How do you shoot 63% in the first quarter and within a minute into the second are down one? I would like to commend the Raptors’ offensive “explosion” of 28 points in the first quarter, but as soon as I start typing the words, the Bucks’ 30 point second quarter comes into view. I’m not going to sit here and sing the praises of a 10-11 FG start when beginning in the second quarter Drew Gooden, playing only his second game since January 22nd, dropped a season-high 22 points on us. This is Drew Gooden we’re talking about here, the guy we like to make fun of when discussing Amir Johnson’s contract by saying, “Haha…look what they paid that loser Drew Gooden, when we got Amir Johnson for a bargain!…Haha, what a loser this Gooden guy is.” Well, Gooden had 22/11, Amir had 3/6.
I’m not going to describe, as Jack Armstrong did, Andrea Bargnani as having the “fluidity and gracefulness of a man 7-feet tall who can score with the best of them”. Not when he finished with 2 rebounds in 32 minutes and gave the same effort contesting a crucial rebound at 2:30 of the fourth quarter as Sam does when trying to conceal his love for Teen Mom. Like any Raptors game, there were moments of goodness sprinkled here and there, DeMar DeRozan’s second-half, Jose Calderon’s first, James Johnson and Andrea Bargnani’s offense, but when it was all said and done, every positive was negated by the Raptors’ piss-poor defense.
Milwaukee came out flat and the Raptors came out hunting the game trying to forget about the Western road swing. The start was bright and the Raptors jumped out to a double-digit lead, of course nobody got too excited because when the defense is as porous at so many levels, every lead is short-lived and as soon as Milwaukee decided to pressure the rim instead of coughing up the rock, the balance of the contest shifted. Dribble penetration was the chief ingredient in the Raptors’ rocky second quarter, and you can throw in a dash of poor PnR coverage for good measure. You had to see it coming too, check out the ball-handlers Milwaukee has: Brandon Jennings, John Salmons, Michael Redd, Earl Boykins and Carlos Delfino. These aren’t superstars, but as a team they possess enough basketball ability to swing the ball and attack a seam when they see one. The Raptors counter with athletes who are by habit poor defenders, even James Johnson who might capture your heart with a couple great blocks once in a while, is notoriously bad at playing the angles on the wing.
At this point in the season I don’t care much about sub-patterns and things of thoughtful natures; I will say that I was inaudibly mumbling to myself that Triano should install Ed Davis and Amir Johnson in there to rotate over to the guards, and maybe throw in Julian Wright (LOL, like he’s going to play a minute again as a Raptor) to quell some of the dribble penetration. Then I remembered that Triano’s now carrying personal agendas into games and the priority isn’t winning, it’s….umm…something. It can’t be pure player development because I saw Reggie Evans play more than 0 minutes. Speaking of development, or lack thereof, check out Sonny Weems’ line:
8 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -10 0
What? I swear, you throw me in an NBA game for 8 minutes and I’m bound to fill up at least two columns, even if they’re turnovers and fouls.
So where was I, yes, the game. Raptors start the first quarter hot, Bucks realize they’re in a playoff race, wake up and Drew Gooden burns us in the second on the back of dribble penetration and PnRs. Andrea Bargnani was having a decent offensive game and finished with 22 points and 2 rebounds. His counterpart, Andrew Bogut, had 17 points, 10 rebounds and a far greater impact. Bogut singlehandedly brings the “inside” part of Milwaukee’s inside-out game, he balances out the floor, attracts double teams in the right areas and opens up the floor for their wings who can handle the ball. Basketball is a simple game. I loved the first two plays the Bucks ran for Bogut, a weak-side screen with a touch of misdirection in it and then Bogut flashes on the left baseline with his man sealed on his right side and the pass is delivered on time. Thing of beauty.
So if you asked me, “Arse, what did the Raptors shoot in the first half?”, I’d say “59%”. You’d probably say, “That’s pretty good, they must surely have the lead at halftime after shooting such a ridiculous percentage?”. That’s when I’d laugh at you and say, “No silly, they were down by 3.” And then you’d call me a liar and I’d ask you to check the box-score and there would be a whole debate back and forth and at the end of the day I’d probably key your car while you were giving money to the homeless.
I don’t recall much of what happened in the third quarter, DeRozan was steadily improving and got some scores, and Bargnani had his jumper rolling from three. What I most enjoyed was trying to see Ed Davis contend with Bogut in the block. Bogut was clearing him out of the way with two dribbles and a quick turn, and the Aussie’s agility took Davis by surprise. Davis might already be a decent help defender, and even an alright rebounder for his experience, but his man defense against bigger matchups is ways away. To be expected, though, giving up 45 pounds in a matchup has its drawbacks, the most significant one being getting owned in the paint. DeRozan and Bargnani scored 20 of the Raptors’ 24 points in the third, tight game heading into the fourth.
Out comes the zone. Out comes the zone-buster. Carlos Delfino. Here’s a drop of wisdom which I personally employ when I play basketball: when you have a shooter who is relatively open and you have to contest his shot, but know that there is absolutely no way you can get a block or even a real contest in, the last thing you should do is flail at him with both arms because that sets the shooter’s rhythm up perfectly. It’s almost like you’re doing him a favor, watch Carlos Delfino’s two threes in the fourth quarter and you’ll notice a guy running at him only for the sake of “contesting”. The much wiser option, and certainly in the case of a streaky shooter like Delfino, is to close him out. Yes, don’t even contest his shot, get to the perimeter and close him out. That will throw him off more than anything because that’s not what he’s expecting. It works, check out Delfino’s miss and see how DeRozan’s close-out changes Delfino’s chance at shooting.
Calderon left the game with a tight left thigh so Jerryd Bayless played the point. He wasn’t too much of an improvement over Calderon defensively, and will mostly be remembered for his flagrant foul on Jon Brockman, who only played one minute before Bayless denied him a layup by taking him out with a 9mm, hacking his body up and disposing it in a nearby dumpster. Leandro Barbosa did his thing where he tries to take over the game, 14 shots in 22 minutes which is quite uncalled for. I’d rather DeRozan uses those 14 shots to improve his jumper, hell, I’d even rather Andrea Bargnani shoot 14 threes.
So after lighting up the third quarter, how did the Raptors big guns do when it counted? Bargnani: 1-3, 2 points and 0 rebounds in the fourth. DeMar DeRozan: 2-3, 6 points. The two key plays of the game were 1) Up two with 2:28 left, Gooden gets out of control and throws up a shot like he’s playing in the Rookie-Sophomore game which hits the backboard, gets his own rebound for the put-back while Bargnani is knitting a sweater and Amir Johnson is baking a cake. 2) Same score difference with 1:16 left, and the Bucks throw it to Bogut who executes a professional hook in the post to make it a two possession game – that’s what go-to means, you go to the them when you need a basket. Later on, Drew Gooden iced it with a jumper coming out of a timeout.
So here we are, mercifully at the end of the season, and looking forward to Chicago, Orlando and New York coming up. Next three games for Washington: vs Cleveland, @ Charlotte and vs Detroit, next three for Sacramento: vs Denver, vs Utah and on the road to Houston. Yeah, we could move into third if all goes “well”.
Final word to Triano and his “Nothing to Hide” segments. He sounds like an old man pleading with his grandkids to stop horsing around in the house. I’d ditch those in favor of a segment showing what the hell Alex English was writing in that notebook of his when Delfino was draining those threes.