Not very often do NBA games in January take on the mantle of a big game, but tonight’s visit by the Toronto Raptors to Fiserv Forum may meet the standard.
Sure, more than half the season remains for the Bucks (although the game will mark the halfway point of the season for Toronto), but Milwaukee could secure at least one important milestone with a victory.
Already ahead, 2-0, in the season series, the Bucks could clinch the season series and any tiebreaker to determine home-court advantage in the playoffs.
The Bucks boast the league’s best record at 27-10. The Raptors occupied that spot most of the first 2 1/2 months of the season and are just behind the Bucks at 28-12.
Toronto will be without two starters. Guard Kyle Lowry will sit with lower back problems, and center Jonas Valanciunas will miss his 12th straight game with a dislocated thumb.
The Bucks won the first meeting back on Oct. 29, 124-109. Giannis Antetokounmpo missed that game with a concussion, but Toronto star Kawhi Leonard also sat out that game for “rest.” The game was the last of the Bucks’ seven-game winning streak to start the season.
Milwaukee won the second meting, 104-99, in Toronto on Dec. 9. Malcolm Brogdon hit tying and go-ahead 3-pointers in the last 1:07 of that game. Lowry went scoreless in 33 minutes, going 0 for 5.
The Bucks are at full health, but they did play Friday night. While that could give Toronto an advantage, the Bucks scored a 144-112 victory over Atlanta in which starters were able to rest the entire fourth quarter. No starter played more than 22 minutes.