This was a reversion to November when the Raptors were playing tight games only to lose them late.  The faint playoff hopes that served as the marquee for this matchup are now unofficially gone, with only mathematical formalities standing in between the Raptors missing the playoffs for the fifth straight year under Colangelo’s watch.

Rudy Gay was out with back spasm which led to Fields starting, and Casey also chose to hand Andrea Bargnani a rare start over Jonas Valanciunas.  I suppose he figured the Bucks frontline of Sanders/Moute/Ilyasova could be countered with a more nimble combination of Johnson/Bargnani/Fields, or maybe he just felt that he should try something different to get Bargnani going.  The matchups didn’t quite play out as nicely as they line up on the box score, as the high tempo had a lot of cross-switching going on pretty much every possession in the first half.

[Related: Reaction: Raptors 114, Bucks 122]

The ball movement was much improved throughout the game, especially in the first quarter where the Raptors went away from the recent isolation-focused trend to a more team-oriented approach.  The up-tempo game had the Raptors up 7-0 in fast-break points in the first, and they even held a rebounding advantage of 14-8, while shooting 58%.  The fruits of their efforts was a 9-point lead at the end of the first, where we even saw a play that I absolutely love: big man at elbow looking for a cutting guard who is working off of screens.

Bargnani (4-14 FG, 11 pts, 7 reb) seemed more relaxed without a hostile home crowd behind him (go figure), and dare I say, was a productive member of the team.  DeRozan (6-21 FG, 18 pts, 9 ast) was struggling to connect on offense with a Buck hanging on to his jersey the whole game.  He was 2-9 FG in the first half before picking things up just ever-so slightly later.  The nine assists are a nice touch and he was trying to drive-and-kick a lot, but overall, his offensive performance was quite disappointing, especially going up against the shorter Ellis.  Also, I think he got blocked about three times in rather severe fashion.

Landry Fields has his best game as a Raptor.  He was 6-11 FG in the first half, and 1-3 FG in the second, and I’d say he had an equal impact in both halves because his defense (some key deflections tonight), and general sound play was the type we were all hoping he’d bring right out of the gates.  The Raptors continued playing the high pace in the second quarter, and were hurt by John Henson scoring 8 points in the second, all of fashionable quality.  Ilyasova was also generally getting wide open at a few players’ expense.

Amir Johnson (19 pts, 9-11 FG, 9 ast) was in foul trouble so his minutes had to be watched, and Jonas Valanciunas did a nice job of stepping in against Sanders, Dalembert and providing some strong hustle on the glass and even some nice back-down moves.  The Raptors held a 15-6 second-chance point advantage at the half, but had surrendered their big lead by halftime, thanks to poor transition play where the back-to-back looked like it had caught up to them.  Milwaukee closed the half making 10 of their last 12 field goals, and the game was tied with the third-quarter meltdown on the horizon.

The meltdown did surely come.  Milwaukee stepped up their interior defense which pushed the Raptors back out to the perimeter, and DeRozan and Bargnani failed to provide the offensive punched that was demanded of them.  Combined, they went 3-13 FG in the third quarter with DeRozan’s drives being extinguished at the rim, and Bargnani missing the jumpers we’ve seen him miss all season.  Ilyasova hurt the Raptors big time as whoever was checking him (Fields, Bargnani, DeRozan…it was a mess) kept losing him and he popped in 12 points on 4-5 shooting in the quarter.  We also got crushed on the boards 14-8 in the third, partially due to Amir Johnson having to sit due to foul trouble.

You’re thinking the game is over, especially after the first possession of the fourth which ended up with Anderson going one-on-three.  Out comes John Lucas III with three threes, and soon enough the Raptors have a one-point lead.  Milwaukee thought they had the game won,  stepped off the pedal, and the opportunistic Lucas took full advantage.  Fields had another great quarter defensively and despite the Raptors generally struggling to keep up with the Bucks’ penetration (Jennings had 19 assists!), found themselves keeping pace due to some good play from Lowry, Johnson and Anderson.

Amir Johnson was the main reason the Raptors took this to OT, as he played the full 12 minutes in the fourth quarter and combined for some great play with Lowry.  He had 10 points on 4-5 FGs.  You’ve seen enough of Amir this year to know, without even looking at the tape, how he got those points.  DeMar DeRozan was deferring to Alan Anderson and the latter had no issue shooting every chance he got.  He went 4-8 in the fourth quarter, including a great drive to tie the game with a second left.  Let’s leave aside the fact that the play coming out of the timeout was to give it to him in the corner with no player movement whatsoever.

