Bucks falter in Toronto
The Milwaukee Bucks fought their way through their rugged early-season schedule and didn’t collapse. They saw Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut, two of their best players, go down with injuries yet rallied and stayed in the playoff hunt.
But now, with the season winding down and a playoff berth still within reach, the Bucks (31-41) couldn’t come up with an effort any better than they did in the 115-106 pounding they received at the hands of the lowly Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night at the Air Canada Center.
The Raptors scorched the Bucks’ defense in building a 65-44 halftime lead and were ahead by as many as 24 in the third quarter before the Bucks’ reserves mounted a frantic fourth-quarter surge that made the final score look somewhat respectable.
But the Bucks’ overall performance was not and that concerned coach Scott Skiles.
“I’ve been concerned for awhile,” said Skiles, whose team has lost 12 of its last 16 games. “We’ve been a very up-and-down team for a month or so. What I mean by that is not up-and-down wins. But we’ve been up and down from an energy standpoint and from an intensity standpoint. Short-handed, we can’t afford to be that way. We’re not going to win.”
Said Bucks forward Charlie Villanueva, “Toronto did a very good job early and put us in a hole that we could not get out of.”
After winning only two games on their recent six-game home stand, the Bucks put the pressure on themselves to have to win on the road if they wanted to stay close in the playoff race. But in losing convincingly in the first game of their four-game trip to the team with the worst record of the four they will meet—Toronto is now 26-45—the Bucks face a difficult road.
Leading by five after one quarter, the Raptors outscored the Bucks, 40-24, in the decisive second quarter. The Raptors made 11 of 15 shots in the second quarter (73.3 percent), including six for eight from three-point range (75 percent). Toronto made 12 of 13 free throws in the second quarter (92.3 percent), while the Bucks made their only two foul shots.
Toronto shot 56.8 percent in the first half, including seven of 13 from beyond the arc (53.8 percent), while the Bucks shot 41.9 percent overall. The Raptors made 16 of 17 free throws (94.1 percent), while the Bucks got to the foul line five times and made four (80 percent).
“We didn’t come out with the kind of intensity (that was needed),” said forward Richard Jefferson, who led the Bucks with 22 points. “We gave up 60-something points in the first half to a good offensive team but with a team like that you have to come out and focus defensively and take a lot out of their offense and we didn’t do that.
”Right now, when we need to be playing our best basketball and our most competitive, we’re not. We’re playing sub-par basketball at a time when teams are picking it up. Teams are picking up their intensity, even teams that might not be in the hunt are picking up their intensity. We haven’t done that the last couple weeks and that’s something that we’ve got a few games to try and figure that out.“
Six players scored in double figures for the Raptors, who made 12 three-point shots, shot 55.8 percent through three quarters and ended up at 47.9 percent for the game. Toronto got to the foul line 40 times—an indication of Milwaukee’s slow-footed defense—and made 35 (87.5 percent). The Bucks went to the line nine times and made seven (77.8 percent).
Asked what he thought of his team’s defense, Skiles said, ”Not much. Our first unit had great difficulty getting any sort of consistent stops. We were a step slow and when we are a step slow like that, we generally foul a lot and give up free throws.“