Title: Raptors’ loss to Bucks offers playoff-level takeaways and potential adjustments
Date: February 26, 2020
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I combed the Raptors’ loss to the Bucks for useful takeaways and areas to watch for adjustments when the teams meet again.
Were there not concerns about traveling media being able to get out of the city without flight delays the next morning, Tuesday could have been mistaken for an evening in May rather than in February.
The Milwaukee Bucks were in Toronto for the first time since Game 6 of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, and the atmosphere felt like an extension of that series. Plenty has changed in the time since, to be sure. The Bucks, a powerhouse of a regular-season team a year ago, have grown even better and more dangerous. The Raptors, meanwhile, lost Kawhi Leonard and the perceived ceiling he represents but lost no step as a game-in, game-out challenge. These are the two best defences in the league, the two best teams in the conference and, depending on your willingness to look past the two easiest strengths-of-schedule to date, the league’s two best teams by net rating.
Teams normally downplay the importance of regular-season meetings as a matter of softening emotion and maintaining an important, steady focus on larger goals. That’s justified, and sometimes necessary. Eighty-two games are far too many to ride the ups and downs daily and expect a reserve of mental energy for a grueling, two-month playoff run. Prior to the game, neither team let on that this was a measuring stick of sorts; the Raptors eschewing talk of whether they can claim top-dog status as defending champs and the Bucks declining to acknowledge that the Raptors might still present a hurdle.
It was supposed to be business as usual. Giannis Antetokounmpo bucked that norm, saying that Game 6 was on his mind here.
“Of course. You always remember the last time you play here, the problems you had. It was definitely on my mind,” Antetokounmpo said.