As the Toronto Raptors prepared for Wednesday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks, head coach Dwane Casey was on his soap box on more than one occasion insisting his team needs to display a more consistent professional attitude to be successful.
Slow starts, Casey bemoaned, were killing the Raptors, who have a tough enough time winning games in which they have fast starts.
The Raptors got the quick start that Casey desired but it mattered not in the end where the Bucks (11-14) displayed just enough offensive savvy in the closing moments of the fourth quarter to walk off with a 105-99 victory over Toronto (8-19).
The Raptors received scoring from their entire starting lineup and blitzed the Bucks with their speed to take a 29-28 lead in the first quarter at the Air Canada Centre. The 29 points represented a season high for Toronto in the opening quarter.
But it was not enough to dissuade the Bucks, who had six players record double figures in scoring, led by the sharp-shooting Carlos Delfino with 25 points.
The contest was the first of a franchise-record-tying seven-game home stand for the Raptors.
Nothing wrong with that for the road-weary Raptors, who have been required to play 17 of their first 27 games away from Toronto this season.
But it gets a bit weird toward the end of the home stand, with Toronto enjoying a four-day break before playing the final game against the Detroit Pistons on Feb. 22.
After that, with the all-star game to be played in Orlando on Feb. 26, the Raptors will not be back in action until Feb. 28 in Houston with just one practice under their belt since the Detroit game.
The on-again, off-again inconsistency of this part of the schedule was disturbing to the Raptors.
And it was something that general manager Bryan Colangelo tried to address with the league when he first saw a draft copy of the schedule well before the season started.
“We actually called and asked, hey, is there any way you can manipulate some of these days?” Colangelo said. “The response was, you’re complaining about days off? I said no, we’re trying to find better balance, that’s all.”
It was an exercise in futility, Colangelo will acknowledge, but you’ve got to give him points for trying.
Despite the losing record, Colangelo appears content – especially with the lingering calf injury to centre and leading scorer Andrea Bargnani, who missed his 14th game Wednesday night.
Colangelo said that Bargnani will remain sidelined for an “extended period.”
Colangelo suggested that it was conceivable that the Raptors would be in the thick of a playoff race in the Eastern Conference if Bargnani had remained healthy.
The Raptors maintained their high energy Wednesday night into the fourth quarter, which started with the Bucks leading 76-73 and Jerryd Bayless, Toronto’s starting two-guard, unavailable after reinjuring his left ankle.
That meant more playing time for veteran backups Anthony Carter and Rasual Butler, who drained two big three-point shots that knotted the score at 79-79.
A Leandro Barbosa layup provided Toronto with a two-point cushion but that was erased shortly after when Stephen Jackson drained a three-point shot that moved the Bucks in front for good.
Delfino drained a big three-point shot with Jose Calderon waving a hand in his face that provided Milwaukee with a 94-85 bulge with just under three minutes to go. That killed Toronto’s chances.
DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors with 25 points.