Watching the Toronto Raptors drop a 107 to 97 decision to the Milwaukee Bucks last night resulted in a real mixture of emotions for me.
On one hand, I was proud of the shorthanded team, which fought an underrated Bucks squad right to the game’s final minutes before succumbing to Milwaukee’s superior offense.
On the other, it was another exercise in frustration as the Raptors looked to have the game on lock-down, but allowed Michael Redd to keep things close until CV Smooth and others took over down the stretch for Milwaukee.
The one point I’m sure that will be on fans’ minds this morning is that with the game tied at 97, an erroneous call by the referees, on what should have been a Milwaukee turnover, gave the ball back to the Bucks, who promptly scored and then never looked back. While that was one of several "bad breaks" that Toronto was victimized by last night, I thought it really drove home a key point about this team in its present form; just how small the margin of error is for the Raps.
This team still doesn’t have the talent to survive games like this, where they don’t get bounces or calls.
As good as Chris Bosh is, and Andrea Bargnani can be, without Jose and Jermaine, Toronto essentially has one go-to guy, maybe two if you combine Andrea and AP in terms of their overall consistency this year. However the Bucks have AT LEAST two on any given night with Redd, Jefferson and Villanueva, and guys like Bell and Sessions can light it up as well.
The Raptors still don’t have that sort of offensive production, in particular from the bench.
Jason Kapono was simply wretched again last night, Graham was unable to get it going, and outside of those two, it’s hard to believe the either Hump, Voskuhl or Roko is going to be able to put many points on the board. Some people may have laughed at my Von Wafer desires but the team desperately needs some sort of consistent offensive sparkplug off the bench.
The Bucks bench outscored the Raptors 51 to 23 on the night and I think that was the real story. Watching the match, I noted that it looked like a constant battle of "who would score more," between Toronto’s starters and Milwaukee’s bench. Toronto’s starters would build up a lead, the bench would lose it, and then they’d have to come back in and try to reclaim it. However in the end, Milwaukee’s subs gave the team enough of a lift so that the starters could come in and finish the deal.
As well, I’m sure fans are going to be ready to throw Will Solomon to the wolves.
Yes, he did take a few ill-advised shots but really, what did you expect? The Raptors are currently playing the hand they were dealt and unfortunately that hand includes two point guards who are in reality third-stringers in the NBA. I can’t explain how much this decision of BC’s in the off-season continues to confound me and we’re seeing the results at present.
And really, I thought that Solomon did a much better job than Roko overall last night. He did miss a number of open looks but dished out 11 assists to Roko’s 1. And while Ukic had some flashy plays, one was probably a travel that he got away with, and his defence was part of the reason Milwaukee got back in the game in the second quarter. Ramon Sessions repeatedly got past Ukic and into the paint forcing rotations which lead to easy looks for Michael Redd. And that’s when the Bucks offense started to wake up.
Perhaps John Hollinger was right then yesterday when he contemplated that Milwaukee has been way better than their record. This is a solid team, and one that was without their starting center and main defensive anchor Andrew Bogut. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Bucks grab one of the final three playoff spots in the East if they can stay healthy, as Scott Skiles has this group playing hard for 48 minutes. He also has three players as mentioned who can help carry the scoring load if Michael Redd is struggling. Toronto simply doesn’t have that luxury at present.
Nevertheless there was no question that Toronto, in spite of Milwaukee’s improved second-half performance, had their chances to win.
The missed call by the refs with the score knotted at 97, the two long-range 3’s by Ridnour, a 30 per cent shooter on the year, a deflection to Charlie Bell for a 3 with the shot clock about to expire…all of these and more were indeed bad breaks but the flip side is that the Raptors did little offensively to counter.
Jay Triano’s rotations were a bit strange last night, especially his decision to go small at one point which allowed Charlie V to abuse the Raptors frontcourt, and I’d like to see far less Kapono and Hump next game. Kapono’s useless foul to end the third quarter and horrendous shooting are enabling teams at present to play five on four, something that with such a small margin of error for the Dinos, simply can’t be allowed.
To get wins, this team has to grind things out and play basically a perfect game without Jose and Jermaine, something that did not happen last night.
Neither player is going to be making an appearance tomorrow night in Washington either which means that again, Raptors’ fans are faced with a situation where small errors and miscues could end up being enough for a second-straight Toronto loss in an easily winnable game.