The rise of a King may be the reason for an extinction: Is it over?

The rise of a King may be the reason for an extinction: Is it over?

At the end of the 2017-2018 regular season, the Toronto Raptors had most people convinced that they were different – that their battle cry of a “culture reset” was in full effect, with no end in sight. With the best record in franchise history of 59-23 and numerous records broken within the season, the Raptors really looked like they belonged on top of the East Conference. This continued through the first round of the post-season as they were able to get through a 6-game series against the 8th seed Washington Wizards. The Toronto Raptors were finally able to sit atop the East waiting for their next opponent, a position which is very new to them.  They had fans and now even the media believing the they had a (semi) clear path to the Eastern Conference Finals, with some even daring to say the NBA Finals…

But enter King James and his Cavaliers.

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Raptors’ Fourth Quarter Collapse Causes a 115-94 loss against the Cavaliers in Game 3

Raptors’ Fourth Quarter Collapse Causes a 115-94 loss against the Cavaliers in Game 3

I’m going to admit that whenever I heard people say “we lost that game because of coaching…” or “man, Casey was out-coached today…”, I never really understood how that was possible. How could a guy that’s not even playing cause the team to lose? Well that thinking was very naïve as game 3 of this series proved that “coaching losses” do exist.  

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​Raptors continue game 1 tradition with a 116-105 loss against the Cavaliers

What kind of team would the Toronto Raptors be if they won their game ones of a series? With the defeat of Monday night, the Raptors add another loss to their record making them 1-10 in game one of any series. The Cleveland Cavaliers were coming off an 8-day break as they were able to sweep the Indiana Pacers in their first round match-up. On the other hand, the Raptors only had 3 days rest as they (barely) came out of game 6 with a win over the Milwaukee Bucks. You’d think that all that rest would weigh a team down but clearly not for the Cavs Monday night.

The Raptors shot 43.8% from the field and 38.5% from the three. They had 51 total rebounds and were even with the Cavs in turnovers, both teams having 12. When looking at the numbers from that game, it appears as though the teams were evenly matched. So what happened? What factors contributed to this 11-point deficit?

1. Start off on a good note shall we?  - The Raptors once again dug themselves into a hole in the first quarter that they would not be able to recover from. Basketball is a game of runs, and it was no more evident than the first one that the Cavs served at the 7:30 mark when they were able to score 10 unanswered points; causing Raptors to trail 10-22. For the rest of the quarter, the Raptors were only able to come up with 8 more points and by the end of 12 minutes, it was 18-30. This set the tone for the rest of the game as the Raptors were always playing from behind, never taking the lead for the duration of the game.

2. KE = ½ mv2 – That’s the equation for kinetic energy and it takes into consideration the mass of the object and it’s velocity. How does this relate? Well Monday night I saw the mass that is LeBron James moving quiet quickly, therefore the Cavs just had more energy. That is not at all how that equation works but what I’m trying to say is that the Cavs had more energy and speed all throughout the game. This was evident at the 9:15 mark of the first quarter when LeBron James gets a steal off a bad pass from Kyle Lowry. Kyrie Irving brings up the ball in a hurry with James on his tail. You then see LeBron just point to the sky as if he’s saying to the basketball Gods that they need to send help from above as he is about to kill a man. Okay, so that was a tad dramatic but basically it was a nasty dunk by LeBron from a pass off the backboard. If LeBron had not mentioned their concerns regarding their energy levels after 8 days of rest, you would’ve forgotten just how much time they had off. The Cavs played off the sluggishness from the Raptors especially on transitions because they knew that if they slowed the game down, it would give the Raptors time to establish their defense.

3. Please no more JV – Look, I’m a huge JV fan and those dreamy blue eyes can work it’s charm on me any day but for this series, he’s just got to go! Everyone in the league knows that Jonas Valanciunas is not the best off a pick-and-roll (he’s actually horrible) and the Cavs exploited this any time JV was on the floor. Many had him as a good match-up against Tristan Thompson because of his size. But on Monday night, it was evident that JV was not cutting it due to his lack of speed and decisiveness against Thompson and even Channing Frye.  His numbers show this as he was -21 in net rating and only contributed 6 points and 6 rebounds. Unfortunately with his speed and inability to guard the perimeter, I don’t see a meaningful role for JV in this series.

