This one hurts.
This game actually meant something, and the Raptors wilted under the pressure. After having their best start to a game in recent memory, they simply capitulated as a scrappy Bucks team kept making plays.
The saddest part? It didn’t even go down to the wire. This puppy was over with about two minutes to go. Just the fact that the team was up by 20 points should have brought out a little something extra in crunch time, but…no.
The irony here is that recently, we have found ourselves with two very good point guards. This in itself is a problem that needs to be rectified in the long term, but right now that should mean 48 minutes of solid “floor general”-ing. Not to throw Kyle Lowry under the bus, but when he came in with the second unit, it was horrific how quickly the Bucks ate into that lead.
Maybe it was playing Charlotte the other night. The Raptors have had their share of lopsided victories since their resurgence, and the one against the Bobcats was the easiest one. Milwaukee is not the Bobcats. They have exactly the type of player that has come to haunt the Raptors over the years, quick score-first guards. Brandon Jennings and Manta Ellis come to mind.
Yet it was an outfit led by John Henson that sparked a game-long run by Milwaukee. We can come to one of two conclusions here. Either John Henson is a real talent that is starting to blossom and we just witnessed one of his breakout NBA games, or he’s a marginal talent that the Raptors just did not account for in their game plan. Time will tell, because the kid did not look out of place with this length and skill. He’s a reminder what a player with length and skill should be doing on the floor.
So Lowry comes in, and is playing this passive style that is clearly a conscious effort to be something different than than the player who came here from Houston. Clearly. He was never a guy who was inefficient, Lowry, so why is this happening? Give him the green light. Where do you think Milwaukee would be if they put the handcuffs on Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis? Amir Johnson and Ed Davis can only do so much, and when teams take away the pick-and-roll, the point guard has to make some individual plays. It keeps defenses honest, like how Jose was aggressively looking for his shot in the first quarter.
Oh, that first quarter. What a tease.
Another note about the bench. Terrence Ross. Normally the trend has been that Terrence has come in with big leads and he plays loose and with confidence. That’s a good formula, it works in basketball and in any sport in general. But he got a little too comfortable. This kid needs to seriously work on his handles. It’s a strange thing, how some players have this skill and some don’t. Is it an acquired skill or does it have something to do with raw ability? Like we know he has relatively short arms, as does DeMar DeRozan. Bryan Colangelo seems to think that it’s something that can be overcome with time, while other GM’s have not concurred. It’s why these tremendously athletic talents have dropped down to the eighth and ninth spots in the draft. Maybe someone can come up with players who developed handles after he came in to the league. It’s got to be a very short list, that is for certain.
This loss here, was so very typical Raptors. A scrappy semi-talented team makes adjustments, goes on a run and it’s over before you realize it. Milwaukee was the target, occupying that final spot in the playoff rankings. If there is any lesson to be gleaned from this disappointment, it is that no lead is safe in the NBA.
But you already knew that, and they should have as well.