Jump into your local time machine and go back about two weeks. Optimism was high. It was a new year and the Toronto Raptors were one of the hottest teams in the NBA. After negotiating a fairly difficult early schedule, multiple factors were in place for this team to sustain their run of good form. 2013 would start with 6 straight games at home, where the Toronto Raptors had shown a knack for beating bad teams, and being able to hang tough with the better ones. The Thunder were the only elite team primed to visit Toronto and a 5-1 record was a realistic prediction.
An unexpected loss to Sacramento due to an unforeseen Demarcus Cousins "I give a damn today" performance was put in the rear-view mirror by the time Philadelphia came to town. A 20 point rout of the Charlotte Bobcats followed and more of the same was expected against Milwaukee.
The Raptors raced out to an early lead and every shot was going in. Jose Calderon was feeling it and he ended up playing the entire first quarter. There really is no other way to explain what happened afterwards other than to state the facts. The bench unit came into the game and absolutely blew it. Kyle Lowry and Alan Anderson are, generally speaking, expected to be primary scoring options off the pine. Neither could get it going tonight and they were a combined 2/14. To make matters worse, Anderson was consistently losing track of Mike Dunleavy and this led to a barrage of open three pointers.
Amir Johnson and Ed Davis combined for 42 points and 26 boards while displaying their usual chemistry. They’ve both been playing heavy minutes as of late and you could tell that Davis in particular was getting incredibly tired towards the end of the game. Johnson’s performance becomes even more impressive when one realizes that he was injured in the first half and came back to finish the game. Calderon and Johnson are two of the most important players on this team and the team will need them to beat Brooklyn on the road.
“They clearly outplayed us, defensively, offensively, all around.” - Dwayne Casey
Brandon Jennings, the player drafted directly after DeMar DeRozan, had 19 points and 10 assists. John Henson added 19 off the bench and Mike Dunleavy was a constant source of wide-open three pointers. Milwaukee’s bench scored 43 points and they deserve credit and praise for climbing out of a 20 point deficit before halftime.
This is the second home game in a row in which the team has been booed off the court. Against the Bobcats it was clearly motivated by pizza but yesterday was clearly about the performance.
The ‘race’ for the final playoff spot continues tomorrow night in Brooklyn.