Final: Raptors 97, Bucks 90: Bucks continue to struggle with consistency

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

It was another up-and-down game for Milwaukee. As they mounted another fourth quarter comeback, their struggles with inconsistency ended up catching up to them as they fell in the home opener to the Raptors.

If you would like to get a consistent result, you have to put forth a consistent effort. The attention to detail and razor-sharp focus need to be there night in and night out. When that fluctuates, so does the team. Such is the case with the Milwaukee Bucks three games into the season. There were times when certain plays brought the fans to their feet in unabashed elation. Conversely, there were also times when it appeared that everyone in the building was in an Ambien-induced haze. It was an up-and-down affair once more, and this time the Bucks were on the short end of the comeback, falling to the Raptors 97-90.

Three Bucks

O.J. Mayo came off the bench in this contest due to showing up late for a shootaround this morning, but led the team with 16 points nonetheless. A microcosm of the team if there ever was one, Mayo served time as both the hero and the goat Saturday. Mayo shot 6-13, with his biggest moment coming when he knocked down two threes with five minutes to go which tied the game up. However, he had four costly turnovers and took some ill-advised jumpers that threw a wrench in the offense earlier in the game. So, for as valuable he was in the late stretches, perhaps the Bucks may have been closer if not for some shaky play in the first three quarters.

John Henson shot a redundantly efficient 6-9. He did only grab three rebounds, but Henson was the big man in the closing minutes lineup and worked very well with Nate Wolters in the pick-and-roll sets. In other words, Henson's shortcomings were far exceeded by his production in other areas.

Despite defenses (probably) knowing that Henson is going to go to that lefty hook any time he gets a chance to do so, Henson still finds a way to get to that shot. Here is a short list of ways I've seen Henson get to his bread and butter so far this season:

  • Spins around defnders
  • Ball fakes
  • Quickness
  • Ability to bend his body in inhuman ways and shape-shift around defenders
  • Vodoo magic
Khris Middleton only had eight points on the night, but they all felt really damn important. That probably doesn't make sense, but every bucket Middleton made (or didn't make, for that matter) seemed to push the needle one way or the other. Middleton was considered a mere throw-in in the Brandon Jennings trade, but is quickly proving that he is much more capable of producing and deserving of significant minutes than we thought. Hell, I'd even call for him to start at the 3 if I didn't know any better.

Honroable Mention: Giannis made a nice baseline cut in the second half and finished with a dunk that injected life into both the team and the crowd. He almost threw down another opportunity in a breakaway situation later on, but was fouled by Terrence Ross, ruining ALL OF OUR FUN. Also of note, Giannis managed to get to a rebound that Terrence Ross (the reigning Slam Dunk champion) went skying for. Yes, it's only one rebound, but that's no easy guy to get a rebound over.

Three Numbers

60-38. That was the Raptors rebound total compared to the Bucks total. The Raptors also crashed the offensive glass, beating the Bucks in that category, 18-6. That many tip-in opportunities or chances for Rudy Gay or DeMar Derozan to get another open look killed the Bucks, and ultimately kept them far enough away to not complete their comeback.

21:37. That's how many minutes Larry Sanders tallied tonight. He wasn't in any real foul trouble and wasn't a defensive sieve by any means. He's not injured. The problem is there are simply better late game options at the moment. Sanders is struggling to find the balance between being aggressive and being disciplined. When he's tentative, the offense and defense get stuck in a lull. When he's hyper-aggressive, he reverts back to his 2011 self, not tapping into the verticality that made him such a defensive force last season. He'll be able to turn that around once everyone gets used to playing with each other, but it's something to maintain watch on.

55.6%. Bleh. Yuck. No. No no no no. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Bad.

(Sadly, I'm referring to the Bucks' 10/18 performance from the line.)

Three Good

Giannis. Did I mention that Giannis dunked already? Oh boy, was it ever so fun.

Ersan's stroke. After another solid shooting performance tonight (6-12), I think we can say pretty confidently that there won't be another early-season shooting slump from Ersan Ilyasova. Once his ankle gets fully healthy, look for him to take on more of the scoring load (that is, provided players can get the ball to him. But we're not touching that one tonight).

Naters gonna Nate. Nate Wolters had seven points, ten assists and one turnover. He's not playing out of his mind by any stretch of the imagination, but for someone who wasn't supposed to amass 30 minutes in his first month in the league, Wolters is doing a rather solid job of running the point for now.

Three Bad

Green LightGary Neal picks some weird times to test his shooting stroke. There were a handful of occasions where Neal would be hoisting up a three with more than 15 seconds left on the shot clock or would traipse through the lane and take a difficult leaner that led to a Raptors fastbreak. He's paid to shoot, but it's not like his game checks come per shot. He'll shoot better than 3-10 most nights though, and I'm sure I'll feel much better about him on that night.

Fastbreak Execution. On several occasions down the stretch, the Bucks broke out in favorable transition numbers, only to either miss the layup entirely, or go to the line and come up short on knocking down free throws (again, only shot 55.6%)! The game arguably may have finally tilted in the Bucks direction and stayed there had there been a little more efficiency in the open court.

Health. Yes, this is an obvious choice, but when Wolters isn't running the point, the Bucks' offense hits some dry periods. Mayo and Neal are best served coming off of screens without the ball, so any game where they need to handle it extensively--though they are capable of doing so--is a struggle. The return of Knight, Ridnour, or both guys will help the offense to fit in to what it's supposed to be, whatever that is.

Quote(s)

Larry Drew on the outcome of the game:

"I didn't think we played or didn't have the energy that I was anticipating for a home opener. I thought we played pretty sluggish through three quarters. It wasn't until we went with the smaller lineup in the fourth quarter where we began to kind of pick up the pace."

[...]

"I don't think we played well enough to win the game. We didn't deserve to win this game."

That pretty much sums the night up right there.

The Bucks next game is at home on Wednesday, November 6th when they take on the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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