It was a good win for the Toronto Raptors last night as they pulled off an entertaining ‘come-from-behind special’ against the Milwaukee Bucks with a 101-96 victory. It wasn’t looking good early as Toronto allowed Milwaukee to jump out to a 15-point lead in the third quarter before chipping away and running the Bucks down.
The impressive thing about the win was the way in which it was accomplished. It wasn’t a shootout special as the Raptors only hit on 42.7 percent from the field but rather an old-fashioned triumph based upon effort. At some point the Raptors realized that with their jump shots not falling, they needed to attack the basket from inside. Toronto had Milwaukee over the limit and shooting the bonus with just under 10 minutes to go in the final quarter and capitalized by going 15 of 19 in the quarter from the charity stripe. To put that into perspective the Raptors had only 23 free-throw attempts through the first three quarters and the Bucks managed only 24 free-throw attempts the entire game. The aggressiveness that was rewarded by trips to the line was seen in Toronto’s 20-9 run to close the game.
It was a nice move by head coach Jay Triano to go to a seldom-used zone defence and switch the Raptors coverage to flummox the Bucks in the fourth quarter. Earlier in the game Milwaukee did the same thing to Toronto with its zone defense and I wonder if that didn’t provide the impetus for Triano’s counter attack late in the game. Toronto rarely uses its zone defence but last night, Triano went to it for a long stretch of the fourth quarter, and why not? Milwaukee is a perimeter team as seen by its free-throw numbers (last in the NBA on average, in made free throws and 29th on average in free throws attempted). To boot, the Bucs are 29th in the NBA in field-goal percentage providing a perfect climate for a zone defense as Toronto threw it at a non-driving, jump-shooting team.
Triano’s "finishing unit" late in the waning minutes of games has been much scrutinized and critiqued. Last night, Triano went with Jose Calderon, Jarrett Jack, Marco Belinelli, Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu. I like that line-up as it has decision makers on the floor with two point guards and a point forward who can all initiate the offense. Bosh is well, Bosh, and last night, in spite of Belinelli’s penchant for off-balance jumpers and high-risk, high-reward plays, his presence on the floor paid off for Toronto. Belinelli’s laser-like, left-handed hook pass to Bosh in their screen-and-roll sequence late in the game was a thing of beauty. Not just the pass, but on Bosh’s part, even though he’s been known to bobble a ball now and them, he made a terrific catch. Oh yeah, the personnel on the floor to play zone forced the Bucks into some tough match-ups at the other end as well.
Last night’s game added more credence to my theory that as an offensive team if Toronto’s defense is average, their offense will win them their fair share of games. Not always the best formula but it does play toward the team’s strength.
Much has been made of Hedo Turkoglu’s lack of production this season and the silver lining in all of it Toronto is this; look at their record just past the half-way mark of the season after a tough early road schedule. The Raptors sit at .500 and they have not had consistent impactful contributions from one of the guys they expected to get them from when the season began.
Everybody seems to be weighing in with thoughts on Hedo so here’s my take. Of late, last Sunday against Dallas and last night against Milwaukee, he has worked much harder and played with more purpose and intensity. The two games in between, well, foul trouble saddled him in Cleveland and other than Bosh, no Raptors can boast anything positive in the loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday.
There have been flashes of the guy that killed the Raptors two seasons ago in the playoffs when he was with Orlando. You know, the guy that drove hard to the basket and always seemed to find a lane to the hoop with the shot clock running down. Yep that dude has been spotted recently in a Toronto uniform. Now, he’s not always converting but he has realized that he must play harder and once he does that consistently, those jumpers and the rest of his offensive game will synch up with his efforts. How long? Who knows but right now, having chosen to pick it up and play harder the more finely-tuned offensive skills in Turkoglu’s game are lagging but will eventually appear.
And the Raptor fans need to get off this guy. True he hasn’t been producing, no argument here, and he has deservedly taken the fans wrath for his poor play that has not been commensurate with his salary. But like the kid that has been put on punishment by his parents, at some point the kid understands what is expected, the chastising ends and positive encouragement toward desired the behaviors need to be employed, particularly if the kid is trying to do the right thing. Not sure if booing the guy in the first quarter after missing a shot or booing when his jersey is given away as a prize in the arena is helping the situation.
Finally, with the officials going to the replay monitor more and more often as the scope of the rules allow them to do so; we saw an immediate stop of play in the last two minutes after a basket to determine if it was a two- or three- point goal for the first time this year in a Raptor game, the NBA may have to help out every arena with supplemental cameras. Last night, Luke Ridnour’s drifting, floating jumper where he started close the arc and scored the goal landing inside the arc was reviewed over and over but there was no definitive angle to provide evidence confirming if it was a two-point or three-point bucket. The call made on the floor that it was a deuce could not be confirmed or overturned so it stood untouched. The NBA may have to ante up to help install overhead cameras and others that provide looks down each sideline and the baseline.