Game Preview: Raptors vs. Bucks

Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com

The Milwaukee Bucks are in Toronto to take on the Raptors in the third meeting between the two teams this season. The Raptors are coming off a tough two-point loss to the Memphis Grizzlies that was the team’s fifth-straight loss and second straight game without All-Star DeMar DeRozan.

Tip-off: 7:30 P.M. ET

Broadcast Info: SN1 / TSN1050

TALKING POINTS

Lowry headed to New Orleans

The Toronto Raptors had the day off on Thursday following a back-to-back, but the news didn’t stop. Kyle Lowry will be joining backcourt mate DeMar DeRozan in New Orleans as an Eastern Conference All-Star reserve. The NBA announced All-Star reserves on Thursday night with Lowry getting his third straight All-Star nod in a season where he is averaging a career-best 22.4 points per game. He joins Indiana’s Paul George, Cleveland’s Kevin Love, Atlanta’s Paul Millsap, Boston’s Isaiah Thomas, Charlotte’s Kemba Walker, and Washington’s John Wall. The selection means that Toronto’s back court have each made three All-Star appearances.

In the Western Conference, reserves were as follows: Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins, Memphis’ Marc Gasol, Golden State’s Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, Utah’s Gordon Hayward, Los Angeles Clipper DeAndre Jordan and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook.

Reserves were chosen by 30 NBA head coaches and will join the starters selected by a combination of fan, current NBA players and media panel votes. Eastern Conference staters are Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan and Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. Western Conference starters are Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, Houston’s James Harden, and San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard.

Previous meetings

The Toronto Raptors won the previous two meetings between these teams, earning a 105-99 victory in the first match up and a 122-100 win in the second. The Bucks come to Toronto hoping to get back on the right track after losing six of their last seven contests. Toronto is hoping to snap a five-game losing streak.

In the most recent meeting, DeMar DeRozan helped Toronto to its sixth straight win against the Bucks with a 30-point effort while Terrence Ross added 25 points off the bench. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 30 for Milwaukee, but it wasn’t enough to hold off a fourth quarter where Toronto outscored Milwaukee 30-18 to run away with the victory. In the first meeting, DeRozan again led the way for Toronto offensively with a team-high 26 points as the Raptors withstood a 29-point effort from Antetokounmpo and held on for the win.

DeRozan has been sidelined for Toronto’s previous two losses as he recovers from an ankle sprain. His status for Friday’s game is unknown.

Bringing intensity from the jump

In the midst a five-game losing streak, the Raptors know better starts are needed. Piecing together a 48-minute effort on the defensive end of the floor is also going to be crucial.

“We can’t wait till we get knocked on our heels to start playing hard,” Norman Powell said. “Playing with intensity, scrambling and trusting each other, it’s got to go for the full 48 minutes from the jump ball to the last buzzer. That’s the biggest thing. We’re putting it together in spurts. Now it’s figuring out how to do it for a full game.”

The Raptors have had solid defensive quarters in the second half against the Spurs and Grizzlies, but have struggled at getting that energy from the jump.

“I love our competitive spirit down the stretch,” Dwane Casey said. “We’ve got to do that earlier in the game. We’ve got to come out and put our foot down.

“Our next bugaboo is our shooters have to continue to shoot the ball,” Casey continued. “Right now [the shots are] not going in and I think we’re carrying some of that on the defensive end. I have to do a better job of getting them better looks or whatever it is, but we can’t carry some of our offensive woes to the defensive end.”