Game Preview: Raptors vs. Bucks
Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com
The Milwaukee Bucks are in town looking to avenge a 105-99 loss to the Raptors on Nov. 25. Toronto will be back on its home floor after defeating the Boston Celtics in a 101-94 victory on Friday and is looking for a third straight victory after winning eight of their last nine games.
Tip-off: 7:30 P.M. ET
Broadcast Info: SNET1 / SN590
Powell excelling off the bench
Norman Powell has played the role of treasured reserve to perfection this season. Coming off the bench when needed to provide a scoring boost, remaining on the bench if the players ahead of him are playing well, or starting in place of DeMarre Carroll in back-to-backs, Powell has done whatever is asked of him. He’s also done it all very well.
“I wish we could find more minutes for him,” Dwane Casey said. “He’s in a situation now where he’s behind a very good player in DeMarre whose circumstances he can’t control, we can’t control. [Norm has] done a great job of being professional, staying ready. Coming in and playing, shooting 40 plus percent form three. Had five steals the other night [against Boston], deflections, everything we ask him to do. He’s such a valuable utility to have, but he’s been ready if anybody went down. If T-Ross is in foul trouble, if something happens [with] DeMarre, we know what we have in Norm.”
The importance of a solid bench cannot be overstated. Through the ups and downs of an 82-game season where injuries, shooting slumps and mental any physical fatigue can creep in, it is crucial to have players ready to step up when needed.
“That’s where you want your roster to be,” Casey said. “You want your roster to have pieces like that who can step in. I feel the same with Cory Joseph, his ability to do that, now Lucas [Nogueira] is becoming that piece in the backup five position that [if] something unfortunately happens to one of our centers, he can step in and play. Our roster, even though we’re young, guys are ready and available to step in and take those minutes.”
Raptors impressed with Antetokounmpo
In Toronto’s previous victory against the Bucks, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo did his best to lead his team to victory. Antetokounmpo scored a game-high 29 points on 12-for-17 shooting to go with six rebounds and 11 assists in 35 minutes. The Raptors are expecting more of the same on Monday night.
“He’s knocking down jump shots now,” Dwane Casey said. “He’s so long. He can get to the basket in one dribble, from way past the three-point line.
“They had 16 dunks and layups last game [against us]…a lot of them were him.”
Although Antetokounmpo is becoming even more dangerous because of his ability to hit jump shots, DeMarre Carroll says the best thing to do is try to make him shoot jumpers in an effort to keep him away from the basket.
“We’ve got to try to pack the paint,” Carroll said. “Not let him get anything easy.
“You’ve got to pick and choose,” Carroll continued. “He can take one dribble, spin and he’s at the goal.”
Carroll had a simple answer when asked the reason why Antetokounmpo, a third-year player, has taken such a huge step this season:
“I think it’s confidence,” he said. “He’s got a lot more confidence. Jason Kidd must have told him it’s his team. You can tell the way he walks around, he thinks its his team. Confidence goes a long way, but he also bulked up. The kid is great. He’s just got to keep playing hard, keep playing the way he plays and the sky is the limit for him.”
Lowry continuing to roll
It would be difficult to exaggerate how well Kyle Lowry has been playing lately. On the season he is averaging 21.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game. Over his last 10 games, Lowry is averaging 24.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game while shooting 54 percent from the field and a ridiculous 56 percent from beyond the three-point line. In Toronto’s victory against the Boston Celtics on Friday, he scored a game-high 34 points on 18 field goal attempts to go with seven rebounds, two assists and three steals.
“I’m just going out there and doing my job,” Lowry said. “My teammates have always given me the confidence to go play basketball, my coaches [too]. I just want to go out there and help my team win games. That’s all that matters. At the end of the day it’s about winning games.”
In a postgame interview with CSNNE, DeMar DeRozan said the message during halftime — when the team trailed the Celtics by eight — was to get the ball to Lowry. With the way Lowry has been playing, teammates are looking for him the way that they looked for DeRozan to start the season when he was on his own scoring tear. Unselfishness has become a key descriptor of this Raptors team. As long as Lowry is the guy who has it going, Lowry is the guy teammates will look for.
“He’s only going to get better,” DeRozan said. “He’s showing his progression. The more games we get deeper into the season, closer to that point of where everything matters, he’s going to continue to get better and that’s the beauty [of it].