Tip-In: "Out of Gas" - Raptors Fade in Second Half, Lose to Bucks

It was the battle of this season's perhaps most injury-plagued teams and Milwaukee came out on top.  However as the HQ notes, the loser of last night's match may in fact be in a much more desirable position for the future...

Toronto's James Johnson appeared to hurt his leg in the second quarter but returned to the game. ... Toronto's DeMar DeRozan took a shot to the head during a collision in the third quarter but returned. ... After an errant pass hit a fan sitting courtside, Bayless went over to make sure the fan was OK during the timeout.

The previous few sentences were taken right from ESPN.com's recap of last night's 93 to 86 loss by the Toronto Raptors to the Milwaukee Bucks, a loss that not only had Jay Triano limited to eight available players, but which also apparently had some near injuries to fans!

Is this how bad it's gotten for the 2010-11 Toronto Raptors??

Apparently so.

Even Reggie Evans, who did make the trip to Wisconsin, ended up sitting out with a sore left index finger, leaving the likes of Joey Dorsey, Alexis Ajinca and even Solomon Alabi to hold down the front court next to Ed Davis.

However you have to wonder if the "injury" to Evans wasn't simply a response to the Bucks missing Andrew Bogut, as it's hard to fathom Reggie sitting a game like this one out because of a "sore finger," if a playoff birth was on the line.

Alas the reciprocal is true, and thanks to Toronto's loss and a Washington Wizards' OT win over the Boston Celtics, the Raps now possess sole position of the third-worst record in the league once more, and 15.6 per cent chance to win the top pick in the draft to go with it.

So was holding Evans out indeed our first true sign of an effort to get that top three pick?

Perhaps, although from the way the team played, even with only eight live bodies, you'd hardly have known.

Once again a very inexperienced club with a lot less talent than their opponent fought tooth and nail, actually leading this match for a good chunk.  After a slow start to the game, Toronto started to get out in transition for easy baskets as the Bucks were careless with the ball.  This got the Raps going at both ends and despite playing the night before, the infectious energy of guys like Jerryd Bayless, Ed Davis and Julian Wright had Triano's troops in the lead at half.

However even towards the end of the second quarter you could see the team's gas tank starting to empty out and sure enough, by the time the fourth quarter rolled around, the boys in red and black had very little left.  They settled for long jumpers that were flat, stopped attacking the rim (they had the vast majority of their 31 free-throw attempts in the first half) and the wheels came off.  DeMar DeRozan and Jerryd Bayless combined for 37 points, but it took them 34 shots to get them.

It was the same story for most of the team as when the dust had settled, Milwaukee had used a 24 to 15 fourth quarter scoring advantage to wrestle the game away from TO for good, and the Dinos now head back to Toronto for their final game of the season, one loss removed from a 22 and 60 season.

But just like the season, this game wasn't all bad.

Joey Dorsey was an absolute beast on the glass hauling in a Reggie Evans-esque 20 rebounds, while Ed Davis notched another double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

And while DeMar struggled with his shot as mentioned, he made up for it by getting to the line 10 times, sinking nine of his attempts.

I'd love to see Dorsey back next year and obviously DeMar and Ed have fairly bright futures with the team.  I'm not sure about some of the other guys, but really, we've been arguing now on the site for some time that these games should be all about getting run for the youngsters and that's exactly what's been happening.  The oldest player to play for Toronto last night was Joey Dorsey, and while he is 27 years old, he's barely got two full seasons of NBA experience really.

The other big positive for me was really contrasting Toronto to its opponent.

After a banner year in 2009-10, the Milwaukee Bucks blew the bank on guys like John Salmons and Drew Gooden and yet have no playoff birth or top draft pick to show for it.

Oh they'll be in the lottery, and do have the slimmest of odds in terms of leapfrogging Toronto in the lottery...

...but would you rather have a foundation with the likes of Davis, DeRozan and even James Johnson and Jerryd Bayless?

Or one like Milwaukee's that resulted in maybe 35 wins, and is paying huge bucks to guys like Michael Redd and Corey Maggette.

Sure, the Bucks have had just as many injury issues this year as the Raptors if not more.

But as much as we've maligned this season and bemoaned the franchise's future, tonight's game put things in a bit of context and helped to see a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel.

Hopefully a bottom three finish locks Toronto into a desirable spot in the upcoming draft, so that that flicker of light becomes a beacon in what's been some very dark days for fans the past few seasons.

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