Given that both teams were coming off games last night, the sloppy play on both ends was somewhat expected. The Raptors shot only 39.7% from the field (more on that later) to the Bucks' 44%, but won the battle on the boards 60-38 and also got to the free throw line early and often.
Toronto started off solidly with some strong defensive work from the starting unit as they outscored the Bucks 25-19 in the first quarter. The effort was continued with the introduction of Landry Fields and Tyler Hansbrough. There was a sequence where JV was the only starter on the court, and it didn't look pretty defensively. The Bucks managed to close the gap to 5 at half-time. The third quarter brought some renewed defensive energy, as the Raptors looked to be on the verge of a blowout. Just as we saw in the last game against the Celtics, a sloppy 4th quarter teeming with turnovers and second chance opportunities made the game closer than it needed to be, but the absence of talent on Milwaukee's squad shone through, as the Raptors managed to hang on for the W.
- In what's been an ongoing theme of the young season, Landry's energy and all-round game really adds a new wrinkle to the squad. When you consider the gaping hole the Raptors have at backup PG, Fields' effectiveness as a premier ball-handler serves them well going forward. He was scything passes through the Milwaukee defence, slashing/cutting on and off the ball, and for the most part, taking high-quality shots he was capable of making.
- "Quality of shots" seems to be a perfect segue to talk about Rudy Gay. When he's slashing and restricting himself to taking open jumpers, he's an effective and useful player. His three point attempts were mostly wide-open spot ups, and he converted 2 of 5. He was aggressive, converting 8 out of 10 at the line, and also grabbed 15 rebounds (!!).
- Dwane Casey's rotations. Accountability is something we've all begged for since the days of Andrea Bargnani. It was good to see Casey take Gay out near the end of the 4th Q as the lead was slipping away due in part to Gay's shot selection and turnovers.
- Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry had some sweet chemistry going. Nine assists between them is nothing to write home about, but I thought DD did a nice job driving and kicking to find Lowry (twice) and Amir for wide open 3s. Slashing and kicking is something we've never consistently seen from Derozan, and it's good to see him diversifying his game.
- The Starters on Offence. Even including Amir Johnson's 5-7 performance, the starters totalled 22-57, or ~38%. That type of a performance isn't going to cut it against better opposition. Too much iso-ball and not enough distribution.
- Rudy Gay. That's a second straight bad game from him. While credit has be given where it's due (see above), Rudy didn't have a good game by any means. The 5 turnovers to 0 assists, in conjunction with the 5-14 shooting, just signify a tough night at the office. Simply put: less shooting off the dribble for long 2s. I can live with the wide open 3 point attempts, but the bread and butter of his game HAS to be getting to the basket.
- Dwane Casey's rotations. This is the problem I have with coaches in lame duck situations. How can we expect Casey to live with the growing pains of Ross and JV, when he's playing for a contract himself. Wins speak louder than development, no matter how we choose to think of it. JV only played 6 minutes in the second half, and 16 minutes in the game. As far as Ross goes, he was a floater; his confidence looks shaken and is missing jumpers he needs to hit in order to contribute at the NBA level.
There was a bit of confusion at some point in the 1st Q -- the scorekeepers actually seemed to have taken away a basket from Jonas Valanciunas. It was a talking point for the rest of the night, as Matt and Jack were so kind to remind us.
A Note on The Bucks:
The Bucks are definitely an interesting team. They have a lot of intriguing talent -- Giannis, Larry Sanders, Henson, Wolters, etc. I do think they're missing one piece or two that they'd need to make the playoffs. Ersan Ilyasova is great; he's everything we wanted Andrea Bargnani to be.
Up next...The Big 3 of the Miami Heat at the ACC on Tuesday, November 5th.