Raptors Lead

3 Ways Raptors Can Still Hang with Bucks

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This past Tuesday, the Raptors faced off against the Bucks in what felt like an Eastern Conference Finals Preview. While the Bucks came out on top 108-97, there was a lot more to take away from this matchup. Here are three ways Toronto can still hang with Milwaukee based on Tuesday night’s game.

1. Hold Their Ground Defensively

Shocker? Not at all. The game started extremely slow, as each team traded missed shots for the first two minutes before Brook Lopez hit a 3 to officially start this game. This was the first time the Bucks returned to the Scotiabank Arena since their Game 6 defeat in 2019. Teams looked to be studying each other early, thinking about each move cautiously. After the first half, the Raptors led 52-50. They were able to bring out their defensive intensity, which we have become accustomed to seeing.

While the Bucks ended up winning this game, the Raptors held them to 38.1% shooting on the night. Missing key pieces in Marc Gasol, Norman Powell and Patrick McCaw, it was not a loss to dread over. Defensive intensity is what the Raptors will need when facing the Bucks, especially when the Raptors play a backcourt of smaller size with Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry. We saw this with the last minute full press, which led to an OG deflection, ultimately coming away with the steal. However, Fred was unable to capitalize on the three to cut the deficit to four. With a team at full strength, this match-up certainly will become aggressive on both ends.

 

2. Find Their Giannis Equivalent

It was glaring down the stretch that the Raptors could not keep up. Although the Bucks were coming off the second game of a back-to-back, the Raptors seemed to be the ones fatigued. Pre-game, Nurse mentioned he would implement multiple defensive sets to see what worked best. However, Giannis truly is a one-of-a-kind player. We saw the box & 1 set on Giannis, but with trust in his other teammates, members of the Bucks were able to hit key shots when needed. While Giannis was held to 19 points, that came along with 19 rebounds. His ability to exhaust another tool while his offensive game was weak was a clinic to watch. With that, the Raptors were unable to have a single-player truly step up down the stretch. This does not allude to the fact that the Raptors missed Kawhi tonight, but Kawhi could draw defenders which opened up space. If the Raptors do not have a single-player leading the way, or all players hitting shots, they seem to be at a disadvantage.

3. Embrace “All Hands on Deck” Mantra

This brings us to the point that the Raptors need everyone on their A-game. Serge Ibaka was having an off night– shooting 2/15, and showing hesitation on some shots which we know Serge is comfortable shooting. This will make it difficult to overcome the Bucks. Further down the list, Fred shot 5/14, and Lowry was 2/12. Lowry shooting 2/12 will not result in a loss, solely because his ability to affect the game in so many other ways is what we need. Poor shooting from the team, however, will lead to some frustration, including Lowry attempting to go…under George Hill?

Toronto set a franchise record with 52 three-point attempts, hitting 18. This three-point bombardment could be a test to Nick Nurse’s offense as this may be the only way to beat the Bucks. But the outcome cannot be Siakam leading the team in threes made. This is not what we need him to do.

The Bucks lead the regular-season series 2-0. This may show an advantage to the Bucks, but the record proves little. The Raptors are fierce and will come out swinging if they meet in the playoffs. The Raptors will see the Hornets at home tonight, where they look to improve their record to 43-16.

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About Uday Saluja

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