Toronto Raptors: Previewing the 5 biggest games of the New Year

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /
5 of 6
(Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
(Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

Jan. 5- Toronto Raptors at Milwaukee Bucks

Key Matchup: Interior defense vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo

The other titan atop the Eastern Conference, the Bucks will play host to the Raptors riding the high of an undefeated season against the latter thus far.

Leading the Bucks’ efforts against the Raptors is Giannis Antetokounmpo, who missed the first iteration of the matchup this year.

Since then, Giannis led the Bucks to a win over the Raptors in their latest meeting. Furthermore, Antetokounmpo has begun his ascent up the MVP ladder, sitting at the top alongside Harden through the season’s first half.

On the year, Antetokounmpo has averaged 26.6 points, 12.8 rebounds and 6.1 assists. On defense, the forward has posted a combined average of 2.8 blocks and steals per game.

Over his last five games, Antetokounmpo has scored 30 or more points in four with 21 combined blocks and assists over that same span.

Where Antetokounmpo has found success this year and most of his career is at the rim, just ask Tim Hardaway Jr.

Within five feet this year, Antetokounmpo has shot 79.6 percent in 333 attempts, the highest efficiency and shots per game of any player with 200 or more attempts.

Fortunately for the Raptors, they rank fifth in the league in opposing field goal percentage within five feet (58.4 percent).

An alternative to straight-up defense down low for the Raptors could be fouling the ‘Greek Freak.’ This year, Antetokounmpo has shot  69.7 percent from the charity stripe, his worst mark since his rookie year. Forcing him to garner his points at the line may prove fruitful for the Raptors’ bigs.

If the trend continues for the Raptors, they will likely be able to limit Antetokounmpo, much the way they did the first time seeing him this year (19 points).