Anderson really is a mixed bag.  On the one hand I admire how he tends to step up on both ends of the floor (contract year helps), and by the same token it’s sad to see our fortunes depend on a player like him.  Overall, he’s been Mike Jamish in many senses, but he’s also filling a void on this team which nobody seems to want to take, i.e., applying offensive pressure in the fourth.  Now you might question that he takes too many jumpers and wonder how that is applying offensive pressure, which is when I’d remind you that we’re probably talking too much about Anderson.

Amir fouled out less than two minutes into OT, which the Bucks started on a 7-0 run.  There were some debatable calls down the stretch, and we saw the reason why we’re so lukewarm on Anderson: he went 0-4 in OT.

I have some game-notes which I’ve written down but didn’t expand on much, so I’ll just jot them down:

  1. Ellis is an explosive player on a good run, and the Raptors couldn’t contain his dribble penetration at all. The Bucks threw a variety of looks at DeRozan, Bargnani and even Lowry, and the Raptors were not as deliberate the other way around.
  2. Lots of switching in this game due to the somewhat interchangeable 3/4/5 matchups, which meant rebounding needed to be on point.  DeRozan missed a couple box outs against Ilyasova on switches, and in OT the Raptors got out-rebounded by 6 (not having Johnson hurt).
  3. We saw some plays for Bargnani in the block which had positive outcomes, and the same for Jonas Valanciunas.  I’m not sure how much time investment the franchise wants to make in Bargnani (even if for trade value bump), but for Jonas they really need to start giving him more time and touches ASAP.
  4. The offense looked far more dynamic and a lot less predictable without Rudy Gay initiating action and Lowry deferring to him.  Let this game provide a hint to Casey as to how the offense should be run and what Gay’s role should be in it.  I’d liken it to Paul George in Indiana, except that Gay isn’t as good at reading movement and working two-man games.

Raptors are now 9 back of Milwaukee in the loss column, and since they lost the tie-breaker, need to finish with a better record than them.  What I’m trying to get at is that this is the last time you’ll hear me say the following word this season in context of the Raptors: playoffs.

From here on out we need to seriously shift the focus of this team to evaluating players again, with Terrence Ross still needing to answer more than a few questions.  I’m not privy to Valanciunas’ conditioning so without risking injury, his minutes need to be maximized.  I would take every win with a grain of salt now as the pressure is truly off, and I’d caution that what you see from now till the end of the season can’t be extrapolated to training camp next year.

They had me excited for a while.  They really did.

  • JHP

    I’m not sure why they play better on the road but it’s so disrespectful to the paying customers.  Oh well they are off the radar for another year and will focus on other things.

    There are home games to be played but are now more audition games for next year.  Here is my list of maybes:

    – Maybe Ross and JV can benefit for some playing time
    – Maybe everyone can get healthy now that it does not matter
    – Maybe Casey will provide better coaching since it’s for next year
    – Maybe AB will play better 
    – Maybe BC can explain his master plan 
    – Maybe I lose 30 pounds and gain 2 inches in height

    As always a great post and analysis !!

    • Dee

      Maybe I finally find a team that doesn’t make my heart explode when I’m watching them becouse I know that the ball is just about to be dropped every time.. I’m sooooo tired of this team

      • NyAlesund

         No strategy or bad better strategy are not the right recipe for success.

        BC is the main reason why we are seeing other teams making po games and not us.

    • JerryGarcia

      Also enjoyed the post and feel a little relief in knowing we can change the agenda and concentrate on some development. Hopefully jazz master Acy can join Ross and JV on the floor. I don’t know, but I’ve been told, if the horse don’t pull you got to carry the load. – Grateful Dead, New Speedway Boogie

    • Jamshid

      It would be quite disappointing if the following does not happen in the next game:

      1) JV play 30+  minutes.
      2) Ross play 30+ minutes.
      3) AA be nailed to the bench.
      4) Telfair get some playing time.
      5) Fileds play extended minutes.
      6) Amir play extended minutes.
      7) Lowry to be free to show case his brand of PG play.
      8) Acy get some serious minutes.

      • mountio

        get ready to be dissapointed

        • Doc

          I would love to se that but it’s just not going to happen.

