It wasn't a dominating performance, it wasn't a typical performance, and it was nearly disastrous. But the only thing we can say for sure about the Bucks' first trip to Canada this season: it was a win.
Toronto lived up to its matadorish reputation on defense as the Bucks shot a scorching 55%, but Milwaukee still needed overtime to dispatch a young, banged-up Raptor team that overcame a seven point deficit with less than two minutes remaining to force overtime. Ersan Ilyasova rained long twos all night en route to a career-high-tying 25 points on 9/10 shooting, but it was Corey Maggette (29 pts, 11 rebs, 5 ast) and Andrew Bogut (24 pts, 12/14 fg, 7 rebs, 4 blk) who sunk the daggers in overtime as Amir Johnson's 24/12 night was wasted on the Raptors' 10th straight loss.
Trailing 104-97 with 1:44 left, the Raptors made five free throws to help close the gap, including a pair of clutch game-tying freebies from Johnson after Bogut was adjudged to be a hair late trying to draw a charge with 18 seconds left. Carlos Delfino (4/13 fg, 15 pts, 6 ast) had two chances to win it in the final minute, but he overlaid a contested lefty layup with 30 seconds remaining and then lost the ball going up for a potential game-winner with 2.8 seconds left. Bargnani also had a chance to win it at the horn, but his tightly-contested corner attempt was short, sending the game in OT.
After scoring 16 points in the first half, Bogut was largely a non-factor in the second half, struggling to get touches against a fronting Raptor defense, but the Raptors were content to let Bogut go to work on Bargnani on the right block in OT. I'm not exactly sure why--maybe they had forgotten Bogut's 12-point first quarter--but it came back to haunt them immediately. Bogut dropped in a pair of lefty hooks to start the extra period, and then added a righty hook to make it 110-104 with 2:56 left. It was the kind of go-to stuff the Bucks have been hoping to see more of from Bogut--and it's never too late to start.
But apparently this game wasn't allowed to be easy for some reason, and Johnson responded with another 20-foot jumper before a pair of nice finishes from DeRozan tied the game. Bad passes by Dooling and Delfino (looking for Bogut) didn't help, but Maggette got the last laugh when his straight-away three with 44 seconds left bounced high off the rim and softly through the net to give the Bucks a 113-110 lead. Hey, they're all swishes in the box score, aren't they? Sonny Weems and Johnson then missed on the Raptors' ensuing possessions--the two one-time Bucks--and the Bucks finally iced it with three free throws to provide the final margin.
Bogut dominates early
The Bucks looked to be taking control of the game late in the first as Bogut began to assert himself on both ends. After scoring down low on a couple deep catches against Bargnani and Johnson, Bogut twice lost Bargnani in P&R, taking passes from Delfino for a pair of easy dunks down low. Things were going so well for Bogut that he even made a short turnaround jumper in the lane (!) and got another wide open dunk after Delfino drove and found him open along the baseline. In between he also took a charge on DeRozan and packed Trey Johnson for good measure...in short, it was the vintage, non-blood-infected Bogut.
Unfortunately, Toronto woke up and quickly rallied against the Bucks' ineffective second unit, scoring the first ten points of the second period and forcing Skiles to bring back Bogut and Maggette less than three minutes into the second. New Raptor Alexis Ajinca was looking like Larry Bird, and in general the Raptors seemed to be getting wherever they wanted on the court. Maggette and Bogut responded quickly, combining to score the Bucks' next seven points in 90 seconds, but Toronto looked to be taking control when they extended to a 55-47 lead with just a minute left in the half. Thankfully, the Bucks salvaged things somewhat with two three point plays to close the half down just two--the first one on a driving and one by Maggette, the second thanks to a silly foul from Johnson on a pump-faking Ilyasova.
