After an agonizing loss to the New Orleans Pelicans the Toronto Raptors look to get back on track on the road against a very well rested Milwaukee Bucks team who haven’t played since last Thursday. They will be looking for revenge after Bruno Caboclo and the Raps hammered them last time out. The Raptors are going to have to hope the Bucks are rusty on Monday night because the Raps will be on the second night of a back to back and are facing their first serious adversity of the season.
The team has not been able to find themselves since DeMar DeRozan returned to action. They’ve lost 7 of the last 10 and haven’t been able to find the right formula to right the ship. To win on the road in Milwaukee the Raps are going to have to tighten up defensively and get back to doing what made them so successful in the first place.
The team needs to readjust the game plan or possibly even make a change in the starting lineup which has been flat to start games lately. The Raps received a big boost in the second half on Sunday when Greivis Vasquez was inserted into the lineup, so maybe that’s the way to go moving forward.
The Bucks are a dangerous team with a number of offensive weapons that can make the Raptors pay if they slack defensively, especially on the perimeter and they have Giannis Antetokounmpo. He is an incredibly versatile player and presents a matchup problem for the Raps. They will have to contain him in order to come away with a much-needed victory.
The Raptors won the last meeting between these two teams rather easily and should get a bit of boost knowing they won’t have to face Larry Sanders, suspended by the league for violating the league’s drug policy or Jabari Parker who is out for the season with a torn ACL. But the Bucks are rested having not played since Thursday night, so they’ll likely look to push the pace on the tired Raptors early. Let’s get to the…
Cage’s Keys to the Game
The Raptors have had consistent issues guarding the perimeter, especially against fast wings that can create off the dribble. Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans torched the Raptors on Sunday and The Bucks have some difficult defensive assignments tonight as well in OJ Mayo, Brandon Knight and Jared Dudley. All three can hurt you on the drive or at the three-point line. The Raps have got to contest shots and clog the lane to contain these three.
If the Raptors play defensively tonight the way they did in the fourth quarter against New Orleans it could make for a long night.
DeMar is back, but that shouldn’t mean he is the only guy on the team taking shots. On Sunday it seemed like the whole team was waiting around for DeMar to do something instead of moving the ball and looking for the open shot. The Raptors need to get everyone involved and play unselfishly. It is what made them so successful at the start of the season and what they’ve been lacking the last 10 games.
Also, do not forget about Jonas Valanciunas inside either. He could have a monster game against the undersized Bucks
Controlling the Boards
The Raps did not control the boards against the Pelicans. They were out rebounded by a team missing their best rebounder in Anthony Davis. There is absolutely no excuse for the lack of intensity inside, especially in the fourth quarter. The raps were sloppy and gave the Pelicans far too many second chances essentially giving the game away in the final 5 minutes. That can’t happen again. Whether it’s Jonas, Amir, Chuck Hayes or even Greg Stiemsma someone has got to do the dirty work inside and control the glass in Milwaukee.
Paging Terrence Ross
If anybody has seen Terrence Ross, please let the team know because he has been missing on the court for about two weeks. The Raptors need to get a lot more out of Ross or he is going to be spending the majority of his time on the bench.
When the Raptors were winning games at the beginning of the year he was a big part of the success. He played strong defensively, spread the floor and hit his open shots. That has all fallen by the wayside the last little while and, right now, it seems like Ross couldn’t throw a beach ball into the ocean.
If the Raptors offence is going to be firing on all cylinders again they will need Ross to do what he did at the beginning of the year: hit open jumpers and keep defences on their toes. If Ross can’t do it, get Landry Fields in there for his defense, get Lou Williams in there for his offense, bring in Vasquez, do something. The Raptors cannot keep starting games the way they have. Ross has been at the centre of the Raptors’ problems and he will need to step up and contribute tonight if he is even still trusted to start the game.
Without that three-point threat the Raptors offence is left without one of its best weapons. Ross needs to be good for the raps to be successful.
X-Factor : Jonas Valanciunas
He has a nice matchup inside tonight. Zaza Pachulia is a tough defensive presence, but Jonas should be able to out muscle him inside. The last time these two teams met Jonas went 6 of 7 for 18 points and 12 boards and he won’t have to deal with Larry Sanders or Jabari Parker this time. If he can keep himself on the floor tonight and can be that efficient again the Raptors will have a good chance to steal a win on the road. A wise game plan would be to feed Jonas inside early and often. The Raptors have gone away from Jonas a bit since his 31 point explosion against Detroit and (not surprisingly) they’ve lost two out of the last three.
As Leo Rautins is fond of saying : “Feed the Big Man”