, Michael Beasley continues to get the attention of anyone with a camera:

And as a reminder, the Bucks still have the best player in the series in Giannis, who did all of this.

Milwaukee also escaped the first game of the series unscathed, and only Jabari Parker is listed on the injury report.

Raptors Update

Toronto lost Game 1, which was surprising, but very much in-line with how they’ve historically started playoff series. Considering how the core of Toronto’s roster has remained intact, there isn’t any clear reason why this has become a pattern, but Sean Woodley of Raptors HQ makes a concise — yet important — observation:

Lowry’s decision-making became less precise, and DeRozan’s trips to the rim became more scarce as the game progressed. But the Bucks didn’t exactly alter their scheme — they executed better while the Raptors lost their sense of direction.

Sequences like this in which the indecision of Toronto’s supporting cast sapped the offensive flow became the standard in the second half.

We saw how Toronto’s supporting cast fell flat, especially now that noted-Bucks killer Terrence Ross is enjoying the offseason plying his trade in Orlando. After Game 2, we’ll have to see if Kyle Lowry (still recovering from wrist surgery) simply had a bad game, or is fundamentally not right yet, as Lowry’s wayward shot forced DeMar DeRozan to shoulder more responsibility, which didn’t work out for the Raps.

But part of Toronto’s issue may also be dealing with Milwaukee’s top-notch bench unit, led by the post savvy of Greg Monroe, the shooting indiscretion of Mirza Teletovic, and the #grit of Matthew Dellavedova, who has not exactly endeared himself to Toronto fans ... or their head coach (emphasis mine):

Toronto isn’t happy about the way Dellavedova sets those screens.

"He did set 18 screens and we did look at them,” said Raptors coach Dwane Casey on Monday afternoon. “A lot of them weren't legal.

“Now we've got to make sure we counter that and make the officials make a decision. The officials were saying that we're not hitting (the screens) or running into them. We've got to make sure we have a confrontation, because he's one of the great screen-setters in the league, just like John Stockton was. There's no disrespect by saying that.

“It's a respect factor for Dellavedova that he does set hellacious screens.

"You look at them in slow time, and believe me, they're moving, they're grabbing, they're holding. ... He has set a precedent with it and they're not calling it. We've got to make sure we set screens the same way, and now we show the officials those videos.

"It's a credit to him that he sets screens that way and gets away with it."

Delly is a polarizing figure, and feels like he would be a starter on the Joakim Noah “I Hate This Guy (Unless He Plays On My Team) All Stars.” Fortunately for us, Dellavedova is working his magic to pave the way for Giannis to drive the lane, but it will be worth monitoring how the Raptors (and the refs) approach his screens tonight.

On the injury front, Serge Ibaka had a scary ankle turn in Game 1, but was able to stay in the game. His status was up in the air for a bit, but he is listed as probable for Game 2