4. It’s raining 3’s, hallelujah – As Jack Armstrong said many times throughout the night, the three will be a factor in the game as the Cavs got hot with their three point shooting off the bat. Fans need to understand that the pace of a game can change because of the 3-point shot. The Cavs only made 4 more three’s compared to the Raptors but that’s a 12 point difference you see. The Raptors shot 38.5% and the Cavs were 41.2%. You also have to consider that the Cavs have more options for the three-ball. When 4/5 starters can make that three-point shot without hesitation, the three pointer can be your saving grace. This shot was not only working for the Cavs but it worked for the Raptors too during their spurts of bounce-backs. Serge Ibaka was 3/3 from beyond the arc and PJ Tucker would’ve had at least 2 or 3 counted if he wasn’t a habitual line stepper as Josh Lewenberg describes him. You also see a strong presence of long ball from the Cavs bench with guys like Channing Frye and Kyle Korver having this shot in their back pocket. As for the Raptors, the only player off the bench that can make those shots is Norman Powell. Considering this league is now a shooter’s league, the Raptors need to do a better job of protecting the perimeter along with getting their own shooters hot.

5. As Troy Bolton would say, get your head in the game - This series will be as much a mental game as it is a physical game. When a team goes on 10+ point runs, make high-light worthy dunks against you or decide to do comedy skits during the game by drinking beer, it gets in your head. You start to question whether or not this is even a challenge for the other team. The Raptors need to really believe in themselves and understand that if they were good enough to get here, they’re definitely good enough to compete. This is going to be a collective effort from the coaching staff down to the bench players. I’m sure words are said in huddles or behind closed doors of what needs to be done but the Raptors need to win and lose together. They need to continue to hold each other accountable for their mistakes but they need to also step-up to fill the gaps that their teammates have left open. That means making the shot that was intended for someone else or covering the man that someone couldn’t get to. This team needs to play for each other because when all things are going against you, only your teammates know exactly the struggle you’re going through.

The Raptors play game two on Wednesday night and history shows that if they go 0-2 in a series, there’s no bouncing back. But with that being said, we all have to understand that this is just one game of the series. Players and fans know that the Raptors have been here before and have the ability to find their way out of this.  Will Coach Casey learn from the last series that waiting too long to make adjustments may cause more harm than good for his team? Will our All-Star continue to show up in order to support the rest of the guys against this offensive juggernaut that we call the Cavaliers? Or will the Cavs prove that they are just too much to handle for this team? I guess we will have to wait until Wednesday night to see if they’ve learned from their mistakes or if old habits really do die hard. For now, let's just remember that it’s the first team to win four that will move on, not the first to win.

Raptors Round Up: Raptors Experience Déjà vu but Still Come out on Top

See? A little yelling never really hurt anyone. Just ask the Raptors as they seem to have gotten their $h!t together after a horrendous loss in game 3 exactly one week ago.

In the past 7 days, the Raptors have shown all sorts of basketball – the good, the bad and the very, very ugly. The Raptors went from being a team who had a field goal percentage of 33.8% during game 3  ( which looked absolutely pathetic btw) to being a real championship contender who shot 57.7% from the field in game 5. When players were asked what caused such a drastic change, a lot of them referenced a “heated tape session” between players and coaches. DeMarre Carroll explained it as "a lot of yelling from everybody mainly defense minded players". Which, to me, translated to “PJ Tucker and Serge Ibaka was just yelling at everyone and calling them out on their mistakes”.

In game 4, the Raptors were able to show a sliver of their potential with an 87-76 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. This allowed them to tie the series 2-2, splitting their road games 1-1. By game 5, the Raptors had the momentum on their side and they were able to take that energy back to the Air Canada Centre. They seized the opportunity to take the lead in the series by completely dominating the Bucks Monday night with a 118-93 victory.

TORONTO RAPTORS FANS FINALLY HAVE SOMETHING TO CHEER FOR WITH WITH A DOMINATING WIN IN GAME 5 OVER THE MILWAUKEE BUCKS, 118-93. 

TORONTO RAPTORS FANS FINALLY HAVE SOMETHING TO CHEER FOR WITH WITH A DOMINATING WIN IN GAME 5 OVER THE MILWAUKEE BUCKS, 118-93. 

