Milwaukee Bucks Game Preview: Nov. 25 vs Toronto Raptors

The Milwaukee Bucks finally pulled out a win in their last game against the Orlando Magic, but now a much tougher foe awaits them in Milwaukee.

Mar 15, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) takes a shot against Toronto Raptors forward Jason Thompson (1) in the fourth quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks are a very up-and-down team. Truthfully, the Bucks have had more up moments this season than a lot of people expected when the news that Khris Middleton would miss basically the entire season came out.

Milwaukee has grinded out some ugly wins and taken some much uglier losses to stay afloat early in the season, and as it stands the Bucks have sole possession of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

It’s far too early for that to matter, but it goes to show that even though Milwaukee has struggled early, the rest of the East hasn’t exactly been overwhelmingly good. That’s something that should cause hope for the Bucks–if the team starts clicking and playing better, Milwaukee could still have a shot at the playoffs this season.

For that to happen, the Bucks will need to win some tough games. Friday night contains their first challenge. A good Toronto Raptors team will visit the BMO Harris Bradley Center, and it won’t be easy for the Bucks to win. Can they? Let’s look at both teams to get a better idea of Milwaukee’s chances.

Nov 23, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) dribbles the ball as Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) defends during the third quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Major Key For Milwaukee: Stop DeMar

Unfortunately for the Bucks, their major key to victory might be impossible. DeMar DeRozan is proving doubters and even believers wrong early this season by connecting on a ludicrous amount of his field goal attempts.

DeRozan took a lot of abuse for being an inefficient scorer because he doesn’t have a reliable three-point shot in his arsenal. While it’s true guards normally need to shoot the three to be efficient, DeRozan is an exception to that rule.

In just 1.9 three-point attempts per game, DeRozan has shot 27.6 percent from beyond the arc. Even though Kyle Lowry and DeMarre Carroll are both hitting 33 percent of their threes, DeRozan has a better true shooting percentage than either of them.

That’s possible because DeRozan is hitting 50.6 percent of his two-pointers, on a whopping 20.9 shots per game. His field goal percentages are higher than normal at every range except three-point distance, but DeRozan’s percentage on long twos is remarkable.

He’s bagged 56.1 of his shots taken between ten and 16 feet from the rim and 46.9 percent of his shots between 16 feet and the three-point line. Although it looks odd in the three-point obsessed NBA, DeMar DeRozan is boldly defying logic to score 30.5 points per game.

Nov 23, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) brings the ball up the court during the third quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Major Key For Toronto: Get Lowry Going

It’s been masked by DeRozan’s massive success, but Kyle Lowry has not been great this year. Lowry’s 19.7 points per game mark is the second-highest of his career, but his 39.4 percent shooting from the field is the lowest he’s ever shot aside from a ten-game season with Memphis ten years ago.

Lowry’s assist per game numbers look nice, but they’re inflated by the fact that he’s played 38.5 minutes per game so far this season. Toronto needs both of their star guards to play like star guards, if the Raptors are to have a shot against the Cleveland Cavaliers this summer.

The good news for the Raptors is that they’ve managed to stay in the top of the East even without Lowry playing that well. Toronto is still third in the conference, with a chance to move into a tie for second if they win tonight and the Atlanta Hawks fail to come up with a W in Utah.

This game has real meaning for both teams, but the Raptors have a lot riding on them. Toronto still hasn’t been to a Conference Finals, and Lowry, DeRozan and company definitely want to do more than simply make it there.

November 21, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) moves the ball against Los Angeles Clippers forward Luc Mbah a Moute (12) during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Player To Watch: DeMar DeRozan

DeRozan has already been covered in some detail, but there’s no way any other Raptor could be the player to watch in this game. DeRozan has scored less than 23 points just once this season, a 12-point stinker against the Sacramento Kings.

In ten of his 15 games, DeRozan has scored at least 30 points. Toronto is 8-2 in those games, and just 1-4 in games where he scores less than 30. It will be interesting to see if Jason Kidd tries to throw Giannis Antetokounmpo on him on the defensive end, and uses Tony Snell on DeMarre Carroll, a much easier cover.

Either way, it’s hard to expect the Bucks to really shut down DeRozan. The good news is that if they do, Milwaukee’s chances at winning go way up.

Mar 15, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) drives for the basket against Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker (12) in the second quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Finale

DeMar DeRozan and the Toronto Raptors really, really want to make a splash in the playoffs this season. It’s been tough for Toronto lately, and after losing Bismack Biyombo in free agency many people wrote off the Raptors as being a worse team this time around.

DeRozan is trying to single-handedly prove them wrong, but right now the Raptors rely on him a little too much. Lowry and other players, like Jonas Valanciunas, need to step up and help out their star shooting guard.

The Bucks should have a chance here, if only because the Raptors do not have players ready to cover Giannis and Jabari Parker. Pascal Siakam has started 15 games for Toronto, and he’s not been good early on.

If Siakam is tasked with guarding Jabari, we might see a career night happen in Milwaukee on Friday.

Predictions and Leaderboard:

Ti Windisch: Bucks by 5 — 9-4, 120 point differential

Adam McGee: Raptors by 6 — 9-4, 145 point differential

Jordan Treske: Raptors by 10 — 9-4, 159 point differential

Lukas Harkins: Bucks by 3 — 8-5, 141 point differential

Tom Pheister: Raptors by 4 — 8-5, 164 point differential

Tim Wray: Raptors by 9 — 7-6, 152 point differential

Adam Coffman: Raptors by 10 — 8-4, 142 point differential

Rohan Katti: Raptors by 11 — 8-4, 149 point differential

The game is on Friday night at 7:00 p.m. CT, and will be televised on Fox Sports Wisconsin.

This article originally appeared on