Two days after watching Chris Bosh's one-man show come up short in Milwaukee, you'd have thought that holding down Bosh (17 pts, 6/13 fg) and forcing Jarrett Jack and Marco Belinelli to beat you would be a sure way to steal one in Toronto (combined points on Wednesday: 6) . One problem: never underestimate the Bucks' ability to lose road games. Don't get me wrong, they have generally taken care of business against the really bad teams, which is nice. But against decent to good teams? Not so much.
Which is a shame, because in Toronto they had a golden opportunity to beat a fellow Eastern playoff hopeful for the second time in three days. A back-and-forth first quarter saw Bogut's eight points overshadowed by a balanced Raptor attack that included Jose Calderon's 40-foot heave to beat the buzzer and break a 25-25 tie. But the Bucks re-seized the momentum immediately, starting the second with a 12-0 run highlighted by eight points from a frisky-looking Jerry Stackhouse (3/3 fg, 2/2 ft). Nothing ferocious, but Stackhouse looked at ease catching on the block, facing up and burying mid-range jumpers--a little reminiscent of Richard Jefferson a year ago, especially when he's wearing Jefferson's old #24. Bogut then took over with nine in the final five minutes--including 5/5 on free throws--to help the Bucks take an encouraging 57-48 into the half.
The third quarter saw both teams make runs, the Bucks answering an 8-0 Toronto run to start the period with a 12-2 run of their own. The Bucks continued to show a 2/3 zone that they've had some success with over the past week, but the Raptors gave the Bucks a dose of their own medicine in the fourth. Toronto's zone clearly threw them off kilter, as it starved Bogut (1/3 fg in the period) of touches and challenged the Bucks' struggling jump shooters to beat them from the outside. Ridnour was the only one up for the challenge, hitting 6/7 fg and scoring 18 of the Bucks' 23 points in the final eight minutes.
But as the Bucks nervously tried to pass around the Toronto zone, the Raps were intent on attacking, running repeatedly off rebounds and turnovers and catching the Bucks flat-footed--much to the delight of the Toronto faithful. Jarrett Jack dueled Ridnour shot-for-shot, scoring 13 of his 27 points in the period and keying a 13-0 run that turned an 87-81 Bucks lead with 5:01 remaining to a 94-87 deficit with 37 seconds remaining. Ridnour buried a couple more big shots to give the Bucks a sliver of hope, but the Raps made their freebies and the Bucks were never within one possession.
The Bucks' complete inability to score down the stretch was perhaps a bit ironic given how easily the Bucks (even without Bogut) closed out the Raptors on Wednesday, but perhaps that's just the universe evening itself out. This time around they had more to focus on than just Bosh, as Jack put on an efficiency clinic with his 27 pts coming on just nine shots and Belinelli scoring 16 off the bench.
Luke Ridnour: 23 min, 27 pts, 9/13 fg, 3/6 threes, 6/6 ft, 4 ast, 0 to
Ridnour ended up with a team-worst -14, but it couldn't have been less representative of his contribution tonight. His now-standard hot shooting helped the Bucks turn around a first quarter deficit and his scorching fourth quarter gave the Bucks' sinking ship a chance down the stretch.
Andrew Bogut: 37 min, 22 pts, 8/13 fg, 6/7 ft, 6 rebs, 3 ast, 3 blk, 0 to
With Andrea Bargnani sitting out, Bogut was facing a better defender in Rasho Nesterovic much of the night but never seemed too bothered. Though his eight game streak of 11+ rebound games his over, he continued to score with ease and now has five straight games with 3+ blocks. The biggest problem was getting him the ball, as the Raptors zone threw the Bucks for a loop.
Brandon Jennings: 32 min, 14 pts, 5/15 fg, 3 reb, 2 ast, 3 stl, 2 to
Not much to choose from after Ridnour and Bogut, but let's talk about the rookie for a moment. I'm not one to make excuses for Jennings, but I honestly thought he was a lot better than his numbers indicated; his distribution was good and he had a number of sweet drives to the hoop, even though he was a non-factor down the stretch. But the numbers don't lie entirely--5/15 isn't a good thing any way you slice it, and Jack clearly outplayed him.
+22. The Raptors absolutely wrecked the Bucks in transition, outscoring them 27-5 and running effectively off both rebounds and turnovers.
45-39. Two days after gathering 17 offensive boards in Milwaukee, the Bucks were outrebound 45-39 and notched just six offensive boards at the Air Canada Center. Needless to say, you can't afford to let a team like the Raps outrebound you, especially when your own shot isn't falling (see next shot).
19.2%. The Bucks' recent hot shooting from deep didn't continue tonight, as they made just 5/26 threes--and Bucks not named Ridnour made just 2/20. That was especially problematic since it allowed the Raptors to go zone without much fear of being made to pay for it.
Luke's 4th. Jennings is supposed to be the Bucks' streaky scorer, but Ridnour was the one who went all Sleepy Floyd in the final eight minutes, dropping 18 points and giving the struggling Bucks a fighting chance.
Bogut on the block. It was a bit worrying to see Bogut's fg% drop below 50% this month, but he's looked back in form the past two games with a combined 19/27 shooting and 24.5 ppg.
Bench boost. Belinelli helped even things up a bit in the end, but Ridnour's fourth and Stackhouse's second highlighted another encouraging outing from the Bucks' reserves, who notched 42 points on 15/24 (62.5%) shooting. The one surprise? With Mbah a Moute in the Bucks' smaller starting lineup, Ilyasova got 22 minutes and Hakim Warrick followed up his four minute cameo on Wednesday with a DNP-CD--his first of the season..
Finish. The Bucks actually won just a single quarter (the 32-20 second), but for most of the night they seemed capable of weathering every run the Raptors could throw at them. Then, the bottom gave out as they watched Toronto rip off 13 straight points.
Brick City. Bucks not named Bogut or Ridnour shot an ugly 18-53, reminding us of the Bucks we saw for much of the last road trip. Combine that with just six offensive rebounds and it's no surprise the Bucks couldn't hang on.
Aggression. The Raptors are the league's worst defensive team and among the league's worst in rebounding as well, so it was disappointing to see the Bucks so thrown by the Raps' defense in the fourth and beaten to so many loose balls all night.