Mar 31, 2014; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) dribbles the ball around Detroit Pistons forward Josh Smith (6) during the fourth quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Pistons won 116-111. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Raptors (44-32) at Milwaukee Bucks (14-62): 3 keys to keep rollin'

Apr 4, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Knight (11) is defended by Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson (22) during the first half at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Following 3 consecutive games against some of the NBA’s top drawer teams, the Toronto Raptors face the downtrodden Milwaukee Bucks. The biggest concern facing an dismal opponent is playing down to their level, a weakness which has troubled the Raps on occasion this season. One hopes the players realize they are in control of their destiny; i.e., they can secure the Atlantic Division title, and the #3 playoff seed, by riding roughshod over bad teams to close the regular season. If the Raps keep winning, Brooklyn can’t catch them.

The Raps defeated the Bucks in their two earlier meetings, and Milwaukee, already short of talent, has been ravaged by injuries since. While a certain amount of blame will always fall on the shoulders of a coach whose team compiles such a woeful record, it’s hard to assess Larry Drew’s performance, given how many starters are on the shelf. The Bucks lack size, a go-to scorer, tough defense, any vestige of a second unit – they aren’t tanking by design, more like living proof of Murphy’s Law. Their team plus/minus is -8.4; only Philadelphia is worse.

They do have intriguing Nigerian-Greek Giannis Antetokounmpo, who lead NBA rookies in blocked shots (trying to find those positives, people!). While he might be the rawest offensive player since Bismack Biyombo, Giannis is 19 years young. They will have to wait for this fellow, but he’ll be worth it. I thought John Henson would break out this season, but he hasn’t had the playing time. Why Drew would start Zaza Pachulia ahead of Henson is beyond me. Give the kid his minutes, Coach, you’re not making the playoffs.

Brandon Knight leads the team in points and assists from the point guard spot. I’ve always liked this fellow, but he’s been a Piston, and now a Buck. He better start winning somewhere. Ramon Sessions is a veteran cashing his cheques. Khris Middleton and Jeff Adrien may be assets in two seasons, but not now.

The Raps will win this game going away if they:

  • give the Bucks lots of different looks. The Bucks’ veterans (Delfino, Sanders, Ilysova, Mayo) are hurt, and the kids are easily confused. Switch from man-to-man to zone defense, double on the ball-handler…mess with their minds.
  • let ‘em shoot, and collapse on the boards. The Bucks attempt, and miss, a lot of 3-balls.
  • get DeMar DeRozan the ball early in the half-court set. His decision-making on when to pass and when to shoot has been impeccable lately.

I hope coach Dwane Casey gets to empty the bench (“Free Landry Fields!”) on the way to a 109-87 win.

 

 

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