During Saturday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets, the Toronto Raptors sent a message – this is a strong team with great momentum and chemistry, but if they lose concentration and remember the prior-trade days, defeat is near.
Now, they start a mini-campaign of theoretically easy games, starting against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks are currently the worst team in the NBA.Their stats are revealing: 29th in points, and 25th in rebounds, per game. An overtime record of 1-4 is damaging. Despite acquiring solid players like O.J. Mayo, Gary Neal and Brandon Knight during the off-season, to make their second consecutive playoff trip, their strategy now is to lose now and get a high lottery pick, a.k.a “tanking”, and evaluate their youth. Players as John Henson, who is much improved from his rookie season, rookie Nate Wolters and “Greek-Freak”, rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is compared by many with Kevin Durant, mostly due to his body, length, and potential, are getting a lot of minutes.
If the Raptors want to win this game they must:
1. Play good perimeter defence. Bucks have a solid core of perimeter shooters in Mayo, Knight and Neal. Khris Middleton is proving e a threat from outside, at 43.5% beyond the arc. The Raps will need to be careful and not allow the Buck open shots.
2. Move the ball. During the Nets game, we saw both faces of the Raptors; the before and after the Rudy Gay trade ones. The big difference between these two faces is that prior to this trade, and during the 3rd quarter, they didn’t move the ball as they should have, and they could find the proper shots. After the trade, ball movement (and strong defence) is the trademark of this team. So they must stick with this unselfish play
3. Show the young Bucks core that they have a lot to learn. The Bucks are an athletic team, but their core (Antetokoumpo, Henson, Knight and Middleton) don’t have a lot of experience. The Raptors must concentrate and not let the Bucks enjoy their up-tempo game. They must be strong, aggressive and physical, to give them a lesson of what NBA really is.
I’m positive that our team, the Toronto Raptors, will win. If they play as well as they have lately, this will be an easy night. Coach Dwane Casey will have the opportunity to rest few of the players, such as DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, give more minutes to others such as Julyan Stone, Landry Fields and Steve Novak and test new plays and tricks for the next game against the Boston Celtics.