TORONTO — Down 15 with a minute to go in the first half to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Raptors looked confused from an offensive standpoint, uninterested from a defensive standpoint, and staring square in the face of a third consecutive loss to a Bucks team that can’t match the Raptors on talent.
But from the 23rd minute of Friday night’s game on, the light appeared to go on for the Raptors at both ends of the floor and a sure-bet loss turned into a much-needed 101-96 win as the Raptors got back to .500.
No Andrea Bargnani (sidelined with a sore lower back) meant offence was going to be hard to come by. Add a blanketed and struggling Chris Bosh to Bargnani’s absence and the recipe for a long night on the home court was in the making.
It started to turn in that final minute of the first half thanks to a couple of effort plays.
The first was by Bosh, as he fought off three Bucks for a rebound on a Rasho Nesterovic free throw miss. The Raptors wound up with possession and Antoine Wright drilled a three-pointer.
Following a rare first-half stop by the Raptors, Jarrett Jack went on his way up court with a head of steam. Jack went hard to the hoop against multiple Bucks defenders, somehow getting a layup to drop, and the foul for a second consecutive three-point play.
It was the difference between going into the locker room at the half trailing by double digits and going in with at least the thought that this one wasn’t over.
At the half, head coach Jay Triano made the decision to throw a zone defence at the Bucks who, as Brandon Jennings said afterward, made it look as if they never had seen one. Instead of putting up quarters of 25 and 32 points as they did in the first half, the Bucks were held to 16 and the comeback was on.
“I thought that they just got so used to the man (defence) that coach went to a zone,” Jack said. “It was a good change of pace. It definitely slowed them down. They looked a little bit confused and that was a great call by coach.”
Andrew Bogut, who had a game-high 17 points in the first half, was most affected by the zone. He wound up scoring just five more points the rest of the night.
“They took me out of the game with the zone and they let us have open threes and we weren’t knocking them down,’ Bogut said. “They went small with Bosh at the five and went to the two-three zone and made it tough to score.”
The zone switch slowed the Bucks offence down but slower to turn things around, however, was the Raptors offence, which still stalled out at just 20 points in that third quarter.
Jack though, who had 14 points coming into the final frame, turned things up just when his team needed him most going three-for-three from the field and a perfect six-for-six from the line for 13 points in the final 12 minutes.
The Raps needed every one of them and more just to keep pace with the Bucks’ Luke Ridnour, who almost single-handedly delivered the Bucks a victory. In the fourth quarter alone he scored 18 points including three threes.
“I thought we had to really dig down deep to get ourselves back into the ballgame,” Jack said. “We just kept fighting and plugging away. We were able to get the lead and then pull it out in the end.”