Matchup: Toronto Raptors vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Records: Raptors (37-15); Bucks (35-13)
Where to Watch
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Radio: SportsNet 590
Location: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, ON
For the fourth and final time of the 2018-19 season, the Toronto Raptors will take on the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday.
The Raptors, who lost two of the first three meetings between the two teams, are currently a half-game behind the Bucks for first place in the Eastern Conference. They will try to avoid losing the season series, as Thursday night's game could have major implications in playoff seeding down the stretch of the season.
MORE: Will Raptors or Bucks win East's No. 1 seed?
Toronto returns home after a three-game road trip that began with two close losses and ended with a big win in Dallas Sunday. In the win, the Raptors were led by Kawhi Leonard's 33 points, 10 rebounds and three assists. In the month of January, Toronto's All-Star forward is averaging 31.8 points (on 55.4 percent shooting), 6.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.6 steals in nine games.
Among the five other Raptors to score in double figures Sunday was Kyle Lowry, who bounced back from a rough performance in Houston to score 19 points, dish out nine assists and grab five rebounds. Leonard and Lowry, whose on-court chemistry continues to develop, will be key for Toronto Thursday; the duo has only played in one of the previous three meetings with Milwaukee.
The X-Factors for the Raptors will be Pascal Siakam, who had 30 points in the last game with the Bucks, and their reserves, who combined to score just five points in that same game. Returning home should benefit Toronto as well, as it has won its last 10 games at Scotiabank Arena.
The Bucks, who are in the midst of a five-game road trip, enter Toronto having won 10 of their last 11 games. On Tuesday, Milwaukee earned a 10-point win in Detroit thanks in part to a near triple-double from MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo (21 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds).
MVP LADDER: Leonard, Antetokounpmo both in the top-five
Antetokounmpo has taken his game to another level this season - he's averaging 26.5 points, 12.6 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game. At times during Thursday night's game, the Bucks' All-Star will be matched up with Leonard in what will be a unique one-on-one between two of the league's best talents.
Over Milwaukee's recent 11-game stretch, its offence has benefitted from the contributions of those outside of Antetokoumpo, too; Eric Bledsoe (17.4 ppg), Malcolm Brogdon (17.3 ppg), Khris Middleton (15.7 ppg) and Brook Lopez (11.7 ppg) have all played key roles. Lopez might be the most impressive, as the 7-footer is connecting on 50 percent of his 5.0 3-point attempts per game within that span.
The Bucks present a unique challenge to the Raptors as they are the only team in the league to have a top-five Offensive Rating (third) and a top-five Defensive Rating (first). A win in what is sure to be a playoff-like environment in Toronto Thursday would be a big statement for a team who looks to continue to solidify itself as a real contender in the East.
Toronto has not lost a season-series to Milwaukee since 2012-13. The two teams have not split a season-series since 2008-09.
Milwaukee has won three of the last four games over Toronto in the series.
Toronto has won a season-high 10 consecutive games at home - its last loss at Scotiabank Arena was Dec. 9 vs. Milwaukee. The franchise record for consecutive home wins is 12 (two times - last: Nov. 7, 2017 - Jan. 1, 2018).
The Raptors have made at least 12 3-pointers in a season-high five consecutive games (Jan. 19-27). The Raptors rank first in the NBA during this span with 76 3-pointers made and fifth in 3-point shooting percentage (.411).
Milwaukee's Eric Bledsoe (right thumb sprain), Malcolm Brogdon (sternal contusion) and Sterling Brown (right wright contusion) are all listed as probable.
Toronto centre Jonas Valanciunas (left thumb dislocation) will miss his 23rd consecutive game.
Last Time They Played
Date: Jan. 5, 2019
Score: Raptors 123, Bucks 116
Raptors: Kawhi Leonard - 30 points, seven rebounds, six assists, five steals
Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo - 43 points, 18 rebounds, four assists