Whatever caused them to finally wake up, it needs to stick around. Whether it was heated tape sessions, certain guys showing up or just getting into the swing of playoff basketball, it's working. The Post Up noticed 5 key factors that helped the Raptors turn this series around:

1.       We The Norm – If you were to ask anyone on the Raptors, and even on the Bucks, what the biggest difference has been, they would all say that Norman Powell has been the game changer. Coach Casey puts it perfectly when he says that Norman is the “x-factor” for the Raptors. Between games 4 and 5, Norm has averaged 18.5 points, 57.4% from the field, 4 rebounds and has been literally perfect from the three; shooting 7/7 from beyond the arch. He went from being chained to the bench playing very limited (if any) minutes to being thee go-to-guy among the Raptors. As described by everyone on either team, he brings a sense of energy and aggressiveness that the Raptors have been lacking all series. During the regular season, his quickness and aggressiveness was seen as careless and selfish basketball. But during this series, his “trust my instinct” approach has done wonders. He adds depth to whatever line he is playing with, especially with the starting line-up. There is so much focus on either Kyle Lowry or DeMar DeRozan that the Bucks don’t have anyone to spare in order to guard the quickness of Norm, hence the reason why he gets so many open looks.

2.       Hot potato pass it on, pass it on… – When the Raptors share the rock, beautiful things happen. Though assists was not the identity of the Raptors during the regular season, it has been something they have learned and have been slowly working into their system. It's evident as seen in the games that the Raptors have won in this series, they had 16+ assists, with game 5 having 29 dimes. Assists and ball movement during a game reflects a couples things about a team. One, it shows that the team is not rushing the shot. They are able to recognize when it’s a bad look and kick it out to a teammate that has the better shot. Two, it shows that they trust each other. The Bucks have figured out Debo and Kyle so you can almost guarantee a double team when they have the ball. The quicker they can kick it out to another player and get the Bucks to chase the ball, the more open looks they will get. Jason Kidd even confessed during his post-game interview after his loss in game 5 that the young Bucks struggle when you play fast-ball against their defense -- despite their length, it throws their timing off.

3.       Be Aggressive! Be! Be! Aggressive! – Like what was already said, the reason why Norm has been so successful is because he has been aggressive with his looks. You can see this starting to rub off on guys like Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas and even DeMarre Carroll. When the Raptors are aggressive from the very beginning, it sets the tone for the rest of the game. In game 3, their first basket was not scored until the 10:14 mark of the first quarter with JV making a free-throw. The Bucks went on to a 5-0 run in the first minute and well, we all know how that game ended. Meanwhile in game 5, Serge Ibaka nails a 3-pointer 19 seconds into the game which was then followed up by a nasty dunk a minute later. When asked about the difference in game 5, Giannis Antetokounmpo admitted that the Raptors came on strong and they did a good job not letting up. Despite their numerous attempts in game 5 to cut the lead, Giannis said that the Raptors kept punching back. Another reason why being aggressive works is to play off the infamous length of the Bucks. When you settle for jump-shots, these are contested shots. I’m not saying that your drives, lay-ups and even dunks would be wide-open but at least it provides the opportunity for a call to be made against the Bucks.

4.       It’s a make or miss league – As both Coach Casey and Jason Kidd have said, this is a make or miss league; you either make your shot or you don’t and it seems both teams have seen either side of this. In games 3 through 5, both teams have (more or less) taken the same amount of shots but yet their shooting percentages have been the game changer. Let’s break it down like this:

See! The amount of shots that were taken were pretty much identical, no outliers like a Rockets vs. Thunder game. When guys find their rhythm and stick to it, it can make the difference between a win or a loss. Like Demar said, when the rest of the team make their shots, it takes a lot of pressure off him and Kyle to be the main source for points. Making shots does wonders for point distribution and this was evident in game 5. All 5 of the Raptors starters along with Corey Joseph were in double figures for point scored.

5.       Know your role – When you’re looking for a deep post-season run, guys need to understand that their role may be different compared to the regular season and they need to be okay with that. This is important especially when rotations are not working and the coaching staff need to shake things up to get the team going. The Raptors as a whole have been doing a good job of this all throughout the regular season and playoffs have been no different. You see this with our bench players who are always willing to do what it takes for the sake of winning. JV said it perfectly during his post-game interview for game 5, where he played his second consecutive game as a bench player. He said that the most important thing is the “W” not your own numbers. He accepted this change with open arms and did what his team needed him to do. Not to sound like I’m in love with Norman (but let’s be real, I am), he has done an amazing job of this since his time with the Raptors. As Jack Armstrong said, Coach Casey and his staff have no loyalty to any specific players. Their loyalty is only to winning and so they are going to make any necessary changes to get them there.