Andrew Bogut. Three great performances from the Bucks tonight, so put them in any order you like. Bogut was the spark early in the game as the Bucks understandably sought to exploit the Raptors' soft interior defense, and while the Raptors took him out of the game for long stretches of the second half by fronting and doubling, they also made the surprising mistake of covering him one-on-one with Bargnani three times to open OT. Given Bogut's wildly inconsistent post game of late, it was great to see him get the ball and make big plays when the Bucks needed it most.
Bogut wasn't at his most dominant defensively, getting caught flat-footed on a number of occasions against an active Raptor frontline. Then again, it says a lot about our high defensive standards for Bogut that we can find flaws in a game where he blocked four shots and took a couple charges as well.
Corey Maggette. It seemed like every time the Raptors were making a run Maggette would pop up and make a big shot, none bigger than the front-rim-and-in triple that put the Bucks ahead for good in OT. And while Maggette (10/21 fg, 8/10 fg) wasn't as hyper-efficient as Bogut or Ilyasova, he also led the Bucks in boards (11) and tied his season-high with five assists. Maggette made just 3/12 outside ten feet, but his finishing was superb: 5/7 fg at the rim including four and-ones. And with the Bucks winning we'll ignore the five turnovers...
Ersan Ilyasova. Ilyasova watched the final six minutes from the bench after picking up a cheap over the back foul with just over a minute remaining, but not before tying his career-high with 25 points on a scalding 9/10 fg. Though Bargnani's size gave him problems at times, Ilyasova battled admirably as always and was on fire with his jumper--we haven't said that nearly enough this year--making 7/7 from the perimeter on the night.
55.3%. Kind of crazy to think the Bucks can shoot 55% and almost lose, but the Raptors did work on the offensive boards (13) and took better care of the ball (16-12 turnovers). The Bucks improved to 6-0 when they make more than half their shots.
99. The Bucks' starters were terrific offensively, falling just a point shy of the century mark on their own.
1/10. We noted Toronto's struggles from deep in the preview, and they lived up to their league-worst 32% three-point shooting by bricking nine of ten threes tonight.
Triple threat. The Bucks are usually lucky for even one guy to crack the 20-point scoring mark, but three???
Attack of the Carlos. Admittedly, Delfino's finishing betrayed him a couple times down the stretch and he also had a couple ill-timed turnovers. That was the downside. But in general it was great to see him aggressively getting into the paint and picking out other guys (mostly Bogut) for easy buckets rather than just cranking up threes (25 of his 39 shots in the first four games since coming back from injury). While a bit rusty, he looked more like the playmaker we saw for Argentina at last summer's World Championships.
"I want us to get better," Skiles said. "You can take this stat sheet right now and just throw it down on the ground, because that doesn't mean anything.
"We had some guys in double figures but it still was not a well-played game for us. That's the fact of it. We won; we're happy. We'd rather win than lose. But there are a lot of things we can do better and we've got to start doing them better."
Closing out. The Bucks seemed on the verge of putting the Raps away at least a half dozen times in the fourth, and a seven point lead inside two minutes is the kind of lead the Bucks can ill afford to blow. Right, Scott? But to Toronto's credit they kept battling and got enough stops and made enough plays to pull even after 48 minutes--and on the flip side, the Bucks simply couldn't get enough stops of their own to make their lives simple. Then in OT the Bucks again jumped out to a lead before Dooling's misses once again made you wonder how much they really wanted to win the game. We'll take it...eh?
Binary Boykins. Tough to get any more up-and-down than Earl Boykins over the past four games--he scored 20 and 23 points at home against the Grizz and Hawks, respectively, only to follow it up with scoreless games on the road against the Bulls and Raps.
Amir. Delfino's been more valuable than I ever could have anticipated, but you can't help but wonder how Amir Johnson might have worked out if he had played more than just a handful of summer league games during his brief tenure with the Bucks in 2009. While many scoffed at the big money deal he signed over the summer, Johnson has been playing some inspired ball of late and gave Bogut and Ilyasova all sorts of troubles for most of the night, making 8/11 from the field (including a number of long jumpers) and 8/9 from the line. Better than spending $32 million on Drew Gooden.