Raptors News

Practice news & notes: Not gonna be a picnic party

The Toronto Raptors bounced back in Game 2 to escape their own city with a 1-1 split. Now, the series heads to Wisconscin, and the Raptors are expecting the Milwaukee Bucks to try to turn things around and protect what’s now their home-court advantage in the series. This is, of course, how series work, with the sides making adjustments and counter-adjustments, momentum existing only as a momentary figment of narrative, and a team’s success only as sustainable as the energy that represents its driving force.

In other words, there’s still a lot of hard work to be done, and while the Raptors did well in evening the series, they still have a long way to go to wrestle control of it back. Game 3, then, won’t be easy, and there’s nobody better at telling you that hard things are hard than Raptors head coach Dwane Casey.

“Like I told the guys, it’s not going to be a picnic and if anybody’s looking for a picnic they’re in for the wrong type of party,” he said at practice Wednesday. “It’s going to be a battle, a war and we’ve got to go in with that mentality. The only friends they’re going to have is the guys in the film room earlier.”

So this one won’t be a picnic party, if you had expected the Raptors to show up with their favorite cheeses given the location of the next battle. Will it be sexy, though, showing up in its summer finest, as if the game were going to be an ethereal midsummer’s day?

“It’s going to be a battle. We’ve got to be ready for war,” he continued. “It’s not going to be easy. The game is not going to be pretty. We don’t want a pretty game.”

Funny quotes aside, though, the Raptors haven’t done enough through two games to feel particularly comfortable about their play. They played better, to be sure, and in cutting the Bucks from 18 dunks or layups to 11, and from 40 points in the paint to 30, they executed some key parts of their defensive gameplan well. Milwaukee, for as rigid as they are in their defensive system, has the opportunity now to adjust their offense, and the Raptors are bracing for a refined attack Thursday.

“We feel like we got better the second game. Personally, I felt like that,” P.J. Tucker said. “But we broke it down even more from the first game to the second game, now going into the third game, especially dissecting plays, how we wanna cover certain things. They made adjustments, so now we make adjustments to get better at it.

“We kinda talked about that today, in personal conversations of we still feel like we haven’t gotten close to our potential. We feel like we can get a lot better. Our energy has gotten up, we’re playing harder, but still, small things.”

While the Bucks may change things on the offensive end, their defense mostly is what it is. Despite some struggles, they’ve been exactly what the Raptors expected heading in. There’s strong logic to suggest the Bucks defense can be better exploited with more familiarity, and the Raptors seemed to be getting their in the first half of Game 2, particularly with the attention the Bucks were paying to Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.

(I wrote about Lowry’s bounce-back performance over at Vice.)

“Those were good looks. We got all of the looks we wanted,” Casey said. “The way they played the defense presented that — those shots, those plays. Guys made shots.”

The Raptors will have to do even better creating and exploiting those openings in Game 3, because it’s unlikely that they’ll hit close to 50 percent on such a high volume of threes again. Then again, the Bucks aren’t particularly likely too, either. Regression is sometimes the biggest between-games adjustment, so the Raptors have to make sure their margin for such variance is expanded by playing better on both sides. That’s their focus.

The greatest scrum of all time

Serge Ibaka is not the greatest interview in Raptors history. He is thoughtful and smart, and asking the right questions can pull out some great answers, but for the most part, Ibaka is pretty light on the chit-chat. On Wednesday, media at practice were also light on questions for the power forward, and so his scrum lasted all of 25 seconds in one of the funnier sessions in Raptors history.

(How’s your ankle?)


(You seemed to play better in the second half.)

Yeah, my ankle felt good. … That’s it? Okay!


Other Notes

  • Bruno Caboclo and Pascal Siakam were assigned back to Raptors 905 for Game 2 of the D-League Eastern Conference Finals, which goes down tonight. If the 905 win, the youngsters could re-join the parent club briefly to gain experience watching Games 3 and 4 in street clothes, depending on what the schedule ends up being for the D-League Finals. If the 905 lose, Game 3 goes Thursday, so Caboclo and Siakam won’t be going anywhere.
    • Jerry Stackhouse was named D-League Coach of the Year today, and here’s what Casey had to say about the job Stackhouse has done:
      • “That’s great. Congratulations. He did a great job with that team, growing that team, developing that team. I saw Tavares got defensive player of the year, that was huge. And I thought our guys that went down, Freddy and Siakam and those guys, did a great job going down there and playing, Bruno. That’s what it’s all about – not only to develop the players but to develop the coaches and that’s what the D-League was initially put in for. Whether it’s staff, coaches, players, it’s all about development and Stack did a great job with the team down there.”
  • For what it’s worth, Tucker was a very vocal presence on the sidelines Tuesday, particularly with respect to Kyle Lowry, though Tucker declined to shed light on what those conversations were like. Tucker’s of the belief, as many are, that Lowry’s energy drives the team, and so it seems he took it on himself to try to help make sure that energy level remains high.
  • The Raptors flew out after practice and will get into Milwaukee late this afternoon. They’ll have shootaround tomorrow, and we’ll have light coverage here, but we’re not traveling for the series, so it’ll be a lighter notes post. The Raptors expect to come back right after Saturday’s afternoon game, so they should be well rested despite the travel when Game 5 rolls around Monday.

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