Toronto Raptors v Milwaukee Bucks

It was already unlikely, but with an overtime loss in Milwaukee on Saturday night, the Raptors’ chances of making a run at the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed virtually went out the window.

Here are some thoughts on the game…

Bucks 122, Raptors 114

- Finding out just before tip-off that Rudy Gay would miss the game with back spasms was a let down, but the most disappointing pre-game development was that Andrea Bargnani would be replacing Jonas Valanciunas in the starting lineup. The fact that the team was “trying to get Andrea going” was referenced multiple times, and frankly, that’s quite the pathetic stance to take for the Raptors. Essentially, Bargnani has played with zero energy and effort for the last couple of weeks (after seven years of mostly the same) while Valanciunas was playing as well as ever during that same stretch, but since Andrea simply wasn’t as bad as usual on Friday night, Dwane Casey and the coaching staff/organization thought this was the perfect time to reward him.

As I tweeted before the game, most organizations punish players like Bargnani for consistently failing to deliver an honest effort by limiting their minutes before eventually just flat out benching him. The Raptors instead coddle and unjustifiably reward Bargnani with the hope that said rewards will inspire him to merely do his job.

If it really is Casey’s call, then we should all feel incredibly naive for believing his remarks earlier this season that players will actually have to earn minutes from here on out. If, as many conspiracy theorists believe, the call is coming from Bryan Colangelo, then BC is a lost cause. Either way, this whole situation has become an embarrassing farce for the franchise.

- By the way, after collecting four points and five rebounds in his first eight minutes of action off of the bench tonight, Valanciunas only logged another three minutes after that and didn’t touch the floor at all in the second half or in overtime. But remember, they’re rewarding the guys who deserve minutes!

- While my frustration over the Bargnani situation (and Alan Anderson’s shot selection down the stretch) consumed me for a while after the game, there are plenty of other things to discuss. The game itself was actually quite entertaining and provided plenty of drama and lead changes, with the Gay-less Raptors putting forth a commendable effort for the most part. Sure, the Raps blew an 11-point lead in the first half, but they also entered the fourth quarter down eight points before outscoring the Bucks 30-22 in the fourth to force overtime, where Milwaukee simply dominated both ends of the floor.

- The catalyst for Toronto’s fourth quarter rally was none other than John Lucas III. I’ve mentioned before that when Lucas’ shot isn’t falling, he can ruin a team’s offensive flow because he doesn’t move the ball or penetrate enough. Well tonight we saw what it looks like when his shot is falling, as Lucas finished with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting (including 4-of-5 three-point shooting) in just 17:38 of playing time. Nine of Lucas’ 16 points came on three straight three-pointers within the first three minutes of the fourth quarter.

- The Raptors used a small-ball lineup to rally in the fourth quarter, and it worked, but it also left the team vulnerable on the boards and in the paint, as the Bucks crashed the offensive glass and cashed in on second chance points down the stretch. Again, the small lineup worked for Toronto, but there was one play where I thought the Raptors should’ve used a bigger unit. The Bucks had the ball in a tie game with about 28 seconds remaining coming out of a timeout, and after the Raps forced a Monta Ellis miss, Ersan Ilyasova tipped home the offensive rebound to put the Bucks up two with just seven seconds left. The thing is, the Raptors still had a timeout remaining (and they eventually tied the game to send it to OT after calling that timeout), so they could have gone big again to prevent the offensive rebound for Milwaukee while still having the luxury of making a substitution to go small again on the offensive end.

- Kyle Lowry committed six turnovers and still wasn’t nearly as aggressive as I would have liked him to be with Gay out of the lineup (Lowry only took seven shots in 36 minutes), but he also recorded his third career triple-double with 10 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds while adding five steals for good measure. Unfortunately, as Lowry mentioned postgame, the triple-double doesn’t mean “a damn thing” in a loss.

- While no one was happy with Bargnani in the starting lineup, I didn’t have a problem with Landry Fields taking Gay’s spot for the night. Fields was arguably the best Raptor on the floor tonight (with Amir Johnson also in the conversation), as his constant movement off the ball kept the Raptors’ offence flowing while he crashed the boards and defended as well as anyone, finishing with four steals. Landry also logged a team-high 47:37 of floor time.