  • Ds

    Casey: “We’re building something good, we stubbed our toe tonight in a big game for us but there’s a lot of positives in that locker room right now. Everyone’s hurt that we lost, we all are, but we also know that if we compete like that for 48 minutes . . . we’re going to be a special team.”

    Ladies and gentlemen, your Toronto Raptors. The best team in the team in the NBA in PER: Positive Excuses Rating.

    • tmk

      He actually said this? Well, cue the nice mini winning streak we go on annually every year at the end of the season to actually make him believe this even more…Then BC gets an extension, we’re fed with how next season will be different because we’ll have a full TRAINING CAMP, which is very important of course because there are so many NEW players, Gay will tell us about how he took a trip to the Himalayas and meditated with monks and thus unlocked his superstar potential…everything will just be all super positive and perfect.

      We’ll go on to win 37 games.

      • Adriiian

        If Gay can become a team-player, I honestly believe we can be a 5 seed maybe?

        If we can get ball-movement while he’s on the floor.

    • Hound

      I have never heard Phil Jackson or Pat Riley talk about “The Process” and “The Positives”. They are only concerned with WINS!!!!!

      You get paid to produce. How can you hold the players accountable, when you think you are doing a good job because you see positives.

  • onemanweave

      Casey goes to 4 smalls – 1 big for extended minutes every game, particularly in the second half.  Might be a good change of pace but it’s  biting them on the butt with extended use.
        The Bucks bigs had a field day inside and on the boards in the second half. You’re asking SF and SG to defend good big men. Ain’t gonna happen on a regular basis.
        DD is a decent player — until crunch time. He presses and plays badly and looks to escape responsibility as a key offensive performer. AA , on the other hand, assumes that role without hesitation.  However, most nights, he isn’t the guy you want taking the lions share of crunch time shots.  This team will never go anywhere  with Alan Anderson as the go-to fourth-quarter guy. 
        Gay can certainly help the situation.  He could help it more by not stopping the ball in the first three quarters.  

    • Copywryter

      Ilyasova’s tip-in at the end of the fourth was the perfect example of your second sentence – a big simply moving a smaller defender (DD) out of the way. Demar was doing his best to box out but he was overmatched.

      • Hound


  • Allah

    Craptors will never win a championship in their lifetime

  • Copywryter

    This board shits on Alan Anderson a fair bit, but like you said the fact that we’re talking about him at all points to systemic talent/drafting problems in the organization. I mean, how many 15-day rentals cum starters have we seen on this team in the last 7 or 8 years?

    Now we have a journeyman taking shots aplenty and late game shots to boot.  Incredibly, he’s one of the few Raptors since the Bosh era who can A) get his own shot off and B) drive with enough vision to kick

    You can’t blame Anderson for jacking it up. He’s jacking for dollars and seems to have a green light from the coach. I blame an organization that is constantly filling talent voids on this team with spare parts and cast-offs while building around core talent that, (as has been obvious for years now) – is not Grade A NBA quality meat. Christ, the talent disparity was right there in front of us last night against an 8th seeded team with obvious weaknesses. 

    • onemanweave

      eExactly. You are asking one of your lowest paid players to step up when the game is on the line. One of the reasons for this is that DD panics/avoids crunch time scoring. He is what he is –gqood young player til you tighten the screws.  You just need someone  other than AA to fill the void.
      Gay has proved he can handle that role  sometimes. Another solution might be to go inside to Amir and/or utilize him and Lowry in pick and rolls.  The Rap’s fourthg- quarter record MIGHT be an indication that changes of some kind are needed. 

    • cdub

      The point is he shouldn’t be out there taking that many shots, under any circumstance. AA shoots 37%. I can get my own shot of and miss too. We are talking about him because DC continually plays him, and at key times.  Why is he always out there in the 4th?  Why does he have a greenlight to shoot?  Why is he playing over Landry?    He shot us out of the game last night with his extreme ballhogging and then bailed himself out at the end of the quarter.   Now last night I don’t mind the minutes as Gay was out, but why Casey can’t finish the game with his starters in is beyond me.  Why go small ball for the whole 4th and OT?  I honestly can’t stand AA, and I blame DC.

      • Copywryter

        He’s out there because we don’t have anyone else. My point was that those are the circumstances. DD doesn’t have the handles, gets covered by the other team’s best wing defender and like onemanweave says above he tends to crack when the screws are tightened.  I wouldn’t want the ball in Landry’s hands in a D-League game.

