They won Game 2 after leading most of the way, but once again, the Toronto Raptors failed to cover the NBA odds in their first-round series with the Milwaukee Bucks.
After two games, I may have seen enough. The Toronto Raptors did make a few necessary adjustments for Game 2 of their first-round series with the Milwaukee Bucks, and it was enough to get them the victory Tuesday night. But they failed to cover as 8-point favorites in a 106-100 final. Make it 0-2 ATS for the Raptors in these playoffs.
Small sample size? Absolutely. We’re still tempted to switch our NBA pick for Thursday’s Game 3 (8:00 p.m. ET, NBA-TV) in Milwaukee. However, the Raptors have just opened at +1 as we go to press, and that might be enough of a swing to keep us on Toronto here at the ranch. Let’s see if I talk myself out of it.
It’s not like Dwane Casey is incapable of getting the right players on the court. He proved his doubters wrong during last year’s playoffs by making some sharp adjustments, as the Raptors reached the Eastern finals for the first time in franchise history – and took a pair of games off the Cleveland Cavaliers. Casey also said before Game 2 that he was prepared to shake things up if necessary.
Can you guess where Jonas Valanciunas (10 points and 10 rebounds in 22 minutes) was during the entire fourth quarter? Yup, glued to the bench as usual. Even when Thon Maker came back in for Greg Monroe with the Bucks down by nine, Valanciunas stayed put. Milwaukee tied the game at 100-100 before the Raptors pulled out the win with hero ball and hard defense.
Valanciunas was eating Maker’s lunch on offense the whole night. The big man from Lithuania has a reputation as a poor defender, but his –0.1 Defensive Box Plus/Minus over at Basketball Reference suggests he may only be slightly worse than average. Grabbing a career-high 29.1 percent of available defensive rebounds helps matters considerably. And besides, the best defense is a good offense, so they say.
#FreeLucasNogueira— THE BLACK RANGER (@thakid_aaron) March 17, 2017
Don’t get me started on Lucas Nogueira (+5.5 BPM), either. Maybe if the Raptors had lost, Casey would have been impelled to give Nogueira some run Thursday. He still might. But since they won, and just barely, it’ll be Jason Kidd and the Bucks with the motivation to dig deeper into their bag of tricks.
You know what? Forget this spread. Let’s take the UNDER on the total of 196.5 points. Both teams shot the lights out in Game 2, going a combined 25-for-52 (48.1 percent) from downtown. That’s not likely to happen again in Game 3, but the total’s gone up from 195 on Tuesday’s NBA odds board, so hey, why not.