- When the Bucks blew a seven-point lead in the final three minutes against the Hawks last Saturday to drop their third straight game and seventh in their last eight, the Raptors (winners of six of seven at the time) moved within four games of Milwaukee and for the first time in nearly two months, I was legitimately thinking we had ourselves a playoff race. I came into this week thinking that the Raptors had to go 3-1 (2-2 at worst) while beating the Bucks tonight to continue the exciting push. Instead, the Raptors went 0-4 while the Bucks went 3-0 in a week that provided a harsh reminder of just how far away this team still is.

Raptors Player Of the Game: Landry Fields – 15 Pts, 7/13 FG, 0/2 3PT, 1/1 FT, 7 Reb, 4 Ast, 4 Stl in 47:37

Bucks Player Of the Game: Ersan Ilyasova – 29 Pts, 12/21 FG, 0/3 3PT, 5/5 FT, 11 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 Blk 1 TO in 42:24

I’d love to say that the one positive of the Bucks putting the Raptors out of their misery is that the rookies (even Acy) will finally start logging major minutes over some of the veteran bit-players who won’t even be here next season, but at this point, do any of us even believe that?

Comments (37)

  1. This Bargnani situation won’t end well, the moment he reverts back to his career averages, Colangelo will just hold onto him again believing it’s some sign of a sustainable level of play in the future instead of trading him. It’s already happened a number of times over the last 7 years.

    Also, I’m not going to let you get away with your fawning over Casey over the last 18 months. If you set your expectations low enough like you did entering last year, anyone can meet them but now that there are expectations for this franchise that are higher than just avoiding finishing with one of the worst records in the league, you see the situation we’re in. A Fucking D-league level scrub basically has the green light to take any shot he wants at any time while two rookies decay on the bench. I hope you’re happy.

    • I don’t deny that I was quite impressed with Casey’s defensive impact on this team last year, his ability to finally get through to Bargnani for the first month of last season (that’s actually an accomplishment) and with the overall job he did with a rag tag group in 2011-12. But I’ve also been openly critical of a lot of his decisions this season, especially with respect to his rotation management, so it’s not like I’m avoiding criticizing him after praising him last year.

      Overall, I don’t really know what you mean by “I hope you’re happy.” I’ve been asking for the young guys to get minutes over the veteran bit-players pretty much all season.

      • AlixtheGambitsports. I’m happy Mr. Casciaro that you mentioned a big pet peeve of mine that Terrence and Jonas should be playing a lot more minutes. The Rpators can make a playoff run and play the kids at the same time.
        You are definitely right, 24 seconds remaining Jonas would have got the rebound over Ilya but he wasn’t inserted in the game.
        I’m disappointed you didn’t mention Lucas was taken out of the game with 6 minutes remaining and wasn’t inserted back into the game until there was 24 seconds left in the game because DeMar fouled out. 6-9 shooting, Lucas was on that night.
        Coach Casey should be fired and go back to being an assistant coach.

        • I was really on Casey’s side to start the year, but now I’m dead against keeping him as the coach of this team. Get rid of him and BC as well. It is the only way we are ever going to see good rotations of the proper players for the team.

          Day after the season ends for the team, BC and DC should be let go/fired. Then bring in a GM before the draft, and have him first, try to trade Bargs for Dallas coach Carlyle, and when that fails, just amnesty his ass July 1st.

    • Where is the defensive culture change that was supposed to happening??? It feels like the Raptos are taking steps backwards in that area.

      • *Raptors

        I agree with PBI, Bargnani will get a bulk of minutes and he’ll still be around next year. History will just repeat itself over and over again. They really should amensty him, free up the cap space and sign 1 or 2 decent free agents in the offseason. However, who really wants to come to Toronto to play. It’s a tough sell trying to convince anyone that we’re doing BIG things with our recent history….

  2. When I saw that Bargnani was starting tonight, I laughed because I knew there would be countless heads exploding across the raptors’ blogosphere. And I was right. You guys can’t see past your hatred for this guy. Did it ever occur to you the reason Bargnani started was because of Gay’s absence from the line up and the need for another scorer was at a premium. And, that proved to be right. Toronto lost in OT. Bargnani had a reasonable accounting for himself -11 pts 7 reb 2 blocks. And, he played within the flow of the game. To the AB Haters I pose this question. What happens if he sits on the bench the rest of the season? What kind of trade offers will be available then? You wouldn’t be able to give him away and the only way out would be to amnesty his contract. Utlimately, some other team would sign him to a highly discounted deal< Toronto would still be on the hook financially for the bulk of his remaining contract. And, under different circumstances, he'll become a valuable piece to a contending team. My preference would be in Denver where a stretch four-five is just what they're looking for. They'll get Bargnani for 2-4 million per.
    As for the current collection of hero ball chucking isolation specialists playing their trade north of the border… good luck with that. Next year this team will be lucky to win 35 games. And I can watch all of your heads explode again! lmao

    • “Did it ever occur to you the reason Bargnani started was because of Gay’s absence from the line up and the need for another scorer was at a premium. And, that proved to be right.” Actually Rocco, Casey said postgame that Bargnani’s addition to the lineup tonight had nothing to do with Gay’s absence.

