November 1, 2023, 5:58 pm
Milwaukee Bucks @ Toronto Raptors
Game Time: 7:10 pm ET
MIL -5 (-110), CLE +5 (-110)
Game Total 223.5
-Thus far, it’s been Dame Time most of the time. Damian Lillard shot out of a cannon in his first regular-season game with the Bucks, going for 39 points in a one-point victory over the Sixers. He knocked down four threes and was perfect from the line, where he could have practically planted a sold-home sign, because that’s where he lived all night (17-of-17 FT). He followed that up with a putrid six-point outing in a 17-point loss to the Hawks, but then bounced back with a more typical 25-point performance in an eight-point win over the defending Eastern Conference champs and his preferred destination, the Miami Heat. He and Giannis Antetokounmpo have shown glimpses of how lethal they can be as a pairing, but with Lillard’s arrival coming shortly before the start of the season, they haven’t quite developed the pick-and-roll chemistry we all expect them to have. Antetokounmpo has mostly been himself on the offensive end, averaging 27.3 PPG and 10.3 RPG. He’s shooting 55% from the field and 63% from the line. With Lillard now orchestrating much of the offense, his assists are well down, but his defensive numbers have shot back up.
-What might be more worth paying attention to on the Bucks’ side, though, is what’s up with Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton. Last season, Lopez finished second in defensive player of the year voting, but over three games, he has only two steals and one block total. After trading Jrue Holiday, who just happens to be one of the best wing defenders in NBA history, for Lillard this offseason, the Bucks are going to need Lopez to pick it up down low (and fast). Middleton has only played two of the three games so far, hasn’t cracked 20 minutes in either, and looks like a shell of himself. The Bucks are not going to be the contenders we all think they can be if Middleton can’t be their number-three guy.
-The Raptors have started off the season 1-3, including a disappointing and depressing loss to the utterly lost Portland Trail Blazers, but they and their fans still have some things to be happy about heading into their fifth game tonight. First and foremost, Scottie Barnes looks like the superstar-in-the-making that has prevented team president, Masai Ujiri, from including him in any potential blockbuster deals. He’s shooting 53% from the field and 77% from the line, averaging 20.8 PPG, 1.3 3PG, 9.5 RPG, 5.5 APG, 1 SPG, and a whopping 2.5 BPG. But the numbers don’t even tell the whole story — he looks more comfortable and confident on both ends of the court, his shot is more fluid, his court vision has improved, he’s not gambling as much on defense, and he’s added plenty of fun new tricks to his proverbial bag. The Raptors made a big bet on Barnes, and it’s looking like it’s going to pay off. That said, Pascal Barnes does not look like his usual self — how much can his subpar play be attributed to Barnes now looking more like “the guy,” how much can it be a result of not getting the extension he wanted from the front office, and how much of it might just be a poor start, which just, you know, happens? We shall see in the coming weeks.
-The Raps clearly miss former team leader, Fred VanVleet, but to be honest, Dennis Schröder has been doing an admirable job trying to fill his shoes (and at a fraction of the cost). OG Anunoby is already hampered by muscle cramps, and while they weren’t deemed to be serious, it is still slightly concerning that he’s already missed one game. In the three games he has played, he’s averaged 3.3 stocks per game. What’s been most apparent with this team, though, is that the vibes are just exponentially improved. They actually seem to be enjoying playing with each other, which is quite the turnaround from last season. The fact that Barnes’ threw some mild shade towards Nick Nurse after the Raps’ recent loss to the Sixers only emphasizes the mood shift.
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