        AA is a symptom of an organizational disease.  He’s just a journeyman jacker and frankly he’s won us as many games as he’s lost. He plays decent defence with average talent. You can’t say that about too many Washington General rentals, which is what he is. On the whole I think he’s the best nobody we’ve ever had, which is a terrible indictment of our general manager and general state of affairs. 

        I can’t stop you hating him, but I’d like to point out that we pay him peanuts to shoot 37% and Gay $16 million to shoot 38%. 

        • OneLuv

           Raptos pushing to catch the Bucks for the 8th seed. Bucks get Reddick at the trade deadline , Raptors get Telfair. Nuff said.

        • sleepz

          “I wouldn’t want the ball in Landry’s hands in a D-League game.”

          Me neither.

          Excellent post.

        • cdub

           He went 1-8 from 3, took most of his shots as he desired, not in the flow of the game at all, just him chucking.  Had 1 rebound, 1 assist in 29 minutes.   The organizational disease is Dwane Caseys subs.  If dude knew his role I could live with situational play but Casey just gives him the keys to the car, thats the problem.  If AA is so integral to the raptors that we need to play him the entire 4th quarter because we “have no one else” then why isnt he starting?  That’s an absurd comment, we have lots of guys that could be playing over AA.  We don’t need AA because all he does is shoot for himself for the most part and we already have enough guys that can do that.  He should be playing a small role as a situational player and that is it.  The starters should be closing out games, and I do believe that Landry deserves more reserve minutes, hes a smart team player, brings a lot of movement with him that the offsense sorely needs, is a better rebounder and defender than AA.   AA is just another guy thats either going to be standing around watching or shooting.  Comparing AA to Gay I won’t even comment on that one I’ll be typing for an hour.  Ayhway I don’t hate AA, its more I loathe him, and like I said its DC;s fault for putting him in that position and probably flushing his job down the toilet with him.  As a guy that makes 1 mil a year sure hes worth that and probaly more, but hes not the guy that should be playing 30 minutes a game and taking 20 shots…..there is better options on the roster.

  • Allah

    Hooray!!!!!!! Another season missed at a playoff spot! Way to go Craptors! I’m pretty sure next season is going to be exactly the same and we will miss getting Andrew Wiggins.

  • Paul

    Something broke in me last night.
    Maybe it was watching Bargnani get the start after playing the worst stretch of basketball I’ve ever seen, or maybe it’s that his 4-14, 7 rebound
    game was actually being touted as a positive. You don’t play games to
    make players look good, you play to win, and this guy is a cancer every
    second he is on the court.
    I can’t do this anymore.
    I’ve been following this team far too closely for far too long.
    This team is 2 years away from the start of another rebuild. That means we’re at least 4-5 years away from even playing meaningful basketball.
    The Raptors have finally exhausted the goodwill from the Carter years and it’s just not worth it to me anymore.
    I’m out folks.

    • Doc

      They do suck the fun out of cheering for a team don’t they.

    • Guest

      See ya.  Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

  • tmk

    “Let’s leave aside the fact that the play coming out of the timeout was to give it to him in the corner with no player movement whatsoever.”
    Exactly. Jack and Devlin were raving about how great of a “set” play it was but I couldn’t understand. Having AA guarded in the corner at the 3-point line by a premier shot-blocker is a brilliantly drawn play? Ya sure, he got the nice hesitation step and dunk but that has nothing to do with the amazing play-calling of Casey. I honestly can’t blame the coach so much this seasons just because I think all blame should be laid at BC’s feet first, but all the love Casey got from me last season has more or less disappeared this season. I doubt he’ll be fired anytime soon, so I’m hoping that he can somehow figure out everyone’s role and maximize everyone’s strengths next year. You can talk about injuries, new players added and all that, but this is part of the NBA and Casey hasn’t really adjusted all season long.

    I also doubt he’ll start playing Ross, JV, and even Acy anymore. The dude’s too much in love with Bargs and Anderson. Though the only positive about that reality is that at least we might win more games this way, making the pick we lost, hopefully, not as high. So there’s that.

    • robertparrish00

      By this years standards that was a good play.  We are lucky when Casey draws up a play that gets the ball inbounded.

