Where We’re At
The Bucks are still riding high, having won 8 straight contests and catapulting themselves into a three-way tie for 2nd place in the Eastern Conference (alongside the Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls). They remain 1.5 games behind the East-leading Brooklyn Nets, and Milwaukee’s upcoming schedule is a relatively light stretch. Over this 8-game win streak, the Bucks have rediscovered their old habits. Statistically, they’re performing up to the level we expected them to (6th in Offensive Rating, 2nd in Defensive Rating, 2nd in Net Rating), and it’s no surprise that the streak coincides with the return of Khris Middleton.
With the wing rotation stabilized, the Bucks remain missing Semi Ojeleye (calf), Brook Lopez (back), and Donte DiVincenzo (ankle). There is no clear timeline for any of these three to return to action, with Brook’s continued absence causing the most concern. Thankfully, the newly-signed DeMarcus Cousins had an encouraging debut in Milwaukee, and it remains to be seen how quickly the coaching staff will have him reach his maximum load of minutes.
Meanwhile, things are tough up in Toronto. They’re too well-coached to be a cellar dweller, but between talent drain (Kyle Lowry being traded to Miami), stagnation (Exhibit A: Pascal Siakam), and lack of availability (OG Anunoby, Khem Birch, Gary Trent Jr, and Goran Dragic are all out), the Raptors are stuck in a fight for a play-in spot. They haven’t even enjoyed the benefits of returning home; after playing out last season in Tampa Bay, the Raptors are back in Toronto again but have a 2-8 record at home so far this year.
Player To Watch
Raptors rookie Scottie Barnes has impressed during his NBA debut. The 4th overall pick is a leading candidate for Rookie Of The Year, and is already a focal point of Toronto’s offense. From Raptors HQ:
One of the keys to a win against Milwaukee will be getting our young guys some points. Scottie Barnes is not new to scoring 20+ point games, already having a handful of them this season. Though, he has only scored 20 points or more once in the last five games.
Scottie currently averages 15.4 points per game, 8.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists. It will be essential for him to not only score but to use the defensive energy we’ve seen from him in the past to get stops and points in transition. He will also need to make sure to stay out of foul trouble as losing him for any amount of time will be detrimental to the Raptors’ success tonight.
Game 23: Against Toronto, the Bucks will...
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Win big (by 10 or more points)
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Lose close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose big (by 10 or more points)