With game 6 just mere hours away, you know that both teams will be preparing right up until tip-off. For one team, it's win or stay home. For another, a win will help them reserve whatever energy is left when they meet the reining NBA Champion, Cleveland Cavaliers, in round two. Looking at the odds, the Bucks are favoured to win but why not? They’re playing in their home court and they have the advantage of playing with their back against the wall. Being the underdogs can really motivate a team to do the unthinkable. Like Giannis said, the two-day break gives them time to really prepare, become eager and angrier. Meanwhile, the Raptors have been here before; twice last season actually. They know what it feels like to choke in game 6 and have to play the do-or-die game 7.  I'm sure Ibaka, who has been a huge part of a disappointing series with his ex-team the OKC Thunder, will reiterate just how important it is to close out a series the first chance you get. So what do you think - will the game on Saturday be against the Bucks or King James and his squad? 

Sources: ESPN, Real GM , Toronto Raptors (YouTube), The Score, NBALife (YouTube)Ximo Pierto (YouTube)

Raptors Get Back on Track with a 106-100 Victory over the Bucks in Game 2

THE TORONTO RAPTORS TAKE GAME 2 WITH A 106-100 VICTORY OVER THE MILWAUKEE BUCKS. PHOTO TAKEN BY STEPHANIE PANGILINAN FOR THE POST UP. 

THE TORONTO RAPTORS TAKE GAME 2 WITH A 106-100 VICTORY OVER THE MILWAUKEE BUCKS. PHOTO TAKEN BY STEPHANIE PANGILINAN FOR THE POST UP. 

The Toronto Raptors faced the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday for Game 2 at the Air Canada Centre. After the horrendous effort (or lackof) in Game 1 where they lossed by 14 to the young Bucks squad, the Raptors were putting their 4-1 record for game 2’s on the line. The stats continue to be on the side of the Raptors as they were able to come out on top with a 106-100 victory, improving their game 2 record to 5-1.

So what are some things the coaching staff figured out about the Bucks that helped with the win? Well it doesn’t take much studying to see but they were able to slow down The Greek Freak, Giannis Atentokounmpo. Mind you, it was not a complete shutdown hence the term “slow down”. The Raptors were able to keep Giannis to 24 points, 15 rebounds and shooting 37.5% from the field. You’re probably looking at those numbers and thinking “wow, that’s a quiet night for Giannis, no?” When you hear about this guy and see just how good he is, a line like that would be considered “slowing him down”. The Raptors focused on keeping this guy out of the paint and forced him to shoot in the perimeter. By forcing Giannis to take those perimeter shots, it took away the Bucks’ first option for offense. When Giannis was not getting good looks, which was often, he would be forced to pass to more unreliable shooters like Tony Snell, Thon Maker or Matthew Dellavadova. Despite the Raptor’s efforts, Giannis still found ways to make the points he did contribute, matter. A prime example of this would be at the 1:12 mark in the fourth quarter where Giannis banked a three-point shot to tie the game at 100. From there it was a series of missed shots that would later cost the Bucks a loss.

Aside from stopping the Greek Freak, the Raptors’ ball movement was a key factor in their win. On Tuesday, the Raptors had 24 assists compared to 11 from game 1. Increased ball movement allowed the Raptors to recognize when it was or wasn’t a good look for them. You were able to see this with every possession that DeMar DeRozan had because it was always met with a double team from the Bucks.  It forced DeMar to kick out to a guy that was left open. By adding a couple more swing passes, it increased the likelihood of someone getting the better look and banking the shot, like a 3-pointer. The Raptors shot 14/29 (48.3%) from beyond the arc, which is a francise record in the post-season – that’s insane! The Raptors are 22nd in the league for 3-point attempts during the regular season. So the fact that the boys had confidence in their three-pointers just adds even more arsenal for them to use.