  • Duncan

    needed the win. didnt get it. 
    déjà vu anyone?
    now lets get our rooks some burn and let chemistry build between DD, Gay and Klow since they are our supposed ‘Big Three’.
    We also should consider firing our coach and bringing in a coach who had effective plays and can put in good rotations! well get a defensiv specialist assistant so that well keep some of this good defence we’ve shown of late and please, for the love of god move on from bargnani! we gave him 7 years to get it right, and now its time to say so long and thanks for the memories (or lack there of)

  • Hound

    Dwayne (in your wordspeak): Again, firing you is a process. You are clearly working hard to get that result, bad substitutions, bad preparedness, bad/no timeouts, bad inbound plays, etc. But again, this firing you is a process, we see lots of positives in the making of your firing, the lack of wins, the lack of player development and once again, the lack of wins. But again, this is a process, we just need to see a little more discontent from the players, some more bad decisions and of course, about 15 more losses. But we do see the process and the positives in this road to your firing. A lot of fans are hurt right now and look forward to some hope. I have no doubt you will supply us with that. Don’t go changing, just do what you do best.

  • Pong

    Those hating on DC for starting bargs:

    A) gay was out so we needed more offense in our starting 5

    B) it’s to match up against their stretch 4

    C) bucks interior d is too good and without bargs stretching the floor Lowry and dd would have an even harder time attacking

    • Hound

      Absolutely agree with all of that, just not sure why you play a guy for 15 straight minutes to start a game and then against the Bucks same starting 5 in the fourth, he doesn’t play at all? Mind boggling!


      I agree as well… But DC needs to learn how to use JV ( and other inside bigs  ) offensively too… But for this game it was the right choice.

  • Lopez

    I honestly was upset when AA forced OT. I dont want to see another win with DC as this head coac or BC as the gm. I just dont get how you can suck at your job so badly and keep it for so long. The process got Casey fired in Minny and he still hasn’t learned…

    • The Truth

      I am sure there will be a lineup down the street of guys who want to coach this mob given our propensity for giving coaches rubbish personnel and firing them every two years.

  • FAQ

    WINS WINS WINS… gotta have wins to make my loser life meaningful…. says the t.h.f.’s …. !

    • What the

      so what the       we play the game for if not to win, we play the game to win.

  • CJT

    I don’t understand you guys.  You keep saying you want the Raps to miss the playoffs to get rid of their obligation to OCK this year in a weak draft and then you just complain when they do exactly what you ask of them.  Which is it? 

    • Van Grungy

      I think everyone just want’s a reason to get excited.. even if we all would cheer a run at the playoffs while secretly pining for the Raps to fall short.

      Just sucking and getting what we all want is just no fun

      • CJT

        Well said.  I think we have a bunch of closet optimists secretly wishing for a first round exit at the hands of the Heat.

  • Guest

    As a fan I definitely want to see us tank the shit out of next year for a shot at Wiggins.  A lot of people seem to think that’s not the way to go but I don’t see how it isn’t.  Where the hell are we going with all this mediocrity?  We’re running in an insane circle from false hope to bitter disappointment around our ring master Colangelo.  Tanking for Wiggins, in my opinion, is the ONLY thing that makes sense at this point.  In a league that requires a superstar on your team for any real shot at a championship / dynasty how do we not go this route?  What would the alternative be?  Even if the Gay/Lowry/DD trio live up to their offensive potential, along with the development of our rooks, where along the spectrum of true NBA legitimacy does that leave us?  And for how long?  I.m.o. this city, Toronto, needs and deserves a REAL NBA identity.  I would offer Cleveland’s rebuild around Irving as a model post-Lebron.  I would much rather be Cleveland with a legitimate All-Star for years to come to continue to build around then Toronto.  Or, if we are going to do this re-growth/re-build thing another way, without tanking, then maybe our GM isn’t the person to be doing it.  

    • MorganC

       Only problem, I believe, is that Colangelo gave away our first round picks for this year and next… correct me if I’m wrong.

      • The Truth

        You are wrong. He gave away a single first round pick, what is up in the year is *which* year it is in, but it wont be both (and at this stage barring a miracle it’s almost certain to be this years).

        • The Truth

          * Up in the air rather.

      • Guest

        I believe it’s top 3 protected this year and top 2 protected next.

  • p00ka

    bargnani is the best looking raptor. Soo handsome, I’d like to tell him in person how much I appreciate his beauty, if only there wasn’t that restraining order :(

    • cesco

      im the president of the bargnani fan club, no one loves bargnani more than I do!

      • pizzaman

        I want bargnani’s dick in my mouth