Milwaukee Bucks analysis: Health beats Toronto Raptors mediocrity

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Brandon Jennings

AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps

Click here for a Bucks/Raptors game recap.

The Milwaukee Bucks 92-74 win over the Toronto Raptors wasn’t anything you would label a “signature” victory or “corner-turning” rout. But Milwaukee needs to take any win they can get, which is more than enough to justify feeling good about pounding the clawless Raptors.

By Jake McCormick

Pessimist: These Raptors have nothing on their Jurassic Park cousins

Think about the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ overall futility and the Washington Wizards’ own problems playing away from home. Now take a baby step up the ladder of competence, and there are the Toronto Raptors, a team that sees defense and rebounding as an inconvenience and can’t win away from the Air Canada Centre.

The Raptors have now lost 10 straight road games, and have a 5-23 overall mark playing games in the United States. Toronto is the MGD 64 version of the Phoenix Suns because they don’t play defense, don’t crash the boards, and have all the look but none of the taste expected from a run-and-gun system.

Optimist: Starting chemistry

Taking away the fact that the Raptors have a defensive philosophy similar to the main soccer kids in The Big Green (bunch up and chase after the ball in a group), the Bucks had long periods of quality ball movement and defensive communication.

Milwaukee’s top four contributors to their 46.4% field goal shooting were starters, and they all finished the game with +/- ratios at or above 13. The bench pitched in 27 points, but Scott Skiles may have found his best starting lineup to build around in Brandon Jennings/John Salmons/Corey Maggette/Ersan Ilyasova/Andrew Bogut.

Skiles said players returning from injury need the chance to get their legs back and up to speed, and playing basement-level competition serves as a sort of pre-season for guys like John Salmons, Brandon Jennings, and Andrew Bogut.

“Everybody has the same role: show up, play hard as hell, do your job. It’s nice if you can settle into something, but sometimes that’s not always the case,” Skiles said. “Our priorities have to be to the guys that were injured … and try to get them to their comfort level. I think the guys understand that.”

Realist: A win is a win

Sure the Toronto Raptors are one of the worst road teams in the NBA, and they play defense with the intensity of Thunder before his Jimmy Dean breakfast. But the Milwaukee Bucks can use any and all the wins they can get to save face for the season and climb closer to a playoff berth.

Expectations for teams have to be adjusted as a season progresses, and right now the Bucks’ best case scenario is probably facing one of the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Milwaukee’s shooting confidence may be damaged beyond complete repair, but a team that plays defense gives itself a higher chance of winning with a few extra scoring opportunities.

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