On Sunday afternoon, the Raptors came out on fire.
Then quickly fizzled.
Despite leading by as many as 20 points in the first quarter against the Bucks, Toronto dropped a tough 107-96 decision to Milwaukee on their home floor. They also wasted a night where four players topped 20 points, including a brilliant effort from their front court.
While the loss was a disappointing one, the effort from the starting five was strong. With an 18-point cushion to open the second quarter, Dwane Casey went with Amir Johnson and four bench players. It didn’t work out well for him. While rookie Quincy Acy received early time in an effort to try to lessen the burden of minutes played by Ed Davis and Johnson — against a team like the Bucks, with lots of long and athletic big men, the loss of Andrea Bargnani and Jonas Valanciunas really hurts the Raptors — rookie Terrence Ross had perhaps his worst outing of the season, playing three minutes and leaving with three turnovers.
The second quarter lineup gave up a 7-0 run to open the quarter. By the six-minute mark of the period, the 18-point advantage had been trimmed to four. The Raptors shot 28 per cent in the quarter while giving up 57 per cent shooting to the Bucks as they were outscored 31 to 15. Rookie John Henson was a big part of the comeback for the Bucks. Tallying eight points in the second quarter, he helped the Bucks go into the half trailing by just two.
Despite their groggy start, the Bucks were able to shake off that awful first quarter, get back into the game and shoot 52 per cent in the second half. With the Raptors offence wilting, the Bucks big men flourished down the stretch. Toronto didn’t have an answer for Monta Ellis or Brandon Jennings…or Larry Sanders or Mike Dunleavy. And then there was Henson, looking like anything but a rookie, playing with supreme confidence and leaving everything on the court.
While the fourth quarter was close, the Bucks refused to fade away. After the Raptors took a one-point lead off of a Johnson-to-Davis dunk with four minutes remaining, Milwaukee reeled off a 10-0 run as Toronto went scoreless for nearly three minutes. They punctuated the run with a Jennings-to-Sanders alley oop with 1:23 remaining.
With faint boos from the Air Canada Centre crowd, the Raps walked off the court from their six-game homestand with a 3-3 record.
Kyle Lowry’s passive play
While Lowry talked about watching the great ball movement from the team while he was sidelined with injury, the team needs him to be Kyle Lowry, scoring point guard, more than they need him to be Kyle Lowry, Jose Calderon 2.0. The talk of being a team player is great and absolutely what you want all of your players to be, but the Raptors traded for Lowry because they need a stud player who can put points on the board.
In 17 minutes against the Bucks, Lowry was scoreless, attempting just four shots. He had six assists and did a great job of looking for his teammates, but the team needs him to start looking out for himself if they want to be successful.
While the Raptors had four starters top 20 points, they had just seven total points from their bench. Even worse, the bench shot 2-for-18 from the floor, highlighted by that second quarter where the wheels came off and the Bucks got back into the game.
In comparison, Milwaukee’s bench contributed 43 points, led by Henson’s 17 and Dunleavy’s 15.
While Casey is in a bind with his front court as Andrea Bargnani, Jonas Valanciunas and Linas Kleiza are out with injuries, there were some personnel decisions made on Sunday that didn’t work to the Raptors’ advantage.
Quincy Acy needs to play to give Davis and Johnson time to breathe. Aaron Gray received a DNP coach’s decision, as did John Lucas and Mickael Pietrus. While Ross had an awful stint in the second quarter, perhaps he could have been given another look in the second half.
Lucas is another guy that also might have been able to provide some quick and easy offence for the Raptors during that second quarter blitz by Milwaukee. Ultimately, the lack of depth up front hurt the Raptors and poses a challenge for Casey moving forward. Add in an afternoon where Alan Anderson is not feeling it (2-for-10 field goals) and Lowry is looking to pass, and the bench production takes a hit.
Wasted front court effort
A loss is always disappointing, but especially so when it wastes such a big night from the front court. Davis and Johnson continue to shine in starting roles. Against the Bucks, the two combined for 42 points on 17-for-28 shooting while hauling down 26 rebounds. Johnson added four assists, three steals and two blocked shots while playing a game-high 44 minutes, half of them on a sprained right ankle that had him limping badly in the locker room post game.
The Raptors had this game. Leading by 20 after the first 10 minutes, it should have been an easy victory against a conference rival to wrap up their homestand and get their starters some rest. Instead, it was a battle that the Raptors ultimately lost. A game that they gave away. After starting the season 4-19, they’re not in a position to give away games.
While the Bucks could have allowed their frustrations to get the better of them, they banded together and pulled off a huge road win. They also created even more distance between themselves and the Raptors in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
- Casey talks about the challenge in managing minutes for Davis and Johnson: “We depend on them because they are playing. I can’t comment then enough. Those two as a tandem are doing a heck of a job together, but now we have to have guys from the bench to step in and do something. Quincy gave us energy off the bench, still we had a drop-off from our bench once they came in. I can’t play Amir and Ed that many minutes. Amir came back from a turned ankle, which helped us, but again, it’s the difference of our first unit and second unit.”
- Jim Boylan was proud of the effort his team gave in the second quarter after giving up 34 points and trailing by as many as 20 in the first quarter: “I got a good group of guys. They don’t quit. We can go to the bench and bring in some people with some energy and that’s what happened in the second quarter. We brought that group in and they get after it pretty well…from there it was kind of a dog fight. Luckily for us in the fourth quarter, Larry [Sanders] was big around the basket. They were hurting us with their play at the hoop with their big guys, but towards the end, Ersan [Ilyasova] and Larry, especially Larry, was a big presence around the hoop. I thought that was the difference in the game focus.”
- DeMar DeRozan expressed his respect for teammate Amir Johnson and the injuries he’s always willing to play through. He talked about the impact it has on the team as a whole: “It makes us look at it like we can’t have no excuses when we’re out there on the floor. When he’s in here, he can’t walk. But I guarantee Amir is going to be here and help us pick it up.”
- The Raptors fall to 0-17 on the season when their opponent scores 100 or more points.