This is your warning: I totally mailed in this recap.
A few things came up.
First off, I was only able to keep a half-eye on the game while I was at work. The NCAA Final Four games were on, and quite frankly, they were more interesting than an early-April contest between the surprisingly upstart Bucks, and the effort-challenged Raptors.
Second, after the shellacking the Raptors laid on the Pacers on Friday night, I made the mistake of mentally writing this game off as an easy win. Evidently, so did the Raptors.
Third, I must admit that I caught nary a wink of the first half. Every now and then, I peeked over at the boxscore, only to be ashamed and horrified at the prospect of the Raptors losing to the Bucks. My disgust with the Raptors game created the perfect opportunity for a dinner break. Word to the wise: Hero Burger is really expensive, but they’ll make you a delicious burger, and in my experience, burgers taste better than paper money.
Finally, I was covering for Zarar at the last second. You see, Zarar has a family, a beautiful wife, two adorable kids (including a newborn, which has presumably cut into his sleeping time like knives cut into things that are soft), the sum of which totals a life. Conversely, I neglect my family, I have no wife, zero kids (that I know of), and ultimately, very little life to speak of. Life trumps blogging every single time.
However, Zarar was kind enough to share with me his notes for the first half, of which I will further relay to you. They say brevity is the soul of wit, which makes Zarar the point of tangency between the late, great Christopher Hitchens, and the immortal Paulie Galtierri of The Sopranos.
DD handles suck
No pressure on perimeter – miss Lowry
Bucks converting mistakes to transition chances, about the only thing they do well
Bucks length a problem on defense
So, I must apologize once more, as I did not give this recap the verve and play-by-play analysis that this game most certainly did not deserve.
In short, the Raptors could be excused for their effort, as they were on the second night of a travelling back-to-back without two of their three best players in Amir Johnson and Kyle Lowry. Although DeRozan struggled with the go-go gadget length of the Bucks, he managed to score when it counted in the clutch, and his backcourt partner in crime, Greivis Vasquez, managed to pick up the slack, scoring 26 points on just 15 field goal attempts.
Or, that’s the glass half-full viewpoint.
In the eyes of a pessimist, the game exposed some of the Raptors’ biggest problems.
The book on DeRozan is out – stick a lengthy defender on him, who can manage to stay in front of him, and not bite on his pump fakes. Bucks forward Khris Middleton managed to do this to great effect, keeping DeMar to 7-for-19 shooting. A cursory glance around the NBA playoff picture reveals three such defenders in the Nets (Andrei Kirilenko), Bobcats (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) and Wizards (Trevor Ariza).
Similarly, the answer for Hayes is to exploit him in pick-and-roll situations. Much like the Raptors did with Roy Hibbert, Hayes’ lack of lateral quickness renders his effectiveness in defending the pick-and-roll to that of a stump in a field. I’m not entirely sure if that last simile was a thing, but it is now. Replace the word “Hayes” with “Vasquez”, and this statement is equally as valid.
Of course, neither viewpoint is entirely correct, nor entirely wrong. As they say, the truth lays somewhere in the middle. Or, I’m falling prey to the common logical fallacy of false equivalence. Either way, you’re getting my unfiltered thoughts on this post because I’m trying my darnest to fill a thousand word recap.
The efforts of Greivis Vasquez could not be understated, as he really did bail out DeRozan’s poor shooting night. He started the third quarter on fire, and single-handedly erased the Raptors’ 9 point halftime deficit. He scored eight points in just under three minutes to start the third, including a pair of triples. DeRozan would take two steps into the lane, look for Vasquez’s defender to leave him for a half-step, and rifle over a pass to Vasquez for a spot-up in-rhythm. Greivis netted his other two points in this mini-spurt by effortlessly gliding into the lane, and dropping his patented floater in the lane.
Of course, for every three points Vasquez scored on the night, he gave back two to Bucks guard Brandon Knight, who went from #RIPBrandonKnight to dunking all over Jonas Valanciunas, in rather emphatic fashion. Notice on that play, Greivis was completely crossed up, and left his sophomore big-man all alone on an island. Thems the breaks when Vasquez is on the court, and thankfully, he gaveth more than he tooketh last night.
The game remained close all the way down to its final minutes. With Patrick Patterson’s shot failing to fall, Chuck Hayes got the assignment to flank Jonas Valanciunas in the frontcourt to close out the game. Despite being the shortest big on the court, Hayes was able to use his veteran guile and his rambunctious bulk to ensnare defensive rebounds. His effort is to be particularly noted, as some dude named Jeff Adrien repeatedly pillaged the Raptors on the boards, which perplexed me because I had no idea that he even existed. I mean, I don’t like to brag or anything, but I feel like I’m pretty attuned with the goings on in the NBA these days, yet I didn’t know this angry-looking fellow who managed to score 15 points, and grab 10 rebounds against my Raptors.
The Raptors showed improved crunch-time execution, and managed to close out the game. DeRozan had success anytime he drove to the basket, and Jonas was extremely effective against the smaller Bucks bigs. More than anything else, the Raptors were able to run actual offensive sets, whereas the Bucks’ offense was buoyed by phantom loose ball fouls on Jonas Valanciunas. His reaction was similar to mine.
Thankfully, the Raptors were able to pull out the victory thanks to some clutch free-throw shooting on the parts of Ross and DeRozan. Credit goes to DeRozan for putting the Raptors up for good by pump-faking Middleton into the air, and colliding into him to earn a pair of trips to the line. In previous years, he did not have the savvy and presence in mind to make the move, which makes for a convenient analogy to conclude this game recap.
Like DeRozan, the Raptors have steadily matured throughout the season, and their incremental improvements have amounted to the difference between wins and losses in tight games, as evidenced by their last three contests. Perhaps that takeaway is far too positive for a four-point win against the Bucks, but it is 2:20 AM and quite frankly, I’m really bad at writing conclusions.