Given what's transpired over the past week, you would think that the Raps would understand that defense is the key to winning ball games in the NBA.
Well, apparently not.
It's really that simple. If the Raps allow the opposing guards to get into the paint at will and can't force their opponents into contested shots the result is essentially a foregone conclusion, even against a lesser and slumping opponent.
For those of you who managed to sit through this uninspired performance you saw a Raptors team that made Luke Ridnour and Roko Ukic look like guys who should be considered for the All-Star game. Yes, that Roko Ukic who managed one solid game while rocking a Raptors jersey last season. It's one thing to let Jennings shine, it's a whole different ballgame when Ridnour and Roko combine for 32 points and 10 assists.
One could easily point to the absence of Bargnani and Calderon as a reason for the loss on this evening (as done by Triano post-game) but to do so would be a mistake. Neither Bargnani or Calderon are good enough on the defensive end to have made a significant difference. The whole team did a bad job defensively.
It wasn't all just the Raps D though. The Bucks came to play and showed grit, tenacity and great team chemistry. Their defense was more than passable and their offense was surprisingly effective. They moved the ball flawlessly at times, didn't force the action and only turned the ball over 9 times. As a result players like Carlos Delfino, Ersan Ilyasova and Andrew Bogut didn't have to do too much and got the shots they wanted. Much of the credit for their offensive success has to be given to Brandon Jennings who already at such an early stage in his career clearly knows how to run an NBA team. He doesn't let the offense stagnate, can create his own shot and is a natural leader on the floor. To state the obvious, he looks like the steal of the draft thus far.
Perhaps the most disappointing part of last night's was Hedo Turkoglu's impression of Mr. Invisible. In a game where the Raps needed players to step-up and elevate their game to overcome the absence of Bargs and Calderon, he did the exact opposite. Turk had 9 points and did little to support another monster game by CB4. To be blunt, this is unacceptbale and disheartening but yet not all-together surprising. You can argue he is getting paid may too much money to have these sorts of moments and I would agree, but at the same time you can't expect him to become something that he isn't. Hedo does disappear at times. What I actually find more frustrating is that his body language indicated that he didn't really care about the loss. He needs to start earning his keep or at least playing like he cares about the results.
As mentioned in the Rapid Recap, the results in these Eastern Conference match-ups really do matter even early on. The Bucks look like a team good enough to play for a playoff spot and one the Raps will be competing with down the stretch.
Up now for the Raps? Atlanta. I am not sure how the Raps intend to turn things around against this powerhouse. Maybe they need to rock the Huskies jersey's again?
Although the Raps have won three of their last four I am far from convinced that all is well in Raptorland. Just look and who the most recent wins have come against. None of those are impressive wins and tonight just shows me they have not worked out all of the kinks.
Unfortunately things are not such that they can be turned around overnight.