Through two games, there have been two versions of the Milwaukee Bucks: The version without Zaza Pachulia, one that struggles to rebound, score or produce much positive basketball at all and the version with Zaza Pachulia, an offensive juggernaut that locks down its opponents on defense. He’s unequivocally the Bucks MVP and is having arguably one of the most quietly dominating seasons of all time.
Two games is not much for sample size.
Obviously we don’t expect this trend to continue. At some point, it would be ideal for Milwaukee if Larry Sanders found himself and was able to unseat Pachulia in critical fourth quarter minutes.
What to Watch For: Bucks
The Bucks have ridden average play from Nate Wolters, exceptional play from Pachuila, very good play from John Henson and meh play from everyone else to a 1-1 record and a very rocky eight quarter of basketball. Milwaukee has fallen behind by 20 points in both games it has played this season. It’s easier to overcome a 20-point deficit and win against a bad team, which is what the Boston Celtics are, which is why the Bucks have one win. But most teams in the NBA are not bad and falling behind by 20-points and frantically trying to get back in the game is not a sustainable strategy.
Brandon Knight and Luke Ridnour are game time decisions, so we could be seeing more Wolters in the home opener. He’s proven a capable of handling NBA minutes to at least some degree. Think of him as an upgrade from Ish Smith, but not exactly an answer at the point guard position. Milwaukee will need more out of O.J. Mayo going forward and there’s no night like tonight for him to start taking a bit more control of the Bucks offense.
What to Watch For: Raptors
The masses are already getting restless in Toronto after a 1-1 start and an uninspiring loss in Atlanta Friday night. Two things already appear evident for the Raptors: Rudy Gay is still Rudy Gay and we’re going to know whether DeMar DeRozan will be apart of future Toronto plans fairly quick this year.
After a strong opening night, Gay returned to form with a 4-19 FG night in Atlanta. Reports have indicated that Toronto is peddling Gay and his max contract all over the league, looking for a taker. He’s long been a favorite of the “YOU WATCH BASKETBALL WITH YOUR EYES YOU DON’T JUST LOOK AT STATS” community and a ne’er-do-well in the “EFFICIENCY IS WHAT IS IMPORTANT” community. He’s very graceful and athletic, but also very willing to settle for long jump shots that don’t go in very often.
DeRozan has been heading down the Rudy Gay path and we’ll probably know if he’s committed to that outcome this season. But he could surprise. He’s already attempted eight threes this season and made 50% of his two-point shots. There’s hope yet. These two will go a long way in determining whether or not the Raptors win on most nights. When they are on, the Raptors will be good. When they are not, the Raptors will be bad.
Bucks: Brandon Knight (hamstring, day-to-day), Luke Ridnour (back, day-to-day), Carlos Delfino (foot, out)
Raptors: Aaron Gray (something, day-to-day) Steve Novak (back, day-to-day)
PG Gary Neal
SG O.J. Mayo
SF Caron Butler
PF Ersan Ilyasova
C Larry Sanders
PG Kyle Lowry
SG DeMar DeRozan
SF Rudy Gay
PF Amir Johnson
C Jonas Valanciunas
Choose the Form of the Destructor
Did you know this song was about Weezer front man Rivers Cuomo’s little brother and his battle with a car insurance company? I did not. But tonight, I’d like to think it’s about Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas and his battle with the Milwaukee Bucks.
He doesn’t literally have a box full of the Bucks’ toys, but he does have a handful of post moves and a potentially game changing post game. Through two games, he’s battled some foul trouble and hasn’t been great, but he’s the kind of post player that could, yet again, land Larry Sanders in foul trouble and give the Bucks headaches. If Vitor Faverani was a lot for Sanders to handle, Valanciunas will be no picnic.
The Bucks are 33-12 in home openers in franchise history. That translates statistically to winning pretty much all the time (or 73.3 percent). Essentially, the Bucks turn into a dominant team during home openers.
Your final score: Bucks 99 – Raptors 90.