Game Preview: Raptors vs. Bucks
Milwaukee Bucks (32-25) @ Toronto Raptors (41-16)
When: Friday, February 23rd, 7:30 P.M. ET
Where: Air Canada Centre
Broadcast info: TSN, SN590
The Raptors are 2-0 against the Bucks this season. In their first meeting, DeMar DeRozan set a franchise record with 52 points on New Year's Day. In the second meeting less than a week later, the Raptors notched a dominant 129-110 victory in Milwaukee. After leading 61-59 at the half, Toronto exploded in the third quarter, outscoring the Bucks 43-19 to take a 104-78 advantage into the fourth. Jonas Valanciunas led Toronto with 20 points and 13 rebounds in just 17 minutes, shooting 8-for-9 from the floor, while DeRozan also scored 20 points and the Raptors had seven players in double figures. Serge Ibaka added 21 points. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 24 points, five rebounds and five assists in the loss.
LEADING INTO TONIGHT'S GAME
Injury report: The Raptors injury report is clear. For the Bucks, Malcolm Brogdon is out with a left quad tendon injury, Matthew Dellavedova is out with a right ankle sprain, Mirza Teletovic is out with pulmonary emboli, Tyler Zeller is probable with Gastroenteritis and John Henson is probable with right hamstring soreness.
Back to business: Friday's game will mark Toronto's return to the Air Canada Centre court following All-Star break. The Raptors last played on Feb. 14, defeating the Chicago Bulls 122-98, to take a franchise-best 41-16 record into the break where DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Dwane Casey and Toronto's coaching staff represented the organization in Los Angeles for All-Star 2018.
Coach's bragging rights: Though Toronto's backcourt both suited up for Team Stephen, it was head coach Dwane Casey and the Raptors staff, manning the sideline for Team LeBron, that came out on top in a 148-145 victory for Team LeBron. With the team back in Toronto and ready to take on the final third of the season, All-Star weekend is now firmly in the rearview as Casey and his backcourt are each focusing is on ensuring the team continues to approach each game as its own battle and is prepared to play the full 48 minutes.
Home court: Toronto is an NBA-best 24-4 on the Air Canada Centre floor this season. DeMar DeRozan is averaging a team-high 24.6 points at home, while the Raptors as a team are fourth in the NBA in scoring when playing at home, scoring 112.8 points per contest.
East coast living: Thanks to an extremely road-heavy start to the season, the Raptors continue to stay close to home in the final stretch of the season: they don't have a single west coast road game the rest of the way through. Of the 25 games remaining, 12 are on the road and 13 will be played at the ACC.
Seven straight: The Raptors come into Friday's game against the Bucks having won a season-high seven straight. Still, Dwane Casey bristles when asked about the team feeling comfortable in recent weeks. "No, nobody's comfortable," he said. There should be nobody in this building that's comfortable. It's fleeting. Success in the NBA is very fleeting and if anybody thinks any other way they're in the wrong business.
"You can look around the league, teams that you thought that were king of the world hit a hard time, boom, and you're not comfortable," Casey continued. "My job with our guys is to make the comfortable uncomfortable and the uncomfortable comfortable, and you've got to do that. That's the tone we've got to set. There's nobody here that should feel satisfied or feel like 'oh, we've got a cushion.' No. No way, no how."