Milwaukee’s recent stretch of losses has done little to stem the positive vibes emanating from this franchise. Quite clearly, they have their eyes designed on a sterling future with some segment of this core, and their jettisoning of Matthew Dellavedova and John Henson. Even with a frigid shooting performance from deep against Golden State, they managed to preserve it from becoming a blowout. More importantly, they have a chance to take down a Toronto team that’s gotten plenty of love as the East’s finest squad. If they can do it when they’re at full strength, it’ll help quell the qualifiers people like to toss out.
Player to Watch: Brook Lopez
Lopez can likely play Jonas Valanciunas right off the court if he’s able to stretch the floor well and employ some of his jerky drives towards the hoop. Where I’m most interested is if he’s able to match up with Serge Ibaka, who should have plenty of minutes with Lopez guarding him. Ibaka is nimble enough to try and contest Brook on the perimeter; can Splash Mountain offer comparable resistance on the other end?
Toronto is coming off slipping on their own banana in an overtime loss against the Brooklyn Nets. Denver took them down several nights before that, with a victory over the 76ers sandwiched in between. Under new head coach Nick Nurse, the Raptors are humming on both ends of the court, nestled just under the Bucks in terms of both offensive and defensive rating. Nurse’s free-flowing style has opened up the halfcourt, catapulting them to 7th in terms of 3-point attempt frequency. With Kawhi Leonard aboard, their switchability defensively is frightening between the rangy wingspans of Danny Green, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka, O.G. Anunoby and a cavalcade of other guys. It should be a fitting test for the Bucks offense, which had no trouble tearing through it in the last matchup. Let’s recall though that the Raptors shot just 20% from deep in that one (on 45 attempts) so expect a little regression in this game.
Player to Watch: Kawhi Leonard
After missing their last face-off, the MVP candidate is back to match wits with Giannis, a fellow competitor for the league’s top individual accolade. He’s boasting a 30.1 usage rate, essentially superstar level, but still scoring quite effectively with a 54.0% effective field goal percentage including 39% from deep on 4.8 attempts per game. However, Leonard remains someone who favors the midrange, with threes making up just 23% of his attempts this season, ranked in the 5th percentile for wings per Cleaning the Glass. We’ll see whether he still opts for those shots Milwaukee has been happy conceding, or if Leonard lets Toronto’s offense work through its progressions and finds threes the way other teams have sought them out at a league-best level against the Bucks.
Game 25: Against the Raptors, The Bucks will...
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Win big (by 10 or more points)
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