Right from the start, the Raptors looked like they were in trouble. The first quarter ended 23-14, during which the Raptors shot 25 percent (and 25 percent from three). They looked to be back in the metaphorical mud. Still, there was a positive to be found: Jonas Valanciunas shot 4-for-7 for eight points to go along with seven rebounds. Toronto looked out of it, but hey, the big man was rolling and the shooting would have to improve, right?
No, not right.
"If you want to write something negative, that was a stinker," said Coach Dwane Casey after the game. It was hard to argue with his conclusion. The re-jigged starting lineup (minus Valanciunas) finished the game a delightful 10-for-36 (28 percent). And our favourite sixth man, Lou Williams, was a soul-crushing 1-for-12 (including 1-for-7 from three). The team managed only 14 assists, tossed in 15 turnovers, and finished shooting 32 percent from the floor for the game. Casey was right about something: this game was a stinker.
Still, the Raptors made it interesting. Despite being down by as many as 15 in the fourth, Toronto managed to tie it up in the last few minutes of the fourth. Tyler Hansbrough's (1-for-1 on the night!) put back tied the game at 75, and it was as close as Toronto would get to a win. (The offensive rebound came off a Lou miss, obviously.)
The Bucks meanwhile, were missing Ersan Ilyasova and Brandon Knight (as well as Jabari Parker). They had to rely on 27 minutes from Jorge Gutierrez (0-for-5 on the night). They seemed ready to give the game away in the fourth as the Raps' second unit abused them into only nine fourth quarter points. Sadly, seven of those points came after the game had been tied - with a huge three by Jared Dudley, and a killer long two from Jeryd Bayless (remember him?) It was a stinker of a way to lose.
So, for a team that struggles on offense when its perimeter shot is not falling, it bears asking the question: why not get Jonas, who played only seven minutes in the second half to finish with 12 points (6-for-9 shooting) and 13 rebounds, more touches? Against these Bucks, admittedly a long-limbed and quick team, JV appeared to be having his way. They couldn't keep him off the glass or out of deep post position. One wonders when, if ever, the Raptors' coaching staff will trust Jonas out there in close games. Are the constant fourth quarter benchings starting to have an affect on Valanciunas' development? Could he have helped tonight against Milwaukee? When asked after the game, Casey was quick to deflect, so quick in fact, the National Post's Eric Koreen could barely finish his question. Casey cut in.
"Jonas rebounded well, did a good job in the paint in that situation," Casey confirmed. "And again, it's just, you know, we just needed to - matter of fact Pat played the five quite a bit down the stretch, but Jonas did a good job."
Then the post-game press conference ended. We still don't have any answers.
What did you guys think of the game?