Milwaukee Bucks v Toronto Raptors

With three straight losses this week (including back-to-back losses against the Wizards and Cavs), the Raptors have probably blown any chance of a legitimate run at the eighth seed, but nonetheless, if they are to keep those faint playoff hopes alive, tonight’s game in Milwaukee is an absolute must win.

Start time: 8:30 PM ET
Channel: TSN2

Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Landry Fields, Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson (Rudy Gay is out with back spasms and Bargnani’s great eight-point performance on Friday obviously justifies a reward)
Milwaukee: Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, Luc Mbah a Moute, Ersan Ilyasova, Larry Sanders

Injury report
Toronto: Linas Kleiza is out
Milwaukee: Ekpe Udoh is questionable

Random Thoughts

  • I’m really hoping that there’s a minor reason Valanciunas is out of the starting lineup tonight (like the flu, for example), because if the only reason Andrea Bargnani replaces him in the starting five is simply because they’re “trying to get Bargnani going,” that’s a disgrace to the game of basketball. Most teams limit minutes for guys like Bargnani and then eventually bench him. The Raptors increase his role to reward him for absolutely heartless play in the hope that it might be enough to inspire him to do his job. How encouraging…
  • The Bucks currently lead the Raptors by 6.5 games for the Eastern Conference’s last playoff spot and beat the Raps in the first of three meetings earlier this season. A Milwaukee win tonight would not only widen that gap to 7.5 games, but it would also guarantee the Bucks the season series win. Suffice to say, a Raptors loss in Milwaukee would be the final unofficial nail in the coffin for Toronto’s 2012-13 season. A Raptors win would still send them into a tough Western Conference road trip 5.5 games back, but would also provide at least a glimmer of hope heading into next week.
  • The last time these two teams met (pre-Rudy Gay trade), the Raptors blew a 20-point first half lead and dropped a very disappointing game in front of their home crowd.
  • With J.J. Redick on an expiring deal, Monta Ellis owning only a player option for next season and Brandon Jennings set to become a restricted free agent, the Bucks would be wise to go forward building around promising frontcourt players in Sanders, Ilyasova and John Henson. If the Bucks can land a good pick in next year’s loaded draft to add to those guys, things could be looking up in Milwaukee, but they’ll have to take a big step back next season first. Personally, I still don’t understand why they didn’t try to get rid of Ellis before acquiring Redick or at the very least, why they never experimented with Ellis as a 6th man.
  • How special is Larry Sanders defensively? Through three seasons at just 24-years-old, Sanders averages 10 rebounds, 3.9 blocks and 1.9 steals per-36 minutes, including a league-leading 3.1 blocks per game in less than 26 minutes per game this season.