The increased in team assists also shows that this team trusts each other. Increased ball movement allows for involvement from the whole team; more touches per possession. When guys like DeMar and Kyle Lowry draw in their defenders deep into the paint, it leaves other guys open with more desirable shots. This was described perfectly by Lowry during his post-game interview when he explained the dagger he served to the Bucks late in the fourth quarter. He stated that the last play was actually drawn up for DeMar but because of the double team along the baseline, DeMar looked for another option. DeMar saw Serge and knew there was a better chance at executing this play if he passed it off, so he did. From there, it was Serge’s turn to analyze the situation and he recognized that Thon Maker was there to contest a potential shot so a kick-out pass to Kyle made more sense. Kyle said as long as he got to the spot the play was still alive. Kyle got to his spot and going up against the rookie, Malcolm Brogdon, you already knew this shot was going in. Ball movement shows that the team has confidence in each other to recognize good looks and play unselfish basketball.

Lastly, a few guys showed up to help the Raptors with their victory. Kyle Lowry produced 22 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals all while shooting 50% from the field. This is a guy who has been in this situation various times and like Coach Casey said prior to game 2, Lowry is not someone that needs to be told what to do. He knew what he needed to do and made sure he played hard to get it done. Alongside Kyle, Jonas Valanciunas was a huge presence for the team. He set the tone early when he got an and-one going up against Thon Maker very early in the 1st quarter. JV played aggressive basketball which was exactly what this team needed to get fired up. JV finished the night with a double-double; 10 points and 10 rebounds with 22 minutes of play. With how well JV was playing, I was expecting him to close out the game but Coach Casey used the time to rest him in order to match Jason Kidd’s small rotation. Which leads us to our last honorary mention of the night – Serge Ibaka. Keep in mind that he is playing with a sprained ankle so take his numbers from the first half with a grain of salt. Despite his first half performance, Serge showed just how much experience he has in the post-season. Serge was able to find a way out of his rut quickly as he cashed in 16 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and was +13 while on the court.

With all the things that the Raptors did right, they were still making the same mistakes we saw Saturday afternoon which forced this game to be a lot closer than it should have been. For one thing, the intensity still needs to remain consistent all throughout the 48 minutes. There were ebbs and flows to this game meaning the teams were trading runs. At one point, the Raptors were up by 13 but they could not hold on nor build on the lead because they would ease up. As hard as the Bucks were playing, it was during crucial moments where the lack of energy from the Raptors fed into keeping the Bucks alive. This was evident especially in the 4th quarter when guys like Brogdon and Dellavedova were getting wide open looks that could have potentially tied or even won the game for the Bucks. As Jason Kidd said, the shots they were taking were good, open shots but unfortunately with the game of basketball there will be times that they just don’t fall in. Another flaw that was evident would be their defense. Of course a lot of attention is placed on stopping Giannis but the Raptors cannot rule out the other guys on the team as potential threats. Guys like Khris Middleton and Greg Monroe can cause serious damage for the Raptors if they continue to be left unattended. Middleton had 20 points for the night and shot 42.8% while Monroe, that’s right Greg Monroe, finished with 18 points and shot 6/9 from the field. Because Giannis is getting the coverage on defense, passes will go to the rest of the team so the Raptors need to be on top of this and aware of the open man.

With a win in game 2, the Raptors have now tied the series 1-1 and switch gears to being the away team for the next two games. The beauty about playoff basketball is that the attention of both teams is so concentrated on each other that not much goes unnoticed. Things like plays, the way someone is guarded, tendencies of players are all studied intensely so any changes a team can make are almost predictable. Both teams have already said that they have not noticed anything drastically different and are doing exactly what is expected of them. With that being said, I expect this series to only go to 5 games so here’s to hoping that the Raptors continue to do what is expected of them.

Sources: ESPN, Toronto Raptors (YouTube), NBA City (YouTube), NBALife (YouTube)

The Game 1 Curse Continues as The Raptors lose 97-83 to The Bucks

So I think it’s safe to say that the Raptors organization did not read The Post Up’s round 1 preview as they lost 97-83 to the Milwaukee Bucks from what looked like a second half melt down.

The young Bucks team was able to tame the Raptors by keeping them to just 36% shooting from the field and 72.7% from the line. The Bucks were also able to capitalize on the mistakes of the Raptors who had 11 turnovers resulting in 19 points for the Bucks. And as much as we Raptor fans want to believe that all referees are against us, the difference in free-throws attempted says otherwise. The Bucks were 12 for 15 from the line compared to the Raptors who were 24 for 33. The Raptors had more than double the free-throws suggesting the calls were actually in our favour (for once).  

