A New Streak Begins? Raptors Fall to Bucks in Familiar Ways

Fifty-two games into the season, just how predictable and monotonous have the 14-38 Toronto Raptors become? Well, as I started writing my post-game report for tonight's ugly 92-74 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, it all felt a little familiar.

Raptors 74, Bucks 92 – Box

Fifty-two games into the season, just how predictable and monotonous have the 14-38 Toronto Raptors become? Well, as I started writing my post-game report for tonight’s ugly 92-74 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, it all felt a little familiar. With the Raptors now 0-9 in games that I’m covering, I poured a stiff drink and looked back at the other losses I’ve had the dishonour of handling. Allow me, then, to analyze loss #38 in terms of eight other losses…

November 8, Golden State 109, Toronto 102
“However, after watching the Raptors get outplayed by a tired Golden State Warriors team on the back end of a road back-to-back, I’m left only with a truth I knew to be so before this game, and even before this season, started. The Raptors are not a very good basketball team right now, and they are going to struggle to beat any team on any given night.”

November 16, Washington 109, Toronto 100
“We know that Jose Calderon has trouble with quick guards, but he played just 17 minutes and it was his offense that was of greater concern (1/8 shooting, and he is back below 40% for the season).”
“Barbosa is expected to return Friday, which should help the floor spacing but may impede the development of DeRozan we have seen over the past few games. While he only put up 12 points, he shot 5/9, and the volume was largely a fault of the team’s facilitators.”

December 6, Indiana 124, Toronto 100
“In other words, it’s getting a little tiresome to look for moral victories in ugly losses at this point, although I guess that’s the job description when covering a rebuilding team.”

December 14, Charlotte 97, Toronto 91
“His best buddy Sonny Weems was even more frustrating, displaying poor shot selection yet again en route to a 4/13 shooting performance. Sonny manages to look the part, playing with intensity and being in the right place a lot of the time, but he forces his offense far too often and the criticism that he thinks he’s Kobe Weems held true tonight.”

January 4, Chicago 111, Toronto 91
“Defense and rebounding have never been Bargnani’s strong suits, but you would think at this point he would have improved to a degree. His rebounding remains atrocious with the odd single-game outlier, but his defense seems to regress by the season, if that’s possible. His poor plus-minus rating, while not entirely reliable, is striking, especially considering just how efficient a scorer Bargnani has been.”

January 22, Miami 120, Toronto 103
“To take the next step, DeMar is going to have to find ways to draw contact at the rim – he is a master at avoiding contact, which is a skill of its own but should be balanced with drawing contact. He’ll also need a three-point shot eventually, as he’s 6-for-39 for his career, and you really can’t be considered an elite wing scorer without one.”

January 24, Memphis 100, Toronto 98
“And while a streak like that, one which doesn’t hold much weight in terms of franchise quality or value, shouldn’t mean so much – especially once it is 100 games past the previous record – it did. No matter how good or bad the team was, no matter if the team lacked a point guard or a big man, defense or rebounding, a franchise player or new management, we could always be relied upon to hit a three. And now we’re just another bad team in the middle of a rebuild.”

January 31, Indiana 104, Toronto 93
“In terms of tonight, the Raptors failed to capitalize on turnovers while getting dummied on the boards, allowing Indiana to escape with a win despite playing an extremely sloppy game.”

Now, I fully realize that copy and pasting 600 words from old articles leaves me wide open to criticism. However, at this point, does it really matter? I’m not trying to be a defeatist or a pessimist, but there are only so many positive spins or interesting angles to pull from a team that is generally considered to be the second worst unit in basketball (thank you, Cleveland).

Tonight was legitimately more of the same, as displayed above; it was a thorough defeat, with the team unable to score against one of the league’s better defensive units, and unable to push the tempo against the league’s fifth slowest team. Early, it looked like it might be a different case, as the first quarter rolled at a fast pace, with a combined 45 shots and seven turnovers between the teams. The Raptors shot themselves in the foot by shooting only 32% with their bonus chances, squandering four turnovers and five offensive rebounds, and trailing by seven at the first break.

From there things slowed to a crawl, and it somehow helped the Raptors shrink the lead to two at halftime. The Raptors had a small uptick in shooting percentage in the second, but were out rebounded. At half, the only thing keeping the Raptors in the game was 10 points off of 10 turnovers. That advantage disappeared completely in the second half as the Raptors forced just three the rest of the way and lost their rebounding edge (50-44 final tally), allowing Milwaukee to slowly pull away.

Andrew Bogut once again had his way with the Raps, putting up an impressive 14-5-3-1-5 line on 6/8 shooting in just 30 minutes. His services weren’t required as the game wore on, giving the Raptors reprieve from his crisp post passing and his inhabitance of the Raptors’ paint, much to the disinterest of Andrea Bargnani. Four other players scored in double figures, and four other players added five or more rebounds. As it usually is, Milwaukee’s offense was a painfully slow and balanced attack, just 17 assists and two three-point field goals, but a lot of lengthy possessions ending in two-point scores.

The Raptors couldn’t find their collective stroke all night, and it seemed more their own doing than that of Milwaukee, the leagues sixth best team in terms of defensive efficiency. The Raptors went 0/10 from long range and shot just 36% overall, weighed down by poor shooting nights from Amir Johnson (1/7), Sonny Weems (2/10), and Jose Calderon, who had one of the worst statistical games of his career.

Jose managed just six points, four rebounds, and seven assists to go with six turnovers and 2/15 shooting. It was Jose’s third highest turnover output of the season, but in the other instances he also recorded double digit assists. The quantity of shooting was also rare, as Jose has shot 15 or more times only once this year, a 10/16 performance. To find the last time Jose had a shooting game as bad as 2/15, I had to go all the way back to November 16 (1/8). Furthermore, the last time Jose took 10 or more field goals and made two or less was November 7, 2008, a 2/10 performance at Atlanta. This, by all accounts, was Calderon’s worst game as a Toronto Raptor. Maybe he recognized a match-up I failed to see, or maybe he could feel his team needed a scoring touch tonight, but this was borderline unacceptable, and depressingly TJ Ford-esque. Sorry Jose, I love you, but wow.

Bargs may take his usual flack as well, both for poor defense and rebounding (just five boards), and his mediocre 9/21 shooting night. Still, nobody else but DeMar was scoring, and for whatever reason he wasn’t seeing a lot of the ball in the second half, so Andrea mixed in some post-ups with his usual jump-shooting. It certainly wasn’t his worst game, but that is by no means an endorsement.

As mentioned, DeMar was inexplicably low on touches tonight. After shooting 6/7 in the first half, he took (and made) just one shot in the third quarter. A few late buckestspushed his total to 9/13, good for 18 points and another promising effort. DeMar chipped in with seven rebounds as well, and he now has 27 rebounds over the past five games, a small but appreciable small-sample improvement.

What was curious late in this game was how long Andrea and DeMar stayed on the floor in a blow out. They were not removed until there were under three minutes to play, leaving DeRozan at 39 minutes and Bargnani at 37. With Triano admitting that they have taken too large a taxing and a travel day before a game tomorrow in San Antonio, it seemed short-sighted to keep them out there with more healthy bodies than usual on the bench (Triano went as deep as Solomon Alabi, and Leandro Barbosa returned to chip in 25 minutes and give the coaches 11 usable bodies).

Then again, it’s the 42-8 Spurs tomorrow, so the difference those minutes will have is probably negligible.