After suffering a disappointing first loss of the season, the Toronto Raptors travel to the great state of Wisconsin to face off against the Milwaukee Bucks. Last night against the Atlanta Hawks, the Raps really played sub-par in many aspects and will certainly have to be better tonight.
Toronto (1-1) is on the second game of a back-to-back as is Milwaukee (1-1). This will be the Bucks home opener, so expect the crowd to be extra noisy Saturday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Centre.
Let’s discuss the Cage’s 5 Keys to the Game
1. Shoot the ball well, please
It’s early, but the Raptors offense can look ugly at times. There is little ball movement and often scoring attempts are contested. Toronto shot a pedestrian 44.2 % against the Boston Celtics Wednesday night and marginally increased that performance in Atlanta, shooting 45.5 %. Let’s stop taking those long 2’s and generate shot creation! Rudy Gay was woeful last night, and simply cannot afford many more of those performances.
2. Defend the three
Watching the game last night, I was shocked by how Atlanta shooting guard Kyle Korver was so open on numerous occasions. Not surprisingly, he finished the night 5-8 from downtown and the Hawks made 10 of their 23 three-point attempts (43.5 %). Simply, this is unacceptable. Milwaukee’s lineup features gifted three-point specialists such as Ersan Ilyasova, Caron Butler, O.J. Mayo, Gary Neal, Carlos Delfino and Luke Ridnour. The Bucks were solid from beyond the arc last night against the Celtics, finishing 6-15 (40 %). At times it appeared as if the effort wasn’t even there to close out. Guard the open man!
3. Stick to the transition game
The first quarter against the Hawks was pleasant to the eyes since Toronto was utilizing a fast paced run-and-gun offense. As previously discussed, the Raptors half-court game is inefficient, jumper-loaded (cough cough Austin Daye) and over reliant on the perimeter. Toronto needs to stick to the athleticism of Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry to penetrate a Bucks defense that has allowed 94 ppg. Everybody, start running.
4. Rebound, Rebound, Rebound
The silver lining so far for the Raptors has been their tenacious attack on the glass – out-rebounding Boston 48-33 and Atlanta 42-37. Conversely, Milwaukee has been out-rebounded in their past two matchups. Centre Jonas Valanciunas might have his hands full against the long and athletic Larry Sanders, but the Raptors should be able to pound the Bucks on the boards.
5. Connect from the free-throw line
It’s called the charity stripe for a reason. Toronto was 20-29 (69.0 %) against Boston and a disappointing 8-14 (57.1 %) last night in Atlanta. The Raptors need to do a much better job converting those attempts since missed baskets can make all the difference in a close game.
X-Factor: Kyle Lowry
Point-guard Brandon Knight is still uncertain for tonight’s game after suffering a hamstring injury Wednesday so Lowry will have an advantage over Milwaukee’s back court. Mayo will most likely be the starter for the Bucks and has a tendency to play zero to little defense. Lowry had an impressive game against the Celtics (11 pts, 8 assists, 2 steals) and should be in for another one tonight.