To address some of the key factors that was explained in the previous post, it is clear that no one, aside from a handful of elites, can actually guard Giannis Atentokounmpo. He finished the night with 28 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists while shooting 72% from the field. How do you stop a 6’11” guy who can essentially play all positions? That’s right, you can’t. Though the offence of the Bucks live and die by Giannis, the rest of the team was able to find ways to get their offense going without him, especially late in the second half. All guys who played 20+ minutes finished with double figures for points scored which goes to show just how effective their ball movement was. Honorary mention goes to Malcolm Brogdon who contributed 16 points in 34 minutes. We cannot forget to mention Khris Middleton, who also played well and unselfish basketball, dishing out 9 assists and was +27.

While all of this great ball movement was happening for the Bucks, the Raptors seemed to have gone missing. Kyle Lowry only had 4 points and shot 2/11. DeMar DeRozan led the team with 27 points but considering he shot 7 for 21, you can say that DeMar went missing as well. On the other hand, Serge Ibaka seemed unphased by the first round nerves as he finished with a double-double; 19 points and 14 rebounds. Our bench was also MIA as they combined for a grand total of 19 points off the bench.

A lot of people did not anticipate the Raptors to drop game 1 against this young group of guys. Coach Casey and the guys all agree that the Bucks did not do anything surprising but the things they were expected to do, thus they did really well. The Bucks really took advantage of their length especially in the second half as they shut down the Raptors offense. The Raptors were outscored 51-32 in the second half and had only 13 points in the 4th quarter (we’re ranked 4th in this category remember?). This was the Raptors second worse shooting night and on top of that, their 83-point effort was the lowest scoring home game of the season. I get that everything needs to happen at least once, but really? Tonight had to be one of their worst games?

So what is it going to take for them to win Tuesday night and well, the rest of the series? For one thing, they need to make their shots. Like Coach Casey said, their bad offense fed into their bad defense. This is a team that shot 47.2% against the Bucks during their 4 meetings in the season. Even just a couple of their guys like Lowry, DeRozan, Patterson and Carroll find their rhythm, they’re less likely to dig themselves into a hole. Another thing to focus on would be their transition defense. It’s not a surprise that the Bucks thrive off fast-break points, they're young and given their quickness, turnovers are like candy for them. Therefore, the Raptors need to be able to find their men on those transitions and take away those opportunities. The Raptors also need to clean up around the boards. They finished with just 8 offensive rebounds and with the length of this Bucks team, blocked shots will come but the guys need to be there for the drop-offs. Lastly, speaking of length, the Raptors cannot afford to play small against this team! You can’t have Jonas Valanciunas playing only 24 minutes without the straight substitution. Jakob Poeltl and Lucas Nogueira played a combined 3 minutes which suggests that Casey chose to play small. Despite 14 points from Greg Monroe and 4 points from Thon Maker, this is a position that the Raptors need to exploit.

At the end of game 1, the Raptors are now 0-9 when it comes to game 1 home games of the first round. Considering this is how they started last season and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, I wouldn’t panic...just yet. Something I always try to tell myself during the post-season of any sport is that it’s the first one to 4 wins, not the first one to win.

Sources: ESPN, The Score, Toronto Raptors (YouTube)

round one: The Bucks Breakdown

The day has come people!

The day where #WeTheNorth faces off with #FearTheDeer in game 1 of round 1 in the 2017 NBA Playoffs. With the way the standings shook out, the 3rd seed Toronto Raptors will face the 6th seed Milwaukee Bucks. The Raptors finished their regular season 51-31 (making it their second consecutive season with 50+ wins) and the Bucks finished 42-40. The Raptors won the season series 3-1 against the Bucks and since they're the higher seed, they will have home court advantage for this series. They averaged 105.75 points, 50 rebounds and shot 47.22% from the field against the Bucks. The youth of the Bucks team could be both a blessing and a curse as they face the deeper and more experienced Raptors. The Post Up explains 5 factors that may influence this series:

