There's nothing good about losing a home opener, but somehow I came away from the Bucks' 91-87 loss to a tired Raps team feeling....not so bad? The fact that I think Toronto is going to be a good team has something to do with that, and the Bucks' woeful preseason also left us with plenty of reasons to be concerned. So on a night when the Bucks didn't seem to have much of an answer for Jose Calderon (25 points, nine assists) and Chris Bosh (20 points, 6/10 fg, 10 boards, six dimes) and got poor shooting nights from Richard Jefferson and Michael Redd (10/32, 28 points combined), there was something kinda fun about watching the Bucks claw back into the game and nearly win.
Neither team was at their best in the first half, with the Bucks grabbing an 8-0 lead early thanks to six quick points from Charlie Villanueva before the Raps eventually fought back to take a 41-39 halftime edge. The Raps made their move in the third, leading by as many as 13 before the Bucks fought back in the fourth to take the lead on a Jefferson drive with three minutes remaining. However, Calderon hit a go-ahead triple with 21 seconds left and Redd's potential tying jumper missed with eleven seconds remaining.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. The kid can play. It doesn't always show up in the box score--nine points (4/7 fg), two boards and two blocks in 20 minutes don't scream "game-changer"--but somehow when the Prince is in the game, good things happen for the Bucks and bad things happen for the other team. Toronto saw it first hand in the fourth quarter when Skiles gave LRMAM a chance to guard Bosh after the Raptors' franchise player doped Charlie Villanueva into his fifth foul. Mbah a Moute looked neither big nor strong enough to handle Bosh, yet the rookie from UCLA somehow managed to coax a couple misses from Bosh in addition to helping create a couple more turnovers that led to fast break buckets for the Bucks. The fact that he calmly dropped a hook over Bosh for a Bucks lead inside two minutes was gravy.
Andrew Bogut. It was a strange first three quarters for Bogut, as Skiles seemed so paranoid about Bogut's foul situation that he kept him on the bench for most of the second--despite Bogut having just two fouls. The third was similar, as Bogut was in and out a couple times and had just six points through three. Things finally turned when Jermaine O'Neal fouled out, leaving the Raptors with no one strong enough to stop Bogut down low. Bogut dropped in eight as the Bucks came alive, and took turns doing an effective job on Bosh defensively.
Ramon Sessions. He lives! Luke Ridnour's back spasms meant not only some PT for Sessions, but a starting spot and 37 minutes against one of the league's best point guards in Jose Calderon. The good: Sessions marshalled the offense well as the Bucks raced to an 8-0 lead, and he was also a major factor in the Bucks' fourth quarter comeback. The bad: Calderon made him pay all night for his willingness to go under screens, and he was caught hedging on Bosh when Calderon nailed his key three pointer. His final line: 12 points (5/10 fg), nine dimes and two turnovers.
6. How often does Jose Calderon turn it over six times? Pretty much never. His six TOs were the most he's had since coughing it up seven times in March of 2007, and triple the number he had in his first two games combined. A couple of them were unforced, but give the Bucks' defense some credit for at least putting Calderon under some pressure--which somewhat offset his big offensive numbers.
10/32. It stood to reason that the Bucks would need good nights from Redd and Jefferson to hang with Toronto, but aside from some early work by Redd and a couple nice plays in the fourth by Jefferson, the Bucks' big moneymakers didn't earn their millions on Saturday. Instead, they were outplayed by the more budget-friendly Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon
- 50%. No team in the NBA is more dangerous from deep than Toronto, so an 8/16 night from deep is nothing surprising. It wasn't just Kapono, Parker and Calderon doing the damage tonight though--Jamario Moon also buried three triples. Great, even their dunkers have learned how to shoot...
Fourth quarter energy. After their promising start, the Bucks couldn't seem to find a rhythm until the fourth, when Mbah a Moute sparked a 15-4 run that turned a 75-65 deficit into an 80-79 lead with 3:03 remaining.
Hustle board. Unlike opening night in Chicago, the Bucks at least outworked their opponents much of the night, grabbing an edge in rebounds (39-35), assists (24-22), steals (7-6), and turnovers (18-14).
- Bogut on the block. We still haven't seen the Bucks utilize Bogut consistently for an entire game, but he showed what he was capable of late by pushing around Bosh after O'Neal fouled out. Fourteen points and nine boards isn't anything to write home about, but the upside is that Bogut's making the most of his chances--he's now shooting 77.3% for the season.
Third Quarter Collapse. No, I'm not talking about the best Magic blog, but rather the Bucks sluggish start to the second half which saw a two point halftime deficit swell to 10 entering the fourth. The Raps went almost the entire quarter with their starting unit, getting some nice work on both ends from O'Neal, the highlight being a couple layups sandwiched around a big block on Jefferson. Moon was also a factor, harassing Jefferson while making a couple tough shots of his own. It could have been even worse if not for a brief injection of energy at the end from Redd, Villanueva, Bogut and Mbah a Moute.
Foul party. I guess it makes sense--if you're not aggressive then you're not going to pick up fouls. Still, the Scott Skiles Bucks are most definitely working on balancing aggression with allowable contact, and the Bucks' penchant for contact helped the Raptors notch an 11 point edge from the line.
- Opportunity lost. As we've noted a number of times, the Bucks' early schedule won't do them any favors--eight back-to-backs in the first month and 20 of the first 33 on the road. So there's certainly some frustration in dropping a close game...at home...to a team that played an OT game the night before.