The seeding games inside the NBA’s Disney World bubble continued on Monday evening with a matchup between the top two teams in the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately, multiple stars were sitting out, including Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kyle Lowry, which really diminished the importance of this game. In the end, the Toronto Raptors cruised to a 114-106 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
The role players ran the show for Toronto. Chris Boucher threw down an incredible dunk and put up a career-high 25 points to lead the way, while seldom-used Matt Thomas came off the bench and took advantage of some extra minutes to pour in five 3-pointers en route to a career-high 22 points of his own. Norman Powell, meanwhile, went for 21.
Playing without Giannis, who had to take a trip to the bubble dentist, the Bucks weren’t exactly in playoff mode. Kyle Korver checked in off the bench to hit five triples and score 19 points, but it’s not a great sign when he’s the leading scorer at this point in his career. As a team, they shot just 39.3 percent from the field, and didn’t exactly lock in on the defensive end.
Here are three key takeaways from this game:
1. Potential ECF preview in name only
For the second straight season, these two teams finished with the best records in the Eastern Conference, and there’s a good chance they’ll meet in the Eastern Conference finals for a second straight season as well. This game, however, was a potential preview in name only.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was out after he had to see the dentist, while Kyle Lowry (back), Fred VanVleet (knee) and Serge Ibaka (knee) were all sidelined as well. If that wasn’t enough, Wesley Matthews hobbled off the floor after just a few minutes and didn’t return, while Pat Connaughton also left the game after hitting his head on the floor.
That’s six key players who missed either all or some of this game, and it’s pretty hard to draw any meaningful conclusions when that’s the case. Plus, both of these teams are already locked into their playoff spots, so they had nothing tangible to play for. All told, this was more like one of the scrimmage games than it was a playoff matchup.
2. Matt Thomas takeover
Unless you’re a diehard Raptors fan, you’d be forgiven for not knowing about Matt Thomas. The 26-year-old rookie played sparingly for Toronto this season, and the fact that he averaged four points on 10 minutes per game was honestly a bit deceiving considering he only played in 39 contests.
But with both Lowry and VanVleet out for this game, Nick Nurse called on Thomas to fill some minutes in the backcourt. He certainly took advantage, coming out on fire and basically forcing Nurse to leave him in for 37 minutes. Prior to this game, he had never played more than 22.
Thomas finished the night with 22 points and five 3-pointers, both of which were also career bests, and was a team-high plus-13 in the eight-point win. He earned his spot in the league because of his ridiculous shooting, so it wasn’t a surprise that he put it on display against the Bucks, hitting some really tough shots from downtown.
3. Injury concerns for Bucks
The Bucks have not really found their rhythm so far in the bubble, and it would be good for them if they can figure some things out in the last few seeing games, but the main goal for them at this point is just making sure they’re healthy for the playoffs. To that point, Monday didn’t go so well for them.
Giannis was out, but that was just a tooth thing he had to deal with, and shouldn’t impact him longterm. However, just a few minutes into the game, Wesley Matthews hobbled off the floor, and didn’t return. Then, late in the second half, Pat Connaughton took a tough fall and slammed the back of his head on the court.
According to head coach Mike Budenholzer, Matthews had a bit of discomfort in his thigh and groin area, and the team is “hopeful that he will be OK,” but they’ll need to see how he responds tomorrow. As for Connaughton, Budenholzer said the “early reports are that he’s fine,” but like Matthews, the next few days will really tell the story.
It seems like the Bucks luckily escaped any serious problems, and, hopefully, that will continue throughout the rest of the week.
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