Lacing Them Up –
The title of this little number was inspired by the one and only Jose Calderon, who in his post-game interview exclaimed "yes, we can beat any teams."
And he might be right.
The Toronto Raptors avoided falling into the trap game by lambasting the Bucks 106 to 75 and showed that they weren’t simply settling for beating the Boston Celtics. The win was their fifth straight at home and the Raptors look like they're getting their collective swagger back.
They also for the second straight night gave fans a glimpse of what most of us expected this season from the Dinos; depth, crisp ball movement, scoring, improved defence and of course, plenty of 3-point shooting.
A Numbers Game –
53 versus 13.
There are a number of stats you can point to from last night’s match but perhaps this one paints the best picture.
The Bucks took 23 shots from long range as opposed to the Raptors’ 15 yet Milwaukee hit on only three and Toronto hit eight.
In fact in general, it was the Raptors sizzling shooting on display once again that did in the opposition. Besides shooting 53 per cent from deep, Toronto also shot 88 per cent from the free throw line (as opposed to Milwaukee’s 45 per cent) and almost 51 per cent from the field. The Bucks were limited to approximately 42 per cent.
And in terms of rebounding, which I was concerned about pre-game, Toronto actually out-rebounded Milwaukee in the end 42 to 36. This was especially big in the second half as in the first, it was the Bucks’ offensive rebounding prowess that was keeping them in the game.
The Turning Point –
The turning point in this one was the third quarter without a doubt. Milwaukee was hanging around but you could tell that Toronto was one big run away from breaking it open. Sure enough, the Raps came out guns blazing in the third and the combination of an unstoppable Chris Bosh, some slick shooting from Anthony Parker, and even some tough defense from Andrea Bargnani and Jamario Moon had Toronto well on its way to win number 24.
Temperature Check –
Hot – Chris Bosh. Yep, he struggled early against the Celtics but he was absolutely unstoppable last night. He scored 32 points on near perfect shooting from everywhere on the court and best of all was the fact that he played only 35 minutes, sitting most of the fourth quarter. Post-game the coach of the Milwaukee Bucks referred to his combination of skills as "not ordinary" and claimed he had "no weakness." That was certainly the case on this night.
Hot – The Raptors’ offence. For the second game in a row the Raptors executed to near perfection on this end of the court. They made the extra pass, they found cutters, and Jose Calderon was dynamite leading the charge once more. (He had more assists than the entire Bucks’ team!) Toronto could do no wrong as even the bench got into the action putting up 35 points. It was Carlos Delfino leading the charge once again with 18 and really the Bucks had no answer. When Darrick Martin is hitting buzzer-beating fade-away’s…well…things are going well for you...
Lukewarm – Andrea Bargnani. I debated leaving Andrea off this list altogether but based on his last performance, this one bears mentioning. Bargs did struggle offensively going only four of 12 but I felt he still had some of that swagger from Wednesday. He was aggressive on offence and defence, had a team-tying high seven rebounds, and was moving well without the ball. 13 and seven ain’t so bad compared to most of his recent numbers…
Lukewarm – Raptors’ fans. On one hand, a sell-out against the Bucks? Can someone explain to me then why the Sun keeps writing articles about the Raptors’ popularity woes?
On the other – I’ll still never understand fans uber-excitement over a piece of pizza from Pizza Pizza. At least if it was Pizzaville or something…
Cold – Michael Redd. Yikes. Someone had a case of the Chuckers last night. Yes Anthony Parker did a good job on him but Redd took 14 shots making only five and to say that a number of these were forced would be like saying the Bucks have a good coach. Which brings me to...
Cold – Larry Krystowiak. The Bucks Bloggers warned us about Larry being over his head but this was my first taste of things really this season. You just got the feeling watching the game that Larry isn’t going to be around this team much longer. He’s got talent, but I really had to question his use of players last night. For instance, former Raptor Charlie Villanueva had a great first half and his inside scoring and rebounding gave the Raptors real problems. However for some reason, CV Smooth sat until about three minutes left in the third quarter when things were already way out of hand for the Bucks. And Andrew Bogut, who had an extremely favourable match-up in the paint, took only five shots and was barely used as a top option on offense.
This club looks like it needs a major overhaul in the leadership department and besides another top pick, I just feel the Bucks need to make better use of the talent they have. Maybe a little CV at the 3 in certain situations? Maybe a small lineup with him at the 5? I’m not sure, but considering the offensive talent on this team, I’m not sure if their play at this point in the season is that much more disappointing than Miami.
Moving On –
Toronto has played some tense games lately so it was nice to see this one finish in a very relaxed manner. So relaxed in fact that the RaptorsTV camera crew spotted Jose Calderon thieving a chicken nugget from a fan and having a snack in the fourth quarter! I’m usually pretty rough on the RapsTV camera folks but last night in addition to their usual close-ups, they also captured a number of humerous shots, be it Bosh doing his best Gumby impersonation diving for loose balls, or Jose and CB4 on the bench making fun of Delfino’s "carry" type cross-over dribble.
Plenty of jokes to go around but things get a lot more serious starting on Tuesday. Toronto takes on a surging Wizards team in a very important home-and-home series before a visiting Lakers club stops by. The Wizards are currently percentage points ahead of the Raptors for fourth spot in the East and while it’s still relatively early in the season, these games could very well determine Toronto’s playoff positioning when all is said and done.
Games around the league seem to be heating up and it’s great to see the Raptors starting to hit their stride at the right time. Even the vaunted Boston Celtics had to get a brain cramp from T-Wolves rookie Corey Brewer on an inbound play to escape with a win last night.
With Washington having won the first match of four, the Raptors need at least a split to guarantee a shot at topping the Wiz should their records be tied come season’s end. I expect two very entertaining matches however and these past two games bode well for the Raptors’ confidence come Tuesday.