Rudy Gay would not make it to the start of a game that was vital for fans hanging on to playoff hopes. His back troubles that occurred in the loss last night made him unable to suit up tonight in Milwaukee. The Raptors would respond by re-introducing Andrea Bargnani to the starting line-up and Landry Fields. You already had a bad feeling about this game before it ever started.
That said, both Bargnani and Fields came out and played very well. Not that anyone can claim they saw that coming at all. Bargnani would fade in to the background and but would be forced back in later due to Amir Johnson fouling out. Fields was sold throughout the night. The Raptors surprisingly stormed out of the gate after three losses in which they all featured less than spectacular starts. Tonight that was far from the case. Bargnani was hitting everything early. No really he was not hitting Bango the Bucks mascot with air-balls he was making shots. He was getting rebounds even as well.
The Raptors bench would also step up with Alan Anderson leading the team in scoring with 21 and John Lucas III getting 16 points and hitting some key buckets in the second half of this one.
This game somewhat fittingly featured all the things you come to expect from the Raptors this season both good and bad. After outscoring the Bucks 32-23 in the first quarter they would give most of that lead back only leading by a single point at the half. A lethargic third quarter seemed to bring an end to all this playoff talk.
Even some wise ass asked a question on the broadcast about the Raptors losing and what they should do going forward. It is those kinds of negative jerks that I would like to have 5 minutes with. I bet he is part of that blogging community that Bryan Colangelo is not so fond of.
Wait….oh right; it was my very intelligent tweet that was on the broadcast. Forget that last paragraph I just wrote. I want to make the point we often question the Raptors broadcasts for being so happy go lucky and not keeping it real. I will be honest no one was more shocked than myself to see my tweet make it to the airwaves. I asked a fair and legitimate question and credit to Matt Devlin and whoever is part of the process for the “Ask Matt” segment on the broadcast for using my question. It after all assumed the Raptors would lose this game and that is not something you would expect to make it on broadcast of a game that was trying to keep the Raptors playoff chances alive. It did thought and credit should be given so this is me giving it to them.
I often tend to be very realistic boarding on harsh at times. However, I do that because I feel it is what fans deserve. It is why I value the chances I have to chat with Jack Armstrong as we did earlier in the week. You folks that follow the Raptors are for the most part a very intelligent and knowledgeable group and deserve to be treated as such.
Anyway, back to the basketball game which looked lost heading into the fourth quarter. But a scrappy and resilient Raptors team which we have not seen in awhile would show up and were able to battle the bucks and chopped down the lead and than traded it back and forth. This was a game that was about one team’s playoff lives and it was played very much like a playoff style game. The bucks would take a lead and leave only just under 7 seconds for the Raptors to respond and they did as they would tie the game sending it to overtime.
In that overtime the Bucks would quickly establish control and fouls would catch up with the Raptors as Amir Johnson fouled out as would DeMar DeRozan later on. Kyle Lowry did a good job in this one not it the way a Jose Calderon would but in the way a Kyle Lowry does. He had a triple double of 10 points 10 assists and 10 rebounds with 6 turnovers and 5 steals. Brandon Jennings would nail a three that would pretty much end this game and playoff dreams for Raptors fans. Bucks went on to win in OT 122-114.
I said it what I wrote earlier today in some respect for the Raptors to miss the playoffs would be a real benefit at this point. They part with the draft pick they gave away to get Kyle Lowry and have one for next season. They now should focus on developing guys like Jonas Valanciunas, Terrence Ross and even Quincy Acy. They can maybe even convince Amir Johnson to take some time out of the line-up to rest his very much banged up body. I would not hold my breath on that happening. Still for the Raptors to make the playoffs and be crushed by the Miami Heat would only have few positives. It would have been nice but not really required or expected by anyone that looked at this team realistically entering the season. This game itself should serve as a great learning tool for this group on what it means to play in games that matter. It is unfortunate they struggled earlier in the week making this contest such a do or die type contest. That said maybe in the long run it was good that it was. The Raptors only regret is they will not have more games like this one to learn from. If they could have hung on and played another of these with the Bucks in April it would have been a great learning experience.
The math does not make it official but logic suggests the Raptors will miss the playoffs for the fifth straight season. They have lots of reasons to be optimistic they can put an end to that streak next year. The rest of this year should be played with that goal firmly in mind. Playing the players that will be part of that future. Anything less that is gross misuse of valuable learning time for the players that need it for the future of this franchise.