Maybe four days was too long a lay-off for the Raptors (14-38), who could not get into any offensive rhythm and shot just 36.0% (31-86) in a 92-74 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Raps managed to stay in it for much of the game thanks to a defensive effort that saw no Bucks scorer hit 20 points and both Andrew Bogut (14 points, five boards) and Brandon Jennings (12 points) neutralized. Even Milwaukee leading scorer John Salmons needed 18 shots to reach 17 points on the night, contributing to a 46.3% (38-82) team shooting mark.
An offensive offence. With only three Raptors managing to shoot 50% or better and just one of them (DeMar DeRozan) attempting more than two shots, this wasn’t a defeat you could pin on just one player. Instead, the club managed just two quarters of 20 points or better, maxing out with a 21-point second. The biggest offenders (or non-offenders, as the case may be): Jose Calderon (six points, 2-15 shooting), Sonny Weems (four points, 2-10) and the usually efficient Amir Johnson (five points, 1-7).
Can’t fault DeRozan for the team’s scoring woes last night, as he had 18 points on 9-13 shooting. Still, it’s a testament to Milwaukee’s defensive discipline under Scott Skiles and determination not to let the second-year swingman beat them that he didn’t get to the line once all night … The ‘can’t-catch-a-break nature of the game for Toronto was, perhaps, best summarized by a nearly minute-long stretch of the first in which the Raps attacked the offensive boards for four consecutive rebounds, only to miss all five shots during the possession … Leandro Barbosa’s return didn’t offer much of a boost on the court, but his 11 shot attempts signalled a willingness to assert himself offensively and his involvement off the bench did provide some idea of how the rotation stacks up. Barbosa and Ed Davis are the primary guard and big, respectively, off the bench, with Julian Wright, Trey Johnson and Joey Dorsey filling in the remaining minutes … Johnson, incidentally, had what was likely his most effective game as a Raptor, picking up four points and three assists in 10 minutes while being one of three Raptors with a positive +/- rating on the night … From slump bustee to slump buster: the win over the Raptors was Milwaukee’s first in the last five games and also marked their first time holding an opponent under 50% shooting over that stretch … Must be a strange week for Raptors trainer Scott McCullough, who was invited to serve as the lead NBA trainer for the All-Star Game but also came under some scrutiny when a Greek newspaper reported that Linas Kleiza had been unhappy with the medical staff’s handling of his knee injury … “Keep an eye on” fallout: 1) Turns out Jennings and Bogut both made the bell, but neither man was exactly at their best ; 2) DeRozan looked strong in defeat, but Weems’ and Johnson’s combined 3-17 shooting hurt the Raps.
Another back-to-back (which Toronto is 4-7 on the back end of, by the way) sees the Raps return home to face the NBA-best 43-8 San Antonio Spurs (7:00 pm, TSN2).
Keep an eye on:
1) … the battle beyond the arc. The three-point shooting battle represents one of the many mismatches here, as San Antonio is tied for first in the league with a 39.5% rate from 23 feet, nine inches out, while the Raptors sit dead last at a rate of 30.8%. Of course, it doesn’t help matters that Spurs opponents have to contend with paint presence Tim Duncan and speedy guards Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli, while the Raps really have no player that commands a double team.
2) … DeJuan Blair. The Raptors had no answer for the University of Pittsburgh product the last time out, allowing Blair to dominate inside with 22 points on 11-16 shooting and 11 rebounds. When Duncan and Blair are in the game together, Andrea Bargnani will be forced to contend with one physical, bruising big man, opening up another advantage for San Antonio.
The Pick: Spurs 109, Raptors 93 (34-12 on the season)