Game No. 65: Bucks 92, Raptors 86
The Bucks came into this game knowing that a loss or 76ers win would eliminate them from post-season contention, and the Raptors were coming off of a nasty effort in Detroit just 24 hours earlier, so most people expected Milwaukee to pull away in their second last home game of the season.
The Bucks and their fans must have found out the crushing news mid-game that the Sixers beat the Nets to make this game meaningless for them, but it did nothing to effect the urgency in their play down the stretch, as the Raptors coughed up another one in the second half.
Now here are some thoughts on the game:
1- The most obvious observation from this game is that Dwane Casey made a change to the starting lineup, taking Aaron Gray out and replacing him with James Johnson. James played the four in a smaller lineup, with Amir Johnson sliding over to the five. I have no problem with this switch. Gray is what he is, and for the most part, we know what we have in him and what we’re going to get from him if he’s brought back next season. James Johnson has had a surprisingly good season, has shown improvements in almost all areas of his game, and has played particularly well recently after struggling for a bit post-benching.
2- Speaking of the changes to the starting five, James Johnson marked his return to the starting lineup with one of his best performances of the season. Johnson’s energy and aggressive play was a big part of the Raptors’ quick start in this game, and he ultimately finished with an impressive statline of 22 points (on 10-of-21 shooting), 13 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal in 41 minutes of action. The 13 boards were a career high.
3- DeMar DeRozan was ejected in the second quarter on a ridiculously silly play. After being called for the travel, DeRozan responded by tossing the ball carelessly down the floor. The resulting ejection was ridiculous to me for a couple of reasons. On DeRozan’s part, it’s ridiculous because of all the things to get yourself tossed on, really, a traveling call? On the officials, it’s ridiculous because how many times have we seen star players in the NBA bitch and moan for 48 minutes without even being hit with a tech, let alone ejected? Okay, so DeMar’s not a star, but was an ejection really necessary for this? It definitely should have resulted in a technical, but the ejection just seemed excessive to me.
4- I guess we shouldn’t have expected anything else from a couple of matchups between the Raptors and Pistons and then the Raptors and Bucks, but wow, did we see some disgusting, painful to watch basketball over the last two nights. Toronto’s second halves in Detroit and Milwaukee were especially tough to watch, with the Raptors scoring 77 total points between the four second half quarters over the two games. The Raps failed to hit 40 points in either of their last two second halves, and only broke the 20-point barrier in one of those four quarters. With figures like that, it’s no wonder they blew first half leads in both games.
5- Sometimes in pro sports, the most unlikeliest of players become uncontainable against certain teams. For Milwaukee’s Ersan Ilyasova, it appears the Raptors are that team. With 19 points and 15 rebounds against the Raps in this game, Ilyasova is now averaging 17.4 points and 10 rebounds over his last five games against Toronto. Not bad for a guy whose career averages are 9.7 points and 5.9 rebounds, and for a guy whose never averaged more than 12.9 points and 8.8 rebounds in a season (both of which he’s averaging this season). For the record, I think Ilyasova is a solid, starting caliber NBA forward, who will be very well paid, and deservedly so, when he becomes an unrestricted free agent this off-season.
6- While the Raptors’ 2011-2012 season officially comes to an end on Thursday night, the road portion of the team’s schedule came to a close with this game. The Raptors finished the lockout shortened campaign with a 10-23 record on the road. Obviously that’s nowhere near good enough and will have to improve if the Raps want to sniff the playoffs in the next couple of seasons, but considering where they were last season (6-35), 10-23 actually seems somewhat respectable considering they won four more road games in eight less tries this year. After all, I had them pegged at 5-28 on the road in my pre-season predictions.
Raptors Player of the Game: James Johnson – 41 Min, 22 Pts, 10-21 FG, 0-2 3PT, 2-2 FT, 13 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 Blk, 3 TO
Bucks Player of the Game: Ersan Ilyasova – 36 Min 19 Pts, 6-10 FG, 2-4 3PT, 5-8 FT, 15 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Blk, 1 TO