The Raptors close out their six-game homestand with a big Sunday matinee against the eighth seeded Bucks.
Start time: 1:00 PM ET
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Landry Fields, Ed Davis, Amir Johnson
Milwaukee: Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, Ersan Ilyasova, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Larry Sanders
Toronto: Andrea Bargnani and Jonas Valanciunas are out, while Linas Kleiza is questionable
Milwaukee: No injuries to report
- I likely don’t have to tell you that this is one of the biggest games of the first half of the season so far for the Raptors. As pathetic as it sounds, they have a chance to get within seven games of .500 for the first time since they were 3-10, but the real importance lies in the standings. With the Celtics starting to play like the Celtics, Milwaukee has fallen back into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and while there will still be 45 games remaining after today, Toronto will end the day either 5.5 games behind a playoff spot with a loss or 3.5 games back with a win. It’s as close to a must-win as you can get this early in the campaign, especially with the schedule starting to balance out again (in a challenging way) next week.
- The Bucks are an unpredictable team (largely in part to the fact that the Jennings/Ellis backcourt combo rely on the fate on their jumpers on any given night) stockpiled with mediocre talent, but there’s no doubt that right now, they’re a better team than the Raptors are. Five of their last six wins have come against the Bulls, Heat, Nets, Celtics and Pacers, and they’re a solid road team (8-8). This would be a quality win for Toronto if they can get it, but a crushing defeat to slow their rally if they can’t.
- Ersan Ilyasova has been a big disappointment for Milwaukee since signing his five-year, $40 million contract in the summer, but he’s also had some big games against the Raptors in the past. Also look out for third-year centre Larry Sanders, who can change a game with his presence on the glass.
- Jennings and Ellis are always capable of offensive explosions, but neither one wants to play defence, so the Raptors’ backcourt of Calderon and DeRozan (and Lowry if he gets enough time and attacks) might be in store for a big offensive performance of their own. DeMar, especially should look to attack the poor defending Ellis.