For those wondering why there was no quick recap, last night, it was due to an unavailability of writers, who were all on other VERY important assignments. We apologize to those whose game day isn’t complete without a Raptor’s Republic Quick Recap.
As for the game itself, the Raptors did prevail, but not before both teams seemed to do their best to try and give the win to the other team. This was not a well coached or well played game, for the most part. There were definitely some highlights, though.
DeMar DeRozan shot poorly for the night (5-14), but came up big in the second half and hit some big shots from the field and from the line. He also lead the team in assists (5 assists), showing a playmaking ability that he has rarely done in the past. It wasn’t all good for DeRozan, though. Like in the games against Boston and Atlanta, DeRozan fell too in love with his long jumper as the game went on and only took one shot in the fourth closer than 15 feet to the basket.
DeRozan taking too many long jumpers has been a long time criticism of his and we’re unfortunately, still seeing a lot of that.
Amir Johnson had another typical Amir night, going 5-7 from the field, grabbing 8 rebounds and being relatively active. Now, there has been a lot of discussion among fans about his three point shooting, and while I certainly don’t want Amir to turn into Bargnani, being allergic to the paint, one important thing to remember is that he’s shooting .375 from beyond the arc for the season, which is a very decent percentage. If he can continue to hit it at that clip, although that’s probably unlikely, then I have no problem with taking a three when he’s open.
Landry Fields continues to play like the player many hoped when he was signed to that overpriced contract. He hasn’t lit up the scoreboard, but he’s done all the little things that you need your role players to do to help you win. He’s defended, moved well without the ball, made the right passes at the right time, and helped out on the boards. His form on an his outside shot still would look bad at your local community centre, let alone in the NBA, but he’s actually shooting a decent percentage from the field, mostly because he’s had good good shot selection.
Which brings us to Rudy Gay.
Gay has not been a favourite among Raptor fan so far this season and last night added fuel to the fire. While he did grab a game-high 15 rebounds, he again couldn’t hit the bottom of the net for most of the night, going 4-14. In the first three games of the season, he’s shooting .327 from the field. That has not stopped him from shooting as much as he can, though, and in fact he leads the team in shots per minutes.
When the news of Gay’s eye surgery made the rounds, I was skeptical. My biggest problem was that Gay shot poorly mostly due to poor shot selection, not because it appeared he was having trouble seeing the basket. And he’s still having the same problem.
Gay shooting a long jumper with a defender in his face with 17 seconds left on the shot clock.
There have been many that have claimed that Gay takes so many long, contested jumpers because he has to. He’s thrown the ball with the shot clock down and has to do SOMETHING. But let’s look at these couple of stills…
Gay receives the ball with 7 second left on the shot clock. Not a lot of time, but plenty of time to get a good shot. Instead of driving the ball or moving it, Gay holds the ball for a couple of seconds, takes a dribble and then (sorry for the blurriness)….
Gay ends up taking a long, contested two that barely hits the rim.
He’s not just shown poor judgment with his shot. He had five turnovers due to dribbling into a crowd…
In the above two stills, Rudy Gay decides to drive into four Milwaukee defenders, and then predictably loses it as they collapse on him.
Gay is obviously playing poorly, which isn’t good for those that want him to lead the team to the playoffs, but it’s also not good for those wanting to tank. Playing poorly doesn’t increase your trade value.
But let’s remember, every player goes through slumps, and often times they try too hard to get out of the slump, which doesn’t help. Gay will not continue to play like this for very long, and it’s my guess he’ll bounce back against Miami. There are certain games he will “get up for” and one against the defending Champs and the best player on the planet is one of them.
Of course, all players go through slumps, but Gay ended up playing 35 minutes, which was more than anyone else on the team. Fields, who had a far more positive effect on the team when he was on the floor played 7 minutes less.
And that brings us to Casey, another target of many Raptor fans’ ire.
While Casey didn’t get out-coached in this game, that was mainly due to Larry Drew not doing a good job on his side of the court, either. Neither team displayed any of the qualities one would hope to see from a well coached team. Neither team seemed to have much of an offense to speak of, and both teams had far too many mistakes on the defensive end.
It’s not often that a team that shot 39% will end up beating a team that shot 44%, but that is what happened last night. And that was probably mostly due to Milwaukee blowing chance after chance in the fourth quarter as the Raptors seemed to make mistake after mistake that the Bucks simply didn’t capitalize on.
In the last five minutes of the game, the Bucks missed 7 of 9 shots, including three layups (and not including a few where they got fouled that they SHOULD have made) and went 1 of 4 from the line. The Raptors did only slightly better from the foul line, in the last five minutes, going 4 of 8.
The Raptors ended up outrebounding the Bucks 60-38, but when you shoot 39% from the field, there are going to be a lot more rebounds. That doesn’t change the fact that the Raptors controlled the boards well, limiting Milwaukee to one shot, most of the time. The Bucks had a total of 6 offensive rebounds.
For the second game in a row, Valanciunas’ minutes were limited, and while I would like to see him play more, there are definite reasons he’s seen the bench more than the court. The first is that both Atlanta and Milwaukee had quicker, more athletic centre/centers and a team that, at least tried to, run a lot.
Personally, I think that you should never adjust your lineup to the other team, but make them adjust their lineup to you. It doesn’t always work, but Casey didn’t seem to try, much. And that’s been a common theme with Casey, who often seems too willing to play his opponents game than make them play his. We’ll see what he does against Miami, a team that is best when they play small and has the most trouble against big teams.
While defense was preached in training camp, we haven’t seen a whole of of good on the court, so far. Here are a couple of examples…
In the first image, we see Pachulia set a pick for Neal. Lowry gets picked off and switches to Pachulia, who posts up. Amir immediately switches to Pachulia, to prevent a mismatch in the post, but both Lowry and DeRozan end up in no man’s land, guarding neither a man or the ball. Neal ends up dishing to Larry Sanders for a dunk, but could have easily passed it to O.J. Mayo for the wide open three.
Speaking of which, here’s another perplexing defensive play…
O.J. Mayo (with ball), who had just hit two threes in a row, doesn’t have a defender within ten feet of him. DeRozan and Ross seem to be guarding a mysterious sixth Buck who must be offscreen. Notice the score at the time of this. Thankfully for the Raptors Mayo missed this open shot, and then Middleton missed the layup seconds later after DeRozan turned the ball over. And then the Greek guy missed two free throws.
See what I mean about both teams seeming to do their best to give the other team a win?
Make no mistake, the Raptors played far better than they did in Atlanta, but they also looked nothing like a playoff team last night. Even in a win.
– On a side note, Philadelphia is now 3-0, after beating both Miami and Chicago. This is the team that most predicted would have the worst record in the league and who the coach claimed only had 6 NBA players on the roster. This may end up being the only multi-game winning streak the team has all season, but Philadelphia management must be sweating their tanking plan, right now.
– Right now, Washington, Cleveland and Milwaukee are the teams to watch in the Panic Trade sweepstakes. All three teams are under direct orders to make the playoffs and aren’t playing all that well.