Title: Potential playoff preview? What the Raptors have learned from their battles with the Milwaukee Bucks
Date: February 1, 2019
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I wrote about the Raptors dropping the season series to the Bucks and what they might take away from it for a potential playoff matchup.
Before Thursday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse shot down the idea that he’d be holding anything back in their fourth and final regular-season meeting. With fairly large implications, as far as one-of-82 tropes go, the Raptors had good reason to put their best foot forward. They’re also running a little light on time to fine-tune their attack after spending the bulk of the first half of the year missing key pieces and scavenging for insightful game reps as a full unit.
“I don’t know about gamesmanship,” Nurse said. “I think that early in the year, they kind of surprised everybody with their style of play. It was unique, and you kind of go in there with your training camp, baseline, foundational stuff and you kind of see that a lot of that stuff wasn’t needed or used or wasn’t the right coverages, make some adjustments the next couple times you play ’em, and go from there. I don’t think we’re at the stage now where we’re holding much back.”
The Raptors should probably try to convince themselves that these comments weren’t in earnest. The Bucks looked like a superior team once again Thursday, beating the Raptors 105-92 in a game that never quite felt as close as the six points the Raptors trimmed a 24-point deficit down to late.
Maybe the Raptors were holding something back. Jonas Valanciunas is still hurt, for example, and Kawhi Leonard was not the primary defender on Giannis Antetokounmpo for the bulk of the night. Those things will likely change in the fairly likely — if you’re being optimistic for both sides — event these sides square off in the playoffs. If the Raptors weren’t holding anything back and this is an accurate snapshot of where they are right now (spoiler: it feels that way), there are some important lessons to learn from this season series.