Today’s game against Milwaukee was an opportunity to move into the playoff discussion, to cement this Raptors team as a playoff contender and to maybe give the fans of this playoff starved city a chance to believe that the playoffs weren’t a delusion of grandeur.
With a strong first quarter effort, the Raptors jumped out to an early 20 point lead. But slowly and methodically, the Bucks came back. They chipped away and chipped away at the Raptors lead and ultimately took over for good in the fourth quarter. The Raptors, outside of Calderon, Amir Johnson and Ed Davis, lacked punch. They had several opportunities to put the Bucks away and failed to do it.
A team with the likes of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings cannot be left alone. The Raptors defensive effort relaxed and the hot shooting Bucks made them pay for it. Even the likes of Mike Dunleavy had solid shooting efforts against the Raptor D and then there was John Henson who wins the Acie Earl Award for beasting. The Raptors had absolutely no answer for him and without Jonas Valanciunas and Andrea Bargnani lacked the man power to shut him down.
All is not lost for the Raptors. They are still within striking distance of the playoffs and if they can take advantage of their upcoming schedule they can and will get into that playoff discussion. They are also enjoying some absolutely inspired play from Amir Johnson, Ed Davis and Jose Calderon. I’ve watched this team for a long time and have not seen these three look as good or as cohesive as they have this year.
The future is bright.
Zan For Three
What’s up With Lowry?
Kyle Lowry has been one of my favourite players over the last couple of years. I enjoyed watching him lead Houston to a late season surge last year and loved the way he started this season for the Raptors. He’s fast, works hard on the defensive end and isn’t afraid to take it to the rack.
We haven’t seen that Kyle Lowry for a while.
Today we saw Kyle trying hard to be somebody that he wasn’t. He looks lost.
I applaud him for taking his teammates words to heart when they were critical of his selfish play back in Utah. I applaud that he is doing his best to get his teammates involved, but he has lost all of the things that made Kyle Lowry fantastic.
He needs to find himself again. His issues are not about coming off the bench or getting more minutes on the court, they’re completely in his head.
He is trying to force himself to be something he is not. He has gotten away from the things that made him successful and as a result has not been nearly as effective. What the Raptors really need him to be, if they are to make a strong push toward the postseason, is himself. They need him to be the energetic force he was brought here to be. They need him to shoot the ball, drive the lane and push the tempo, even if it is off the bench.
Lowry’s return to form will be a key to the Raptors fortunes for the rest of this season.
The Real DeMar
DeMar DeRozan has been a revelation this year. He has quieted his critics and proven to many that Bryan Colangelo wasn’t crazy or over shooting with the extension he was given before the season.
Over the last few weeks we have seen DeRozan go back and forth between good games and bad ones. He’s played within the game and, then at times, has forced up shots.
Today we saw DeRozan play within the system and take charge of the game in the third quarter which helped the Raptors gain control of the game for a little while. Then in the fourth he disappeared (with the rest of the team) and couldn’t hang on.
DeRozan needs to realize that this is his team now. He is the leader. He is number one. There are times when he just needs to assume control of the offense. He needs to be a little bit selfish and not out smart himself.
He is developing into a truly great player and needs to take that extra step of assuming leadership over this team.
To Trade or not to Trade?
The rumours are swirling in Raptorland. We are close to a playoff position, our general manager is on the hot seat and we have a few players that may be enticing to other teams.
Colangelo has a tough choice to make because the team is finally working together and playing as a team so adding another piece to that equation, no matter how talented, could disrupt all the things that are going right. Then again adding a talented piece like Rudy Gay may be the nudge needed to get this team into the postseason.
The player that would make the most sense to send away (Andrea Bargnani) isn’t really someone who Colangelo is able to move and the one everyone wants (Jose Calderon) may be too valuable to the makeup of the current roster to trade away.
Definitely some tough decisions in the days ahead.
Zan of the Night
Amir Johnson – He plays through pain, works hard and does everything he is asked to do. In a hockey centred town he really personifies everything Toronto wants to see in a basketball player. Today he was once again one of the best Raptors on the floor and the chemistry he has developed with Calderon and Ed Davis is such a joy to watch in person.
Another contract that is looking a lot more like a bargain.
The Zan Tabak Herald