Preview: Toronto Raptors [23-36] vs Milwaukee Bucks [28-28]

The Toronto Raptors travel to Wisconsin for a game whose importance to both teams can’t be overstated. If the Raps are going to keep their barely flickering hopes of postseason play alive, they must take down Milwaukee tonight. Conversely, the Bucks can virtually book their playoff seats with a win.

Toronto’s offense during their current 1-win-in-5-games swoon has been, well, offensive. The Raps couldn’t muster 85 points in three of their losses. With no inside game worthy of mention, the Raps are reduced to hoping for hot hands from the perimeter. The fly in that ointment is that the opponents are cognizant of the Raps’ limitations, and pressure the ball mercilessly. Our outside shots are contested, almost without exception, and shooting percentages inevitably plummet under those circumstances.

Feb 27, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Milwaukee Bucks point guard Monta Ellis (11) argues a call against the Houston Rockets during the second half at the Toyota Center. The Bucks won 110-107. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

The Bucks feature pint-sized outside shooters  Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings, and recently added another bomber, J.J. Redick. Ellis will also take the ball to the hole aggressively. Milwaukee is in eighth place (and the Raps aren’t) because they have not sacrificed their inside game, so big players like Ersan Ilysova and Larry Sanders get touches and points. Sanders is a Most Improved Player candidate; he averages more than 3 blocked shots per game, so the Raps would do well to get him in foul trouble. Luc Mbah a Moute starts at small forward. He’s defensive-minded, but can score if left open. The Bucks’ bench features Mike Dunleavy, a veteran scorer, and John Henson, a skinny rookie who impressed me in Milwaukee’s comeback win in Toronto.

Feb 13, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward John Henson (31) during the game against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Milwaukee switched coaches in mid-season, but does not appear to have been hurt in the changeover from Scott Skiles to Jim Boylan. They are returning from a successful trip to Texas, and may suffer from the “first home game back” syndrome. The Raps better hope so, and better find some balanced scoring, fast. Let’s hope for a 94-91 victory.

Brian Boake is a co-editor for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.

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