The Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks square off in a series that has quickly become an Eastern Conference rivalry. It all started in 2019 when the Raptors and Bucks met in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Raptors lost the first two games in Milwaukee, and then proceeded to win the next four games, with a 100-94 win in Game 6 to finish off the Bucks and advance to the NBA Finals. We all know what happened following that win for the Raptors. The Bucks were favorites to go to the Finals with Kawhi Leonard out of the East last year.
It didn’t happen in the bubble, and Giannis and the Bucks were left looking for answers. The Bucks opened up the bank to keep Giannis in Milwaukee. There is a window of opportunity for the Bucks with Giannis in his prime. However, the East isn’t getting any easier due to the Brooklyn Nets loading up with the Big 3 of Kyrie Irving, James Harden, and Kevin Durant. The pieces were falling into place when Durant signed with the Nets following his exit from the Warriors in the Bay Area.
I know the Nets need to improve defensively, but if they keep scoring over 135 points a game, they might just out gun teams and chase them out of the gym. At least in the Eastern Conference where there aren’t any really good defenses that can slow the Nets down. It might be a different story against a team like the Clippers or Lakers in a seven-game series, though. The Bucks head into Tuesday night with a record of 16-11 for a 1.5-game deficit behind the Philadelphia 76ers. The Nets aren’t the only team that the Bucks have to concern themselves with in the East.
They are in a tie with the Nets, who are both trailing the 76ers by 1.5 games. The 76ers were another victim of the Utah Jazz last night, as the Jazz continued to show that they’re for real. I said a week ago before their win over the Celtics that the Jazz are dangerous. The 76ers jumped out to an early lead in that contest, but burned themselves out quickly. There are three hot contenders in the Eastern Conference, and it doesn’t include the Raptors. Rumors are swirling regarding the Raptors making a deal for Andre Drummond, or perhaps another center.
I’m not so sure adding Drummond or even Blake Griffin is going to put the Raptors ahead of the top-3 in the conference. Yes, the Raptors need center help desperately. Aron Baynes is a statue out there, and offenses have been picking on him regularly. However, a trade for Drummond doesn’t make the Raptors serious contenders over the top teams in the conference. Maybe ahead of the Celtics who are spinning out of control, but not much else. Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster have to be careful. Head below for our free Raptors vs. Bucks pick on February 16, 2021.
Toronto Raptors vs. Milwaukee Bucks NBA Betting Odds:
Raptors vs. Bucks Prediction:
The Raptors have a gaping hole in their defense going into this game. If the Raptors’ defense believes they’re going to be able to contain Giannis in this game, they have another thing coming. The paint is going to be wide open for Giannis to dominate. Aron Baynes and his stone feet are not going to be able to slow him down, nor is undersized Chis Boucher. Boucher is a tremendously underrated player, though he isn’t a true five and doesn’t have the size to bang down low as a center.
In spots Boucher serves well in that role, but it’s not going to work against the Bucks tonight. This is a glaring weakness that the Bucks will exploit and exploit early. As a result of no quality center, the Raptors’ defense has been paper thin. Teams are killing them and looking for a one-on-one against Baynes whenever they get it. It will be hard for the Raptors to go small in this game, because it likely won’t work against an offense like the Bucks.
Overall on the season, the Raptors have conceded an average of 112.1 points per game for 16th in the NBA. They miss Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka dearly on defense. Gasol is nowhere close to the same player he used to be, even if we’re talking about the championship team, though he was still a vital cog to the Raptors’ defense a year ago. They tried to replace Gasol and Ibaka with Baynes and Alex Len, which has been a disaster.
Also note that OG Anunoby has been absent, so that’s a physical defender not in the lineup. Defensive efficiency for the Raptors has decreased on the road, with an average of 115.9 points against per game. In their previous five tilts, they’ve gotten tagged for 119.2 points a game. Holding the Bucks to under 120 points is not going to be too simple tonight. The Bucks are second in the league with 120.7 points scored per game.
At home in Milwaukee, the Bucks have netted 122.5 points a game. Fortunately for the Raps, they are scoring 117.1 points per game on the road, and might be able to lean on their offense to stay competitive in this one. The Bucks are 17th in the NBA with 112.6 points allowed per game. If Toronto can pull off the upset, it’s going to happen with their offense. I would look towards playing the OVER in Milwaukee tonight.