      Bargnani was decent tonight, but his best minutes came in the first quarter and he barely did anything positive after that. The point isn’t even about what he did tonight though, it’s the fact that the guy continues to be coddled and protected while not being forced to earn anything in his NBA career. He had been surpassed on the depth chart by other players who were actually working for their minutes, and instead of punishing him by cutting his minutes further or even just once sitting him with a DNP-CD, the team gives him an increased role and more minutes “to try to get him going.” It’s a great precedent they’ve set, as Bargnani can rest assured that if he ever falls out of the starting lineup again, a few weeks of uninspired/heartless play should “earn” him his minutes back.

      Lastly, as I’ve mentioned before, the Raps will probably get better offers in the summer than they got at the deadline simply because teams are more willing to take chances on guys like Bargs when the hope of a new season clouds their judgement. Nothing he does on the court between now and April will alter that trade value. He could sit on the bench the rest of the season and it wouldn’t alter his value.

    • Lol premium scorer ? Have you seen barnys numbers in the last ten games . He is shooting inder 30 % from three no one respects his shot so he does not spread the floor at all . All he does is stand at the 3 line and let amir battle 2 guys for boards . I dont give a shit if he got 7 boards in a game that went to overtime when j.v had 5 boards in 8 min . Plan and simple barny didnt desearve to start this game or any game the rest of the way . They wont get any good players for a trade it will be nothing but bad contracts . Amnesty this piece of trash and move klieza and go from there . The fact that the bench had to stand up and clapp for him is a joke . Embarrissing we have to baby him so bad its like he had a death in the family or something and the team was supportig him ……. But no its just a case of a player with no heart or passion guys have to stand up and cheer ? Pathetic ! Bench the bum

  3. Well said, Rocco. The author wrote, “While no one was happy with Bargnani in the starting lineup”… Uh, speak for yourself. Funny that you also wrote, “Ersan Ilyasova tipped home the offensive rebound to put the Bucks up two with just seven seconds left” without any blame assessed to anyone. Now try to imagine if Ilyasova got that offensive board while Bargnani was playing, and how you’d lambaste the guy. Yet no tough words for whoever was out there?

    • Ilyasova put that rebound home over two of Lowry/Anderson/DeRozan (I don’t remember which two of those three it was) while Amir was covering Sanders and Fields was defending Ellis. If you read the post, you’ll notice that I dedicated a paragraph to the play in question, and how I believe Casey should have put another big man on the floor for that defensive possession since the Bucks had been killing the Raps on the offensive glass late in the game when Toronto went small. I would have liked to see JV on the floor with Amir for that defensive possession (the Raps could have then called a timeout after the stop/rebound and gone small again on offence).

      Having said that, it’s harder to fault a point guard or wing player for failing to box out a 6-10 player than it is to fault a legit seven-footer like Bargnani, who just refuses to put forth the necessary effort to be a decent rebounder. So to answer your question, when a seven-footer fails to secure a defensive rebound at that stage of a game, he deserves to be criticized. When a couple of guys 6-7 or smaller get out-rebounded in that situation, I ask why there wasn’t a second big man on the floor.

    • Because it was a small lineup out there at the time. If Bargs was there he would have been THE SEVEN FOOTER. I’m no pro analyst or anything, but I did catch that play at a glance on the replay, and was thinking why isn’t there a big out there?

  4. I’m not at the point where I would personally do it myself, but if someone were to shoot Andrea dead in the street tonight, I’d feel OK about it.

    • That really isn’t funny, or necessary. It’s a goddamn sport, man.

    • You are a terrible person.

      • OK, there may have been some hyperbole there.

        OT losses make me weird and emotional. I don’t wish death on him.

        But if he were to be kicked in the nuts really hard, that I’d still be pretty in favour of.

  5. This season is done, I don’t think I’ll be watching anymore Raps games this year. But I think with the Raps’ recent lacklustre performances (and the fact that there’s basically no way they make the playoffs anymore) it’s a good bet that BC is gone.

