Preview: Bucks at Raptors
The battle for first place in the Eastern Conference will go head-to-head when the Milwaukee Bucks visit the Toronto Raptors on Thursday. The Bucks go into the meeting with a half-game lead in the East and took two of the first three matchups against the Raptors, including a win at Toronto on Dec. 9.
Milwaukee began its five-game road trip with a loss at Oklahoma City on Sunday but managed to maintain its record as the lone team in the league without back-to-back setbacks by knocking off the Detroit Pistons 115-105 on Tuesday. Superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday, flirted with a triple-double and finished with 21 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds in the victory. The Raptors avoided a third consecutive setback on Sunday and closed a three-game road trip by edging the Dallas Mavericks 123-120, and they get two at home before hitting the road again for three more. Toronto is enjoying a 10-game winning streak at home that began after that 104-99 setback against the Bucks on Dec. 9.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT, TSN 1/4/5 (Toronto)
ABOUT THE BUCKS (35-13): Injuries are getting to Milwaukee’s backcourt, but seldom-used reserve Pat Connaughton is making the most of the opportunity and sprang for 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting in 22 minutes Tuesday after not getting off the bench in three of the previous four contests. “Unbelievable,” Bucks point guard Eric Bledsoe told reporters of Connaughton. “Pat’s been great all season when he does play. He always stays ready. He’s a veteran. He’s a professional, so he puts in the work. As I always say, just glad to see him come in and play well and we win.” Connaughton could be a key player again on Thursday with shooting guards Malcolm Brogdon (chest), Sterling Brown (wrist) and Donte DiVincenzo (heel) all day-to-day.
ABOUT THE RAPTORS (37-15): Toronto has its own superstar forward in Kawhi Leonard, who scored at least 20 points in each of the last 22 games. Leonard, who sat out four straight as part of an injury maintenance program, averaged 32.5 points in two games since his return and recorded a double-double with 33 points and 10 rebounds in Sunday’s triumph at Dallas. Center Serge Ibaka recorded a double-double in the win as well – his season-best fourth straight.
1. Raptors PG Kyle Lowry is 7-of-23 from the floor over the last two games.
2. Bucks C Brook Lopez is averaging 3.4 blocks over the last five contests.
3. Antetokounmpo is averaging 31 points and 18.5 rebounds in two games against Toronto this season.