1.       The Greek Freak – This is a factor that can really cause damage for the Raptors if they don't find a solution fast. With the length and versatility of Giannis Antetokounmpo, he will be a player that the Raptors may struggle with. This is a guy who leads his team in all categories which means that everything runs through Giannis. Against the Raptors, Giannis averaged 24 points, shot 58.8% from the field, 1.5 steals and 2.25 blocks. In all honesty, I don’t know if there is a perfect match-up against Giannis but with the depth of the Raptors and the willingness of Coach Casey to experiment, there are various options that can be exercised. PJ Tucker and Serge Ibaka will be the main guys that Coach will put on him. I don’t anticipate complete shutdowns but these guys will really challenge Giannis. Off the bench you can expect someone like Patrick Patterson or even Norman Powell to try and slow him down. Like I said, everything runs through Giannis so if the Raptors can figure him out early in this series, they increase their odds in moving on. 

2.       Go Big or Go Home – One of the x-factors for this series will be the bigs for each team, or lack thereof. The Raptors have the luxury of Jonas Valanciunas who can be used to completely dominate this series. The Bucks are currently ranked 27th in defensive rebounds and the Raptors rank in the top 10 for offensive rebounds. This means that the Raptors can exploit and really capitalize on the Bucks' weakness. When looking at the centres on either team, the Bucks lack a solid big man as they leave this position to Greg Monroe, John Henson or Spencer Hawes. If our bigs can establish their role early and find the holes in this young group of guys, the Bucks will be left like a deer in the headlights (see what I did there?) when JV or Jakob “second chance” Poeltl comes barreling down the court.

3.       Strong until the end – The Raptors are number one in come backs when they’re down 10+ points as they’ve collected 20 wins during these situations. Though I don’t anticipate such drastic point differentials, the Raptors have to remember to play strong until the end. They are currently ranked 2nd in 4th quarter offense and 4th in 4th quarter defense. Regardless of how the games go, they have to remember to not let up and instead, play right through the last seconds of the game. We’ve seen the struggles of the Raptors when it comes to their consistency. There were games where they would start off strong but eventually lose steam or they start slow, dig themselves a hole and exert unnecessary effort to try and climb out. If they want to succeed in this series and have a deep post-season run, they need to find their groove early on and stick to it through all 48 minutes.

4.       Young vs. old – These two teams are the epitome of young vs. old in both numbers and experience. The bucks are made up of young guys like Giannis Antetokounmpo (22), Thon Maker (20), Khris Middleton (25) Terrence Jones (25) and Malcolm Brogdon (24) – all of which are good, solid, up-and-comers but combined only have 12 post-season trips (6 from both Giannis and Middleton). Meanwhile, Serge Ibaka alone has 89 post-season appearances with 6 of those coming from the 2012 NBA Finals. In an article from Sportnet, they made note that the Raptors starters have 234 post-season appearances combined. If I had to pick one team that has knowledge of what it takes to make it in the playoffs, the Raptors win this category by a land-slide.

5.       Raptor Killers – There a couple names in this Bucks roster that stand out to me – Matthew Dellavedova, Mirza Teletovic and Jason Kidd. All these guys have met the Raptors in the post-season at one point or another. Mirza Teletovic and Jason Kidd were both part of the 2013-2014 Brooklyn Nets who won the first round series in 7 games over the Raptors. Hearing Teletovic's name announced in any game against the Raptors will forever haunt me no matter what team he is on. Jason Kidd was the coach of that 2013-2014 Brooklyn team and I will always think of him as the coach who is willing to do anything for the advantage. Remember the time he “accidentally” spilled a drink on the court during a game against the L.A. Lakers in 2013? Though he said it was accidental, the NBA fined him $50,000. The fact that a coach has tricks like that up his sleeve just doesn’t sit right with me. Lastly, Matthew Dellavedova, the rugby player in the NBA, is someone who is not afraid to play dirty which is concerning to me. Though Delly only averages 7.5 points and 5.75 assists against the Raptors as a Buck, he has the experience from a championship caliber team which he gained during his time with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

All things considered, I believe the Raptors can make it past the Bucks to get to the second round but it won’t come easy. If the Raptors find their rhythm early and are able to keep up with the quickness of this young team, I have the Raptors winning the series in 5. What do you think?

Sources: ESPN, Basketball Reference, RotoWorld, Raptors HQ, NBA (twitter)