Thursday, 19 October, 2017

Guarding Bucks' Giannis presents Raptors a playoff puzzle

Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry isn't concerned who his team's opponent will be. Rapt Attention: Lowry's Back
Sammy Stanley | 15 April, 2017, 05:54

But the electric Toronto backcourt slipped early in the playoffs last season, nearly costing them a First Round win.

"Hey, let's do it 'till we fail", Toronto's team president said then.

The part of Masai Ujiri's brain that's always looking forward to future Raptors rosters - the part that's always anxious about young players being groomed for down the road - is taking a break for the next couple of months.

Two months after Ujiri acquired Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker to add another level of toughness to his team, the Raptors roar into the post-season playing their best basketball of the season, and are poised for what could be another long playoff run. The Raptors are about to find out.

- Toronto general manager Jeff Weltman was the assistant GM in Milwaukee for five seasons, leaving after the 2013 draft to join up with good friend Masai Ujiri.

"Our goal is to play for a championship", Toronto coach Dwane Casey. They've also had big, defense-first point guards who have been unable to rein in Kyle Lowry. We can't take what we did a year ago and bring it into this playoffs aside from experience. They comprise one of the NBA's best backcourts during the regular season, but both struggled from the field in the 2016 playoffs, a big reason why the Raptors were extended to seven games by in and six by Miami, two clearly inferior teams. Lowry's first four games back have been mostly encouraging. Notably, the Brogdon-Snell-Middleton-Antetokounmpo-Maker starting lineup debuted on March 3 in the season-tipping road win against the Clippers. He hit 16 per cent of his three-point attempts against IN, which is about the rate you'd expect if you pulled someone from the stands and asked them to hit the long ball.

OUT OF SIGHT: Small forward Quincy Pondexter missed his second straight season with a href='https://apnews.com/c7fb2bd60813497099df4883b0f1174f/Pelicans'-Pondexter-has-procedure-on-troublesome-left-knee'complications related to knee surgery/a, but has been shooting on the club's practice court in recent weeks. "We still have to go out and get it done, but I do like the physicality those two guys bring to our team". "The experience that you gain from that is damn near everything you can get out of the playoffs other than a Finals". But no-one is anxious about the hard-working forward wilting under the bright lights of the post-season. "Nobody else", Casey said. Molitor, one of the greatest Brewers of all time, hit.355 in the 1982 World Series, which the Brewers lost in seven games. "He played really well, like the old Kyle, like he hadn't missed a beat".

"I think that's our challenge in Game 1", Casey said. Game 1 of their opening round against the Indiana Pacers had Raps supporters in a panic as Lowry made 3 of 13 field-goal attempts while DeRozan made 5 of 19. Their lone Game 1 win came in the second round against Philadelphia in 2002.

"I think everybody wants to play defence this year and we understand that's the most important thing", Carroll said. "I know I came in early just to get some work in and get completely locked in and embrace this feeling". "Records are made to be broken so hopefully we break this one this time".

If it weren't for the unbelievable 42 triple-doubles of Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook, not to mention the 22 of the Houston Rockets' James Harden, Bucks coach Jason Kidd believes Antetokounmpo would be squarely in the Most Valuable Player discussion.

Casey compared Antetokounmpo to a young Magic Johnson.

If I had to put a number on it, I'd say Lowry looks to be about 85-90% of his usual self. Always been big admirer of him as a person. there's so much room for growth. "We will as long as we stick together, do what we do, our team habits, the things we worked on in training camp and just believe in ourselves".

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