The Bucks took it to the Raptors in the second half and beat them by 18 points... At least that's what the score would have you believe. Instead, the Raptors fought against an opponent that they shouldn't need to overcome: Themselves.
Now that that's out of the way...
I really didn't want to talk about Andrea Bargnani for the rest of this month. I really, really didn't want to talk about him this month.
But, I just don't see how I can possibly recap this game without mentioning him.
Our story from last night begins with DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan was about as electrifying as it gets. The Sophomore was completely on fire and was just a bundle of energy. He hit shots that were wide open, he hit shots that were contested. He got after rebounds, he tried to defend his man as best he could. In the first half, it was the DeRozan show and not much else. Amir Johnson, Jose Calderon, Sonny Weems, Leandro Barbosa, and "he-who-gobbles-up-possessions" just couldn't figure it out. This led to an awful sub 35% shooting percentage at the half.
Fortunately, the Bucks did the Raptors a few favours.
Instead of pounding the Raptors' interior defense, the Bucks seemed content to attempt mid range shots that made for easy rebounds for the Raptors. Players like Andrew Bogut were forgotten, while Brandon Jennings and the other athletic players laid back for jumpers instead of driving the ball. Toss in a slew of turnovers and the Bucks only managed 40 points at the half.
Then the Raptors came up with a great strategy.
Too bad it was to stop their own most effective and efficient player in the first half.
The Raptors proceeded to play some of the worst thought-out basketball that I've seen in quite some time. Completely ignoring the efficiency of DeMar DeRozan, the Raptors instead got their "offensive-black-hole" some additional shots; enough so that Jack Armstrong and Matt Devlin were exuding with praise that he had found his shot again.
When you score 23 points on 9-21 shooting and you play the center position, it's not what I would call efficient. Yes, he found his shot in the second half by attacking the Bucks interior more, but where was that for the entire game? Was it worth it if he got going at the expense of robbing our most effective scorer for the game? He was also "gifted" three rebounds, including one where a Bucks player lost possession of the ball and practically pushed into his hands.
I won't even begin to talk about defense.
This is not play which should be indicative of praise.
Now, I understand that both Amir Johnson and our little "Italian Marvel" played with five fouls, so Jay Triano was hampered by the players available for him to substitute, and the Raptors had difficulties finding anyone to score in the second half.
But once again, Andrew Bogut completely killed the Raptors interior, and yes, the Raptors have proven that they can get some good fast break points if they play a little defense.
So why not play Solomon Alabi a bit more? Why don't you toss Joey Dorsey in with Julian Wright to see if the Raptors can play some lock-down D since Milwaukee heated up in the second half? If the tempo and pace of the game is all wrong, why don't you substitute some of your players for those energy ones?
You know, those guys that have proven themselves in the past to do what is needed on the defensive end?
It makes no sense to me why the Raptors should continue to trot out the same game plan when it's worked so spectacularly so far. Last I checked, the Raptors are now behind the Nets in the standings and are only ahead of Cleveland in the loss column. Substitution choices have now continued to be about setting a tone offensively, instead of establishing a defensive core.
At the end of it, I don't know know what happened to "the fighter" mentality that was so prevalent at training camp. I don't understand what the game plan is for the rest of the year. I'm not sure how the Raptors intend to develop their youth without increasing their playing time.
Someone better start asking Jay Triano these tough questions, otherwise we'll be forced to muscle our way into another press conference.
And yes, 3-point shooting continued to be an issue as the Raptors went scoreless from beyond the arc, but it's something that I mentioned at the very beginning of the year as a huge problem for the Raptors this year. It's not something that is simply going to solve itself overnight and it's not something that's going to change.
What the Raptors can change right now is how they chose to substitute their players, who gets to play when, and the shot selection choices they make.
Today, it's back to the ACC and the Raptors now have to come home and face the Spurs at the ACC. At an incredible 43-8, the Spurs are the best team in the NBA. Period. It's going to take a herculean effort to beat the Spurs who are also coming off a back-to-back win against the Pistons. With Matt Bonner's return, the Spurs are the toast of the NBA and there are few chinks in the Spurs armor.
I just can't see a way for the Raptors to win this game, especially if they put up the same effort as the last.
Of course, it's easy for me to just say "shoot better" but the Spurs are an extremely solid defensive team built with some potentt offensive weapons.
If the Raptors pull out a win against the Spurs, it's going to take a lot of players having their "games of the year" at the same time.
In my opinion, it's time to think about other matters.
It's time to start questioning the goals of the 2010-2011 Raptors as this season has only a couple months left in it. There's no better development that I'd like to see than to have our own youthful core go up against the best players in the NBA. It allows them to see how far they are from being amongst the best and it allows them to see what else they can do to become better.
I'd love to see our youth against the pros of the league.
However, without that clear direction, I'm afraid we'll see more of the same repetitions of the same mistakes.
So for me, this next game comes down to one word:
It's time that it becomes the mantra of this year's team.