It’s a matchup between a couple of teams solidly in the Eastern Conference playoff picture north of the border. The Milwaukee Bucks head east as they face the conference-leading Toronto Raptors Friday night. Milwaukee had their two-game win streak snapped with a 134-123 home loss to the Nuggets last Wednesday night. Toronto won their seventh in a row as they routed the Bulls 122-98 on the road last Wednesday. The Bucks lead the all-time regular season series 47-37 but the Raptors have taken nine of the last 10, including both this season. In the last matchup, Toronto claimed a 129-110 win on the road back on January 5.
Milwaukee Bucks Try to Tighten Central Division Race
Milwaukee had been rolling as they were 9-2 under interim coach Joe Prunty before struggling defensively against Denver. The Bucks come into the second half of the season sixth in the East, nine games behind Toronto but within 2.5 games of Cleveland for the Central Division lead. Milwaukee was beaten out of the gate as Denver led by seven after one, by 12 at the half and by 19 after three quarters. The Bucks shot 53.3 percent from the field and went nine of 26 from three point range in the game. Their defense was leaky: the Nuggets shot 55.3 percent overall, including a scorching 24 of 40 from beyond the arc. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 36 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists in the loss to lead Milwaukee.
The Bucks are average so far this season offensively, ranking 18th in the league with 104.6 points a game. Milwaukee is below average on the boards as they are 30th with 39.3 rebounds per game. The Bucks are 17th in assists as they dish out 22.5 per contest. Milwaukee is 11th in scoring defense as they allow 104.6 points per game. Giannis Antetokounmpo is the do-everything guy for Milwaukee: he leads the team with 27.8 points along with 10.4 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.34 blocks and 1.42 steals per game. Malcolm Brogdon adds 13.3 points per contest, Khris Middleton adds 20 points plus 5.3 boards and 4.1 assists a night and Tony Snell chips in 7.4 points per game. Brogdon suffered a quadricep tear against the Timberwolves on February 1 and is expected to miss six to eight weeks. Matthew Dellavedova, Eric Bledsoe (17.2 points, 4.5 assists), Sean Kilpatrick, Jabari Parker, John Henson, Mirza Teletovic and Thon Maker are all going to have to contribute for the Bucks. Teletovic is out indefinitely with pulmonary emboli in both lungs and knee surgery while Dellavedova is likely out until early March with an ankle injury. Milwaukee is 5th in the league in field goal percentage as the team shoots 47.8 percent from the floor. The Bucks are 28th with 8.6 three point field goals per game and stand 26th as they shoot 34.9 percent from beyond the arc.
Toronto Raptors Seek Eighth Straight Triumph
Toronto went into the All-Star break on a roll as they won seven straight. Heading into Thursday’s action, the Raptors were two games ahead of the Celtics for the top spot in both the Eastern Conference and the Atlantic Division races. Toronto had little problem putting the struggling Bulls away, even on the road. The Raptors trailed by six after the opening quarter but outscored the Bulls 34-16 in the second to take control of the game. Toronto shot 52.2 percent from the field and went 14 of 38 from three point range in the contest. Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry (seven rebounds, 10 assists) each had 20 points in the win.
The Raptors currently are 3rd in the league by averaging 111.9 points per game. Toronto stands in the middle of the pack in the league on the glass, ranking 15th with 43.6 boards per game. The Raptors are 10th in the league in assists with 23.5 dimes a night. Toronto is 7th in scoring defense as they give up 103.4 points per game. DeMar DeRozan leads Toronto with 23.7 points plus 5.2 assists per contest. Jonas Valanciunas averages 12 points plus 8.4 boards per contest. Kyle Lowry is the floor general for the Raptors and he contributes with 16.6 points plus 5.7 boards and 6.5 assists per game. He missed three games with a bruised tailbone and lower back soreness but returned against the 76ers January 15. Toronto receives solid production from guys like Serge Ibaka (12.9 points, 6.2 rebounds) and Norman Powell: CJ Miles (10.2 points), Lucas Nogueira, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and Delon Wright are being looked at to contribute for coach Dwane Casey’s group. The Raptors are 7th in the league in field goal percentage by shooting 47 percent from the field. Toronto is 7th in the league by sinking 11.6 three pointers per game. The Raptors are 21st in the league in three point shooting as they hit 35.7 percent from beyond the arc.
- Bucks are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games following a straight up loss of more than 10 points
- Bucks are 2-9-1 ATS in their last 12 games playing on 3 or more days rest
- Bucks are 1-8 ATS in their last 9 after allowing 100 points or more in their previous game
- Raptors are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 when their opponent allows 100 points or more in their previous game
- Raptors are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games overall
- Raptors are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 after scoring 100 points or more in their previous game
Milwaukee has played well under Prunty but they have to go on the road and face a Toronto team that has already handled them twice this season. Toronto is on a roll and they have plenty of depth in their rotation that can do damage on any given night. The Raptors are tremendous at home and they’re eager to show that they are a force to be reckoned with in the postseason. Milwaukee battles but can’t hang on the road as Toronto makes it eight in a row.
Pick: Toronto Raptors -8
Milwaukee is sixth in the East and they are four games ahead of ninth-place Detroit so they at least have a little breathing room in the playoff picture. With that said, the Bucks can ill afford to have a slump if they want to avoid slipping down the standings and having to potentially face Toronto or Boston in the opening round of the playoffs. The Raptors have been rolling along with seven straight wins and while the team didn’t get an additional shooting threat at the trade deadline, they still have one of the deepest benches in the league.
The under is 7-0 in the Bucks’ last 7 road games vs. a team with a winning home record, 4-0 in their last 4 Friday games, 5-0 in their last five against the Atlantic Division, 4-0 in their last four after allowing at least 100 points and 6-0-1 in their last seven after a straight up loss of at least 10 points. Toronto has seen the under go 6-1 in their last seven at home against teams with a losing road record. Look for this one to end up under the total as the Raptors try to clamp down defensively.