Season Series: Raptors 3-0
The Toronto Raptors will take on the Milwaukee Bucks in their final regular-season home game at Air Canada Centre.
For the past five seasons, this has been the last game of the year. When it was over, players would wave to the fans, acknowledging them for their support over the course of the 82-game season. In the locker room, they would talk about striving for playoffs the next year.
Not this time. With the conclusion of the regular season, the Raptors know they’ll be back on their home floor this weekend. They’ve earned a crack at the NBA’s second season.
With the excitement of the next step creeping in, the challenge for Monday night will be staying focused on the Bucks. In Toronto’s last two games, a Friday loss to the New York Knicks and a victory on Sunday against the Detroit Pistons that they were lucky to pull out, the team has plenty to clean up. While they came out strong against the Pistons, something they had struggled with recently, they allowed Detroit to come back from an 18-point deficit. Instead of being able to rest its starters in an easy fourth quarter, Toronto needed them on the floor.
Just two games remain in the regular season. Raptors head coach Dwane Casey would like to use them both to help the team enter the playoffs on a strong note.
What To Watch
Amir Johnson’s minutes: After taking nearly a week off from basketball to try to give his sore right ankle time to heal, Johnson now has to work himself back into playing shape. Against the Knicks, Johnson struggled to keep up with Amar’e Stoudemire, who scored a season-high 24 points. He acknowledged after the game that his conditioning will take some time to return. Johnson played 17 minutes in each of the last two games.
A pretty big opportunity: If the Raptors can get the win against the Bucks, they will set a new franchise record for wins in a season. Tying the record of 47 wins in Sunday’s victory against the Pistons, the Raptors would love to set a new record and continue to prove people wrong. Looking at where expectations were when this season started, having the opportunity to set a franchise wins record isn’t something anyone could have predicted.
The impact of Chuck Hayes: When Hayes was traded to the Raptors in December, Casey was quick to sing his praises. Talking about his veteran leadership and defensive savvy, the Raptors head coach was pleased to have him on the roster. As the season has worn on, Hayes has stepped in admirably whenever his name has been called. With 10 rebounds in 14 minutes — despite an elbow in the head from Greg Monroe — Hayes has helped spell the team with Johnson still not at 100 percent.
“It definitely means a lot. That’s big to be tied with the franchise record and have a chance to break it. We’ve come a long way and a lot of people didn’t think we’d be in this position, so it’s definitely a credit to our hard work.” – DeMar DeRozan on tying the franchise wins record
“I feel like I’m a step slow and these last two games will be important to me just to try to pick it up and get that step back. I still go in and do some stuff at the gym and actually do stuff at home to work on my ankle. I’m constantly working on it, doing whatever I can to get it better because we’ve still got a long way to go.” – Amir Johnson on his ankle
“For us, it’s just proving to everybody that we can play in this league. We have improved. For us it’s just to keep on working hard, keep on pushing forward.” – Amir Johnson on the team’s mindset
Raptors: Kyle Lowry (G), DeMar DeRozan (G), Terrence Ross (F), Amir Johnson (F), Jonas Valanciunas (C)
Raptors: Landry Fields – flu-like symptoms (day-to-day)
Bucks: Carlos Delfino – post-surgery, right foot (out), Ersan Ilyasova – sore right ankle (out), Brandon Knight – sore right hip (questionable), O.J. Mayo Sprained – right ankle (doubtful), Nate Wolters – fractured left hand (out)
By The Numbers: Raptors vs. Bucks
|2013-14 AVERAGES||2013-14 RANKINGS|
Last Time They Met: Raptors 102, Bucks 98 – Apr. 5th, 2014