Bucks basketball is back! Enough introduction, let’s get to it!
When we last saw the Bucks play, they gave up all the threes in a boatrace loss to the Denver Nuggets. Giannis then departed for a somewhat muted All Star Game performance, and everyone else on the roster (hopefully) made the most of some well-earned downtime. John Henson is expected to make his return tonight, but Matthew Dellavedova and Malcolm Brogdon will remain on the sideline.
Check out this extended look at the Bucks’ remaining season from yesterday, as well as Riley’s analysis of the rest of the teams in the Eastern Conference, and how they stack up against Milwaukee.
Player to Watch: Giannis Antetokounmpo
It’s time. Giannis started the season on a tear, but despite his presence in the MVP conversation all year long, he simply hasn’t been as good as we know he can be for a few weeks now. He indicated in a Eurohoops interview that he was somewhat limited by a lingering knee issue, which both makes his still elite-level production more impressive and his still league-leading level playing time more worrisome.
Still, it’s evident that the Bucks will go as far as Giannis pushes them, and the upcoming slate of tough competition might inspire Giannis to top even his already lengthy list of greatest hits.
At 41-16, Toronto holds the top seed in the Eastern Conference and has simply remained a consistently good, if not great, team this season. The Raptors used last summer to reinvent themselves, both on the micro level (see DeMar DeRozan and his improved shooting) and the macro (see coach Dwayne Casey and his overhauled defensive systems).
The Raptors of years past were top-heavy, led by their guard tandem of DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. This year, they are able to boast incredible depth, where seemingly each of their younger players are not just featured in the rotation, but enjoying the best seasons of their young careers. Stopping the stars is often times a good strategy on a game-by-game basis, but this Raptors team makes it difficult, particularly when their injury report is empty.
Player to Watch: Jonas Valanciunas
The Bucks have always struggled against larger frontcourts, and while Serge Ibaka deserves a fair amount of attention from the Milwaukee frontcourt, JV simply roasted them the last time these two teams met, scoring 20 points in 18 minutes. It will be up to Henson, Thon Maker, and Tyler Zeller to try and keep that from happening again; if they can’t, it might be another long night on defense for this Bucks team.