  6. Unless the rookies start getting some burn, I doubt I will be watching many more games. I’ll probably check the game summary afterward to see if anything interesting happened, maybe zip through on League Pass. But this shitsoup just isn’t worth the aggravation. Maybe I’ll finish the year watching the Rockets?

    • Btw, of the 100 NBA players attempting more than 18 FGs/48 minutes and who have played more than 400 minutes, the Raptors have got THREE of the worst eight TS% — Gay, Ross, and Bargnani (who is fifth worst).

      Thanks BC. Great team you’ve put together.

      (DeRozan is just 37th-worst. Lowry doesn’t shoot enough to make the list, but if he did, his 56.8 TS% would be 14th-best.)

    • That’s exactly what I’m doing. We have the 20th pick in Motiejūnas getting some burn there and the team is fun to watch because they show some set plays, have a star that can take over a game and have some PGs that can pass the ball. This team could be very similar if not for bad coaching.

  7. DC is a shit coach!!!!!!! his rotation is all fucked up & he dont even see it!!! get this hack out of here!! this team is going nowhere with him in charge!

  8. house cleaning time fire everybody trade everyone what a joke of a team

  9. I’m glad Fields finally got a chance to play again. Definitely think he deserves steady minutes in this rotation.

    But so much for accountability and earning your minutes on this team. What a sh!tshow this has turned into.

    Bargnani gets his starting spot back and 33 minutes, while Jonas only gets 11 minutes?

    5 minutes of Ross and 29 minutes of Alan Anderson chucking up 20 shots?

  10. Can Alan Anderson some how not jack up a contested shot early in the shot clock every other possession?

  11. [" While no one was happy with Bargnani in the starting lineup "] …. Really Joseph. Did you do some poll to get to this FACT.

    No disrespect – well maybe a little – but you’re out to lunch with some of this post.

    First you start a rant on Bargnani starting, one of many past rants you’ve had regarding him. I thought Casey made a great move starting Andrea. And it showed. Raptors led by 10 points when AB checked out in the 2nd Quarter – albeit, after Casey riding him for FAR too long. Criticize that instead, especially after AB played 32 minutes the night before. It affected his 2nd half effort, which wasn’t bad, but he lacked the energy that Raps needed to close this out.

    It amazes me how the media rant on Toronto teams all the time. Yes, Raptors haven’t had much success. Nor the Leafs for that matter, Or Jays either – 1994 was a long time ago.

    What’s the common denominator though?

    It’s the media. As much as I put some blame on our bi-polar fans, Toronto media – over the last 30 – 40 years – continues to rant about Toronto sports teams. Reality is, you do more damage then any lack of playing skills do. You look for anything that makes your reporting relevant, or interesting – with great emphasis on the negatives (which help sell papers).

    The attitude is not as bad for basketball. But for hockey – and this is not to say you should sugar coat things – but when it comes to this sport, the media have the most pessimistic and antagonistic attitude that one could have. Players don’t want to play in this fishbowl, which the media have so eloquently designed.

    Last night was a great effort. Too bad some shots didn’t fall – one more and it might’ve made the difference between a win and the loss.


    • Great post, the fans are to blame for one of the worst organizations in the NBA.

      I can’t believe people post shit like this without any intended sarcasm, scary that people like you are out there.

      • PBI,
        Not sure if you read this post right, or how you got that it’s the fans fault.
        While Toronto fans can have an effect on Raptor play – cue the boos – my comment was about the media in Toronto.


  12. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a quick way out of this mess, whether Colangelo gets the axe or not – the Raptors don’t have a pick as it stands unless they get crazy lucky in the lottery, and Bargnani’s trade value has never been lower. The Raptors, despite yet another miserable season, still have quite a few valuable assets (young studs in DeRozan, Valanciunas. A promising wing player in Ross. And Rudy Gay who either flourishes into the leader this team needs or becomes a huge expiring contract in at most 2 years and possibly 1.

    So I guess the only way to move out of this turmoil is forward – finish the year giving the Rooks more PT, and hoping next season there will no more of this 5, 6, 7-game losing streak nonsense.

    Forget the Raptors for a few months, spring is almost here!

  13. I’m back to watching the Spurs/Heat/Thunder gear up for the playoffs. Midway through Miami-Memphis the other night, I suddenly realized I was watching “basketball!” Whoa, so this is what “basketball” looks like?! 2/3 of the way through another Raptors season, I’d nearly forgotten.

  14. Joseph Casciaro should coach the team and PBI should be the assistant because they always seem to know everything and what’s best for this team.


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