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Raptors Fight Through Tough Night Offensively, Top Bucks 104-95

Although the Toronto Raptors did pull out their fourth straight preseason win, head coach Dwane Casey was far from impressed with what he saw on Monday night.

Amir Johnson was a part of a key push by the second unit that got the Raptors back in the game.
Amir Johnson was a part of a key push by the second unit that got the Raptors back in the game.
Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

The NBA preseason is a time for teams to work out their kinks and prepare for the regular season, when the outcome of each game actually matters.

This is probably the reason why, despite his team coming away with a 104-95 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night, Dwane Casey wasn't in the greatest of moods after the Toronto Raptors committed a whopping 19 turnovers in the process.

"You can't turnover the ball 19 times and expect to beat too many teams in the NBA." Casey said after the game.

"That was the biggest, I guess, thing that jumped out at us tonight, was our carelessness with the ball. We had Five or six charges, playing in a crowd. It's the old saying, you know, don't pass in the crowd, but you definitely don't play in the crowd."

The Raptor offense was extremely sloppy, particularly in the first half, digging themselves yet another early hole.

Their early struggles on offense had a great deal to do with their out of control play, lead by Kyle Lowry who was a major culprit, committing 6 of the team's 19 turnovers on the night.

This was a hole that the Raptors bench would again have to dig the team out of.

On the postive side for the starters, both DeMar DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani looked sold offensively.

The Bucks began the game with Ellis matched up against DeRozan and the fourth-year guard recognized the mismatch right away.

DeRozan went at Ellis early and often in the first quarter, getting easy buckets at the rim and opportunities at the free throw-line. The Bucks eventually threw other defenders at him like Tobias Harris, but DeMar continued to prove to be a tough cover for Milwaukee's perimeter defenders.

DeRozan would miss a number of easy jumpers, but his progress is encouraging. He finished with 19 points on 7 of 16 shooting from the floor and 7 of 10 from the free throw line.

Bargnani was solid aswell and had his best offensive game of the preseason so far, making 7 of his 15 attempts from the floor and tallying 17 points .

For perhaps the first time all preseason, Bargnani looked comfortable on that end of the floor where he absolutely has to be effective given his deficiencies in both the rebounding and defensive departments.

Jonas Valanciunas was also strong. The seven-foot Lithuanian lead the team with 8 rebounds and 4 blocks to go along with his double-figure scoring output.

Although Dwane Casey got strong performances from his starters, it was the bench that really stole the show.

In the second half, Casey went to his instant offense lineup which includes both back-up point guards John Lucas III--fresh off his debut as the Most Interesting Man in the NBA--and Jose Calderon.

Alongside those two guards, Casey played forwards Ed Davis, Amir Johnson and Alan Anderson.

It is usually Calderon and Lucas that provide the offensive spark from that unit, however both Alan Anderson and Amir Johnson had great offensive outings.

Anderson nailed two three-pointers on his way to a 10 point scoring night and Amir Johnson matched his output on an efficient 5 of 10 shooting from the floor. Johnson also added 4 rebounds.

Johnson's consistent play has been one of the bright spots for the team so far this preseason as Johnson seems to be primed for a bounce back season after last year's injury riddled campaign.

"That's what i have been saying from the get-go. you know, this year I feel a lot healthier and I feel a lot stronger. so, this is my year." Johnson told me about his healthy start to the season.

Another key aspect of Johnson's great star to the season so far has been his ability to make the mid-range jump shot.

"I've been working on it all season with the coaches," Johnson said when asked about his jumper. "Eric Hughes has been down to L.A and I have been working with him throughout the summer, so it feels a lot better."

Amir Johnson, John Lucas III and the rest of that second unit are building some great chemistry together, so much so that they are considering coming up with a nickname--not unlike the Young Ones for years passed--or, at least that is what the duo told the media in the locker room following the game.

In the fourth quarter, Kyle Lowry made up for his careless play in the first half with solid play to close out the game.

Lowry made plays down the stretch including a big three-point shot as well as a drive to the bucket that created an easy shot attempt for Jonas Valanciunas which resulted in a foul and a couple of free throws.

In just about every game so far, the Dinos have pulled out a win in the final minutes of a close game. This trend has to be an encouraging sign for this young team attempting to build an identity. This is something that Dwane Casey will hope translates over to the regular season.

For the Bucks, Monta Ellis was a big part of their offensive attack.

Despite struggling on the defensive end of the floor, Ellis was a big reason why the Bucks built their early lead. Ellis scored 26 points and didn't turn the ball over a single time, but he did miss a couple of crucial shots in close to the basket late in the game that helped to seal his team's fate.

Ilyasova also had a strong evening, scoring 19 points and grabbing 7 boards. Ilyasova was the recipient of a number of drive and kick opportunities thanks to the constantly penetrating duo of Ellis and Jennings.

Jennings had a disappointing evening as he struggled to make shots early and seemingly pressed the rest of the way. Although he did finish with a game-high 10 assists, he shot just 3 of 15 and turned the ball over 4 times.

Next up for the Raptors is a meeting with the Grizzlies in Memphis on Thursday night. That will be their final preseason tuneup before taking on the Indiana Pacers on opening night next wednesday.

Notes: Terrence Ross did not play due to flu-like symptoms and was not even in the building to take in the match.

Players were seen in the locker room saying their goodbyes to Jerel McNeal and Chris Wright, who the Raptors announced after the game, had been waved.