Matchup: Toronto Raptors vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Records: Raptors (4-1), Bucks (3-2)
Where to Watch
Date: Nov. 2
Time: 8:00 p.m.
Location: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, WI
The last time the Raptors played against the Bucks was in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, otherwise known as the game Toronto punched its ticket to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.
Quite a lot has changed in the few months since - for both teams.
Whereas the Raptors lost two starters in Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard in the offseason, the Bucks traded Malcolm Brogdon to the Indiana Pacers, replacing him in the starting lineup with Wesley Matthews. Matthews has long been a solid 3-and-D wing, but Brogdon has performed at an All-Star level to start the season with averages of 22.6 points, 10.2 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game. The Bucks sure could use that player right now.
Despite those changes, the Bucks and Raptors are still expected to be two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference this season. The Raptors have gotten off to a strong start, led by Pascal Siakam, who is proving himself to be worth every penny of the max extension he signed before the season. The Bucks are only 3-2 following their 1, but they have arguably the best player in the league in Giannis Antetokounmpo, plus one-time All-Stars in Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez, as well as Eric Bledsoe.
With how dominant of a player he is, the Raptors will have some tough decisions to make when it comes to matching up with Antetokounmpo. During the 2018-19 regular season, it was Siakam who defended the reigning MVP the most on the Raptors. Leonard then took on the responsibility of guarding him after the Raptors fell behind 0-2 in the playoffs, slowing Antetokounmpo down in a way nobody thought was possible - albeit with a lot of help from the likes of Siakam, Marc Gasol and Kyle Lowry.
Siakam could return to being Toronto's primary defender on Antetokounmpo now that Leonard is no longer on the team, but the Raptors can't afford for him to burn out on defence or risk him getting into foul trouble considering how important he now is to the offence. The responsibility could therefore fall onto the shoulders of OG Anunoby.
Regardless of who does defend him, the Raptors should expect an aggressive Antetokounmpo from the tip after how the final four games of the Eastern Conference Finals played out.
Through four games this season, Antetokounmpo is averaging 24.8 points, 13.6 rebounds and 7.6 assists. Middleton isn't far behind him in the scoring column, averaging 19.8 points per game to go along with 6.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists.
The Raptors have two 20-point-per game scorers themselves in Siakam (28.0) and Lowry (21.6). Fred VanVleet has also been playing well in his new role as the team's starting shooting guard with 17.0 points and 7.2 assists per game.
VanVleet, of course, is one of the key reasons the Raptors were able to outlast the Bucks in last season's playoffs. He came alive in the last three games of the series, combining to make 14 of his 17 3-point attempts.
For the Raptors, Patrick McCaw is out with left knee pain. For the Bucks, Pat Connaughton is porbably with a right shoulder strain.
- Lowry - not Siakam or Antetokounmpo - leads the league in transition scoring entering Saturday's game. Nearly a third of his scoring has come on the break and he's averaging 1.42 points per possession, ranking him in the 92nd percentile.
- The Raptors have the fifth-best net rating (+8.4) in the league. The Bucks are around league average with a +1.4 net rating.
- The Bucks have struggled defensively in the second half of games to start the game. According to NBA.com, opponents are scoring at a rate of 116.0 points per possessions in the third and fourth quarter. That's a good sign for Siakam, who currently ranks third in the league behind Damian Lillard (22.2) and James Harden (20.8) with an average of 16.4 second half points.
- A good sign for the Bucks? Antetokounmpo was a different player against the Raptors last season when Leonard wasn't on the court. He went from averaging 25.3 points per 36 minutes on 53.7 percent shooting with Leonard on the court to 37.9 points per 36 minutes on 75.0 percent shooting with him on the bench.
- Serge Ibaka averaged 22.3 points in the four regular season games he played against the Bucks in 2018-19. He only averaged more points against one team, the Los Angeles Lakers, although he played them once.
Last Time They Played
Date: May 25, 2019
Score: Raptors 100, Bucks 94
Raptors: Kawhi Leonard - 27 points, 17 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 blocks
Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo - 21 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks