First, the good news:
Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way, the bad: The Toronto Raptors turned in another disaster of a performance on Thursday in Milwaukee, and unlike a Game 1 in which they did some things decent-to-well and learned a lot about the Bucks, this had little in the way of redeeming qualities. Unless you value playoff experience for the end of the bench, which you should not, because moral victories do not exist in the postseason. That’s especially true in the first round, when you’re a favorite that has now fallen into a 1-2 series hole, with both of the losses grading anywhere from disappointing to embarrassing.
The Raptors didn’t just lose. They were outclassed, outworked, and out-hustled. The Raptors talked up meeting the energy that Milwaukee would surely bring, and when the ball was rolled in, the Bucks punched them in the mouth and Toronto never found the gumption to push back.
“Our fans were great tonight,” Greg Monroe said after the game. “We felt the energy from the jump. I definitely think we got the chance to use it to our advantage, get out to an early lead, and kinda kept control of the game after that.”
A 9-2 lead swelled to 32-12 after a quarter, 57-30 at the half, and because the Raptors quite literally couldn’t score until garbage time, it closed at a 104-77 final that, despite it’s remarkable margin, still doesn’t quite do this game justice. Credit the Bucks and a very raucous Bradley Center crowd for taking the Raptors completely out of it, but there’s absolutely no explanation for the Raptors wilting this way. Dwane Casey saying so doesn’t make it any better, because it’s a long-standing trend they should have an explanation for by now.
“There’s none,” Casey said. “It starts with us, myself as a coach as far as having them ready to play in a hostile environment. They ambushed us and there’s no aspect of our game that we executed whatsoever.”
They spent two days talking about how much energy the Bucks would have at home, how their experience would help them play up on the road, and how big a factor coming out strong was going to be. And still this.
— Bismack Biyombo (@bismackbiyombo) April 21, 2017
Some quotes on getting their “asses busted”
On top of Casey saying the Bucks “ambushed” the Raptors – even though it’s probably not considered an ambush if you spend two days pointing out “hey look at that ambush we’re walking into!” – a few other Raptors had some choice words to describe the outing.
PJ “They kicked our ass. They kicked our ass. Period. They came out and played harder, more aggressive, did everything they wanted to do."
— (((Eric Koreen))) (@ekoreen) April 21, 2017
More Tucker: "If you don’t have morale to fight in the NBA playoffs, then this ain’t the job for you.”
— (((Eric Koreen))) (@ekoreen) April 21, 2017
'We got our ass busted' — Kyle Lowry master of understatement.
— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) April 21, 2017
Asked JV if #Raptors past playoff experiences helps now. He was honest: "If you're not going to come out and play hard, shit will happen"
— Matthew Scianitti (@TSNScianitti) April 21, 2017
It doesn’t make it any better, but at least the Raptors know they got punked. How could they not?
The worst part about blowouts
There’s a line in an old Norm MacDonald movie called Dirty Work where, leaving prison, MacDonald says “You know what hurts the most? It’s the lack of respect. That’s what hurts the most. Except for the other thing. That hurts the most. But the lack of respect hurts the second most. Ridiculous.”
It’s sophomoric humor, but it always sticks in my head in blowouts. That’s because I always find myself thinking “You know what the worst part of a blowout is? The fact that most of the game becomes useless for analysis. There’s nothing to be learned in a 30-point game. That’s the worst part. Except for the blowout. That’s the worst part. But the lack of learning utility is the second worst. Ridiculous.”
That’s how I feel again here, and I think there’s a more tangible impact when that happens in a playoff series than the regular season. Forget the soft impact like confidence and how broken the Raptors looked. Even if they bounce back mentally (not a certainty) and in terms of effort (believe it when we see it), they squandered a good chance to continue to pick away at Milwaukee’s defense and work on their own base defensive sets for Giannis Antetokounmpo. When half the game is the Bucks clowning around and the Raptors’ deep reserves playing, there’s little useful to be gleaned. They have to enter Game 4 trying to make adjustments now, sure, but they passed up an entire half to try some of those adjustments and rotation tweaks out. You don’t just lose a game like this, you lose your ability to improve for the next one.
And the Bucks beat the Raptors with the same stuff they hammered them with in Game 1 and the Raptors started to correct in Game 2 (the Bucks had far fewer fast-break points here, but the Raptors managed just 11 assists and turned the ball over 16 times; they also completely forgot how to attack the aggressive traps, and while the Bucks blitzed a bit more, Toronto did themselves no favors continually running side action where the baseline aids the trap rather than middle where they had more success but is admittedly more difficult to get to). It’s infuriating.
Injury Updates – Tucker is apparently fine
P.J. Tucker somewhat mysteriously sat the entire second half with no information from the Raptors’ staff or broadcast. Tucker wasn’t at his best in the first half, to be sure, but he’s still among the team’s better performers in this series, and it was weird to see him go unused for the entire second half, even as the rest of the regular saw time. There was no indication after the game that Tucker was banged up or held out for anything beyond a coaching decision.
- Raptors: They were all bad.
- Bucks: They were all good.
(I would have loved to just leave it like that, but we need to have a look at a few small things…)
- The Raptors starters were outscored by seven points in five minutes and are now a -13 in 31 minutes for the series. They’re done. Casey simply can’t go forward with this group after they’ve opened poorly in all but one of the six games they’ve started together, even if the reasons they’ve struggled are correctable.
- Cory Joseph started the second half in place of Jonas Valanciunas, a curious decision when Tucker or Patrick Patterson would have made far more defensive sense. The Raptors wanted the extra ball-handler and bit of shooting, though, and that lineup was *only* a -3 in seven minutes.
- DeMar DeRozan, Serge Ibaka, and the bench somehow went -10 in four minutes.
- The Tucker-Patterson-Ibaka trio I liked a lot and talked up heading into Game 3 only got those minutes together. They remain a +2 in 25 minutes in the series.
- The Bucks starters were +9 in 13 minutes and the move from Mirza Teletovic to Michael Beasley in the second nit worked wonders, with the Antetokounmpo-Snell-bench group going +10 in five minutes.
Here’s the quote you surely all want to hear from Casey: “We’ll make changes.”
- Teams that take a 2-1 series lead win 80 percent of the time. Those that do so as the lower-seeded team have gone 77-45, good for a 63.1-percent clip. That means that teams that have put themselves in the Raptors’ position have still won more than a third of the time, which has to be moderately encouraging. Or not. Because most of those teams weren’t blown out by 27 points in Game 3. (There actually were a couple of examples I found of teams going down 1-2 in a game this bad and winning the series, but I didn’t have the energy to do a full won-loss record.)
- Here’s Kyle Lowry to that effect: “It ain’t over. It sucks right now. It’s a terrible feeling. But it ain’t over.”
- This was the first time in DeRozan’s postseason career that he failed to make a single field goal. He hadn’t even done it in a regular season game since January of 2015 against – you guessed it – the Bucks.
— T McMahon (@tmacman411) April 21, 2017
- Game 4 goes Saturday at 3 p.m., and I’m not sure whether to feel good about the quick turnaround time to shake this off or dread the idea of a Raptors playoff afternoon game.