“People don’t understand how hurt Amir is,” DeRozan said. “He comes to practice the next day and can barely get through practice. “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 [the locker room], he can’t walk. But I guarantee Amir is going to be here and help us pick it up.”
The loss means the Raps fall a bit further behind Milwaukee in the race for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot, and now must atone for today’s loss by beating solid teams in Brooklyn and Chicago, their next two opponents. So what went wrong? Well, everything after that first quarter. The Raptors bench came in flat, were outscored badly, and had a tough time keeping hold of the ball. Nine of the Raptors 15 turnovers came in the second quarter, and slowly the Bucks chipped away at things until Toronto’s lead at the half was only two.
Give the Bucks credit for once again staying calm in the face of a big early deficit, though they also owe a huge debt to Toronto’s anemic bench for helping them back into the game. The Raptors got 20+ from four of their starters but that was it–the Raptor bench contributed a season-low seven points including none from star sixth man Kyle Lowry (0/4 fg), while fifth starter Landry Fields added just three. The Bucks had no such problems: while Jennings and Monta Ellis shot their customary 40% (12/30), the rest of the team hit 28/47 (60%) to help Milwaukee finish 51% overall.
“It’s not a teaching point,” Casey said. “I just didn’t think he had it going. Marquis Daniels is one of the top defenders in the league and they put him on (Ross). That’s a sign of respect towards Terrence but now you have to meet that respect with force. You can’t come in and feel your way in.”
As opportunities missed go, this one is going to haunt the Raptors for a while. Perhaps not as much as some of the earlier giveaways in the season, but considering where the Bucks (tied for the eight and final playoff spot) are in relation to the Raptors in the standings and the momentum-stall this one represents, it’s going to be a tough one to swallow.
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.
This game exposed several critical flaws in the Raps’ paper-thin roster. Our front court has been woefully weakened by the absence of Jonas Valanciunas & the failure of Aaron Gray to provide adequate support. But that’s not a criticism of either Ed Davis or Amir Johnson, both of whom played sparkling games. Our most glaring problem is the vacuum that exists at Small Forward. Landry Fields played 29+ invisible minutes; 1 each of basket, free throw, rebound.
Sanders extended his streak of consecutive games with at least one block to 23 with a pair of rejected shots. His biggest, however, was a block on DeMar DeRozan’s layup attempt with 3:09 to play and the Bucks clinging to a 92-91 lead.
“After the first quarter we went out of our defensive focus,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “I don’t know what it was, we let up.”
Johnson twisted his already injured right ankle when he stepped on someone’s foot on a defensive rebound with 1:30 to play in the first half. He left the game to have the ankle retaped and returned for the second half, as did Calderon who missed a good part of the second quarter after tweaking his calf.
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