The Milwaukee Bucks have lost two straight, and now face a real challenge as the team takes on the Toronto Raptors. Winter is here.
Nov 25, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) shoots during the fourth quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Toronto won 105-99. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
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The Milwaukee Bucks are struggling this week. After a nice win over the Portland Trail Blazers, the Bucks have dropped back-to-back games to the Atlanta Hawks and Washington Wizards.
Things are not about to get easier for the Bucks. The next game on the schedule is a tough one against the Toronto Raptors in Toronto. No team has been better than the Raptors in their last ten games, of which Toronto has lost just two.
Sitting just a game and a half behind the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Raptors seem ready to prove a whole lot of doubters wrong this season. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are still great, and might be better than ever this time around.
The Bucks can win this game, but they’ll need Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker to be better than they’ve been recently. Neither of Milwaukee’s two stars have looked great, and the team has suffered for it.
To beat a team like the Raptors at home, the Bucks need to come correct. Hopefully the team can come together and grab another statement win against a powerful Eastern Conference foe, or this losing streak will get even longer.
We’ll look at a major key for each team to win on Monday, and then examine one Raptor that deserves more attention than the rest. After that, it’s predictions time.
Dec 3, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; DeMar DeRozan (10) of the Toronto Raptors gives teammate Kyle Lowry (7) after scoring a basket against the Atlanta Hawks in the third quarter at Air Canada Centre. Raptors won 128-84. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports
Major Key For Milwaukee: Guard The Guards, Cont.
This is the same major key the Bucks had last time around. Milwaukee was not able to effectively guard John Wall and Bradley Beal, and the two combined for 44 points and 17 assists. The Bucks need to be better this time.
If Wall and Beal are good, then Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are great. They make up the best backcourt in the Eastern Conference, and the two mesh perfectly both on and off the court to make the Raptors dangerous every single night they’re both out there.
More importantly, Lowry and DeRozan form the best damn bromance the NBA has to offer:
It’s hard not to be jealous of Raptors fans. Giannis and Jabari are fantastic, but they have zero bromance Vines (that I am aware of. Please, by all means, send me any that I’ve missed on Twitter.)
Anyway, back to basketball. Lowry and DeRozan could easily combine for 60 points if Matthew Dellavedova and Tony Snell play the same poor defense they’ve shown lately. Delly and Snelly need to at least slow down Toronto’s backcourt, or the Bucks could have trouble keeping up with the NBA’s second-best offense.
Nov 6, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors forward DeMarre Carroll (5) shoots and scores a basket as Sacramento Kings forward Rudy gay (8) tries to defend at Air Canada Centre. The Kings beat the Raptors 96-91. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Major Key For Toronto: Get Role Players Going
It’s obvious that Lowry and DeRozan are crucial to Toronto’s success. The Raptors would not have the best offense outside of Oakland without their stars. Their other players have been important to Toronto’s recent winning streak, though.
An example: In games where Jonas Valanciunas records ten or more rebounds, the Raptors are 6-3. Another example: When DeMarre Carroll makes at least 40 percent of his shots, Toronto is 10-2. When Carroll scores in double figures, the Raps are 10-1.
Further examples could be found with Terrence Ross and some other role players, but the message is simple. With how overwhelming Lowry and DeRozan can be, Toronto just needs some production from the other guys to be unstoppable on offense.
Handling just Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan is hard enough–when Ross or Carroll get hot and hit a few shots too, there’s just not much that can be done. The same goes for Valanciunas grabbing boards and giving the other Raptors more chances on offense.
This team may not be pace and space incarnate, but Toronto is capable of getting buckets over and over again. The Raptors are proving that’s an effective strategy–the team that scores more does win every time, after all.
Dec 3, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Kyle Lowry (7) of the Toronto Raptors celebrates after scoring a basket against the Atlanta Hawks in the second half at Air Canada Centre. Raptors won 128-86. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports
Player To Watch: Kyle Lowry
DeMar DeRozan dominated the national conversation early on after a blazing hot start to the season, but now that he’s cooled off a bit Kyle Lowry is beginning to be recognized as the true best player in Toronto.
Lowry has added a ridiculous 3.8 wins to the Raptors so far. That’s good enough for ninth in the NBA. He’s hitting 45.0 percent of his field goals and 43.8 percent of his threes, while scoring 21.3 points per game.
DeRozan scores more buckets, but Lowry’s come more efficiently. Lowry also adds 7.3 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game, while turning the ball over 2.8 times per contest. His dynamic shooting matches perfectly with DeRozan’s slashing style, to make Toronto’s backcourt a dual threat.
If teams load up in the paint to try and slow down DeRozan, Lowry will find space outside. If teams play up and try to stop Lowry from getting shots off, more space opens up underneath. Both of these players is great, but Lowry gets a slight edge for his playmaking and efficiency. There’s no doubt that DeRozan makes him look this good, though.
Nov 25, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) during the game against Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Toronto won 105-99. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
The Milwaukee Bucks might have a tough time dealing with the Raptors. Toronto is really good, and the Bucks have struggled. This is not a game one would expect Milwaukee to win, unlike the last couple.
That’s not even an indictment on the Bucks. The Raptors are just better than almost every team in the Eastern Conference. No team will be better than the Cavaliers as long as LeBron James continues to destroy worlds on a whim, but Toronto is close.
The Bucks are not. Fans of the team have been reminded of that over the last two games. Milwaukee will certainly bounce back at some point though, and they’ve trounced those Cavs already this year. This game isn’t impossible to win, but it won’t be easy to beat the Raps in Toronto.