Game Preview: Raptors @ Bucks

Holly MacKenzie -

The Raptors are in Milwaukee to face the Bucks on Friday after a solid  Wednesday win against the Houston Rockets where defensive effort was the story. After struggling to contain opponents over the past two weeks, Toronto led with its defence in Houston, collecting a 115-102 victory. The Raptors look to bring more of the same focus against a streaky Bucks team that is led by Giannis Antetokounmpo and his 21.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 2.0 steals and 2.2 blocks per game.

Tip-off: 8:00 P.M. ET

Broadcast Info: SN1/TSN1050


Carroll catching rhythm

DeMarre Carroll had his best game of the season in Toronto’s victory against the Rockets. He scored a season-high 20 points on 9-for-14 field goals, but his presence on both ends of the floor helped set the tone for the defensive-minded game the Raptors desperately needed after losing four of their previous five games. 

Carroll has rested for one game in each of the team’s previous two back-to-backs (with an additional game of rest in there as well), and it has served him well. While most of his teammates showed up to training camp having spent the offseason playing basketball, things were different for Carroll who was instructed to take much of the summer off to rehab his body.

“I’m just getting my rhythm,” Carroll said. “I ain’t played no basketball the whole summer so it was a matter of training camp and [then going] straight [into the] season. I knew it was going to come. It might not have come as fast as the fans may have wanted or some other people may wanted, but I’m just trusting the process, man. Just trying to keep getting better and helping this team. Some nights I’m going to have big scoring nights, but most nights I’m going to help on the defensive end.”

Carroll is averaging 9.4 points per game this season, and 16 over his last three contests. The scoring was a nice boost in each of those games, but Carroll is right: his energy and focus on the defensive end was huge agains the Rockets. As the team aims to continue to turn up the intensity dial on their defensive efforts, Carroll’s presence is a welcomed sight.

Under 100 club

The Raptors want to get back to holding opponents under 100 points. Although the Rockets scored 102 points on Wednesday, Toronto was able to limit them to 45 percent shooting. It was a step in the right direction, particularly against a team led by scoring machine James Harden. 

Milwaukee is 23rd in the league in points per game, averaging 102.6 points per contest. After giving up 100+ points in their previous nine games, Toronto will be looking to build on the defensive performance they showed in the Rockets win.

Joseph getting back to basics

In addition to the Raptors getting an offensive boost from Carroll against the Rockets, Cory Joseph also showed up with a big game. Joseph led the bench in scoring with 17 points on Wednesday, making 6-of-11 field goals, including all three of his attempts from beyond the arc. After watching Joseph lead the second unit a season ago, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey felt his reserve point guard had been thinking too much to start this year.

“Cory’s just got to play. He’s just got to play basketball,” Casey said. “Take what the game gives him. If it gives him a drive to the basket, take it. If it gives him a jump shot, take it.”

Joseph said that he and Casey had spoken prior to the game on Wednesday. The conversation sinking in when he hit the floor later that night.

“He didn't want me to defer as much,” Joseph said. “Be aggressive and don't think. The first however many games, maybe [I was] thinking a little bit too much.”

Joseph’s 17 points were a season-high. Like Carroll, scoring is always a welcomed bonus, but whether shots are falling or not, it is his effort on the defensive end of the floor that is needed whenever he checks into the game.

“We had a deep discussion pre-game [in Houston] and we talked about getting back to the type of basketball that we needed to play, the principles that we needed to play [with],” Carroll said after Wednesday’s victory. “I think that cleared a lot of people’s minds.”

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