Coach Dwane Casey referred to what went down at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday night as defensive slippage on behalf of his Toronto Raptors.
The Raptors were relatively successful in mission No. 1 in their game against the Milwaukee Bucks, which was containing explosive point guard Brandon Jennings, who was held to just 11 points.
The fact that the Raptors kept on stepping on banana peels the rest of the way trying to contend with the likes of Drew Gooden, Stephen Jackson and Mike Dunleavy was what left a sour taste in the mouth of the Toronto coach.
It amounted to a 105-99 victory by the Bucks over a Toronto team that battled throughout but just continued to make key mistakes at the defensive end at inopportune moments that allowed a winnable game slip through their fingers.
“I just mentioned to the team, we’ve lost that pride of guarding our yard,” Casey said after the game. “What we established in training camp we’ve let slip.
“Again, it’s on me as a coach. It’s on us as a staff of not maintaining it somehow, some way. Lack of practice time, whatever it is we’ve still got to keep instilling that in our guys.”
Casey pointed to the little things on the defensive end that the Raptors are forgetting to do, such as boxing out properly after free throws, as evidence that the defensive mindset the new coaching staff has been preaching all season is not being adhered to by the players.
Casey was also unhappy that Jackson and Dunleavy, both proven NBA scorers, came into the game off the bench and were able to inflict severe damage on the Raptors.
Dunleavy, especially, was a factor in the outcome, exploding for 16 of his 18 total points in the second quarter that allowed the Bucks to rally from a 29-28 first-quarter disadvantage to a 58-51 lead by the half.
Jackson also came off the bench to chip in with 17 points.
Combine that with Gooden, who overcame a slow start to finish the game with 20 points and 14 rebounds, and a 25-point contribution from the always-dangerous Carlos Delfino, and the Raptors stood little chance at snatching a victory.
“It’s tough, people are tough,” Toronto forward James Johnson said when asked if the Raptors have lost some of their defensive pride. “This is the NBA. Sometimes you think you’re going to come out and shut every position down or every possession down, and it don’t work that way.”
Johnson believes that when many of Toronto’s shots failed to drop – especially in the second quarter where the Raptors were only good on 31.6 per cent (six of 19) of their field goal attempts – the players let it affect them at the defensive end.
Perhaps it was Gooden who summed up Toronto’s failings the best.
“A lot of talented guys shooting jump shots and making athletic plays at the rim,” he said. “It just wasn’t enough.”
Which is just was Casey was saying.