There’s a line they use in the legal world: The defense never rests.
Doesn’t apply to the Toronto Raptors, apparently. It’s allowed when you’re on the last half of a back-to-back and you have two starters out. A worn out and undermanned Raptors were soundly beaten 117 – 95 in front of a sparse Milwaukee crowd last night.
The offense was not much better. The Raptors struggled to replace Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon’s offence (16.7 and 12.1 pts/game). Hedo Turkoglu needed to step up tonight and show the Raptor faithful that he was worth every bit of the 50 million bones it took to bring him here, but this was not his best night, not by a longshot.
You know who you are. The ones who got a little excited when they saw that Jose AND Bargs were out. Our apparent weakest links on defense. The two guys who aren’t aggressive enough. One is the victim of countless “blow-by’s”while the other doesn’t play help defense if his life depended on it. Well, tonight you saw a lot of that, and those guys weren’t there. Do you blame it on fatigue? Perhaps some of it, and it is one game, but when you look at the alternatives, suddenly the cupboard looks bare without these guys in the lineup. It forces Rasho to play more minutes than he should be, and it brings Marcus Banks onto the floor in non garbage-time situations. Not good.
Not sure why Amir Johnson didn’t play more minutes. This was the perfect opportunity for him to play more minutes, but he ended up playing even less than usual. It’s not like he was in foul trouble. The Raptors looked like they lacked energy at times, and Amir is that spark plug who cold have energized the Raps with some extra burn. The Bucks went to Andrew Bogut early and often, but Rasho Nesterovic held his ground for the most part. Chris Bosh had his shot going from the beginning of the game, and Bogut wasn’t interested in coming out to challenge it. Eventually, Bogut did get into some foul trouble, but sadly, the Bucks didn’t need him tonight. They led a balanced attack, spurred on by Brandon Jennings late in the first quarter, and never looked back.
Ah, that late first quarter surge by the Bucks, which seemed to coincide with Marcus Banks entry into the game. This is the second game in a row now where Banks has come in a laid a dud. Instant run for the other team. Jarret Jack had played decent defense on Jennings up to that point, although he kept cheating under screens, seemingly daring Jennings to take the 3 or long 2. Jennings took that dare, once Jack was subbed out, and Milwaukee stormed out to a 7 point lead to end the first quarter.
Banks did play better in his second stretch on the floor in the second half, but I’d rather see something like Belinelli or Turkoglu playing point forward instead. You don’t have to play the guy just because he’s under contract and he’s a point guard by description. This is another case of Jay Triano lacking the creativity and/or the testicular fortitude to try something a little different. As every game passes, I lose a little more faith in him as an NBA coach. Take Antoine Wright for example. Although he is doing some good things on defense, he continues to try too many things offensively. And by too many things I mean anything. He is clearly very awkward with a ball in his hands. Of course, this is the guy who has been giving his evaluations of his own coach and teammates to the media. You think anyone’s telling him to know his role?
The Raptors never did catch up after that run to end the first. Offensively, it was all Bosh, and the Bucks quickly realized this and collapsed on him every opportunity they got. No one stepped up to relive that pressure. Demar DeRozan looked like he might be a candidate early on, but his minutes are still limited enough to not let him get into a good rhythm and his touches/offensive involvement leave even more to be desired. All the kid has shown is constant improvement, all-around intensity, and an aggressiveness around the rim that this team sorely lacks. Can’t count the amount of times the ball carrier looked him off. He’s good enough, dammit. He gets to the rim practically every time he gets the ball, even absorbing contact from Bogut for a layup, one of the more intimidating defenders in the game today. This is not even for the sake of his development. This is to help the team win. One nice moment was Carlos Delfino’s neat block on a DeRozan dunk attempt. You saw Chris Bosh walk over to the disgusted rook and give him some veteran advice. It was nice to see.
Delfino and Roko Ukic both played very well tonight. Marco Belinelli and Demar ran themselves ragged chasing him around screen after screen. Delfino may have been playing with a chip on his shoulder, and Roko was playing with a jumper. Luke Ridnour had a ridiculous game for just 15 minutes of play.
Want to blame Jose for that?
Hopefully this was just an anomaly for a team that struggles in back to back situations. Not using it as an excuse. Well maybe a little bit. It does highlight the fact that we direly need the offense that our two missing starters provide, and that maybe their defense isn’t the sole reason for our defensive struggles this year. At one point, an assortment of Luke Ridnour, Roko Ukic, Carlos Delfino, Ersan Ilyasova (clearly the best Turk on the floor tonight) and Luc Mbah a Moute were on the floor, and the Raptors had no answer for them.
What are they going to do when Mike Bibby, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith and Al Horford walk through the doors of the ACC on Friday night, the same outfit that prompted the now infamous closed door meeting after shaming the Raptors?
The rest better be over.