Bucks top feisty Raptors at ACC

Raptors' Amir Johnson scrambles for a loose ball with Milwaukee Bucks' Ersan IIyasova during...

Raptors' Amir Johnson scrambles for a loose ball with Milwaukee Bucks' Ersan IIyasova during yesterday's game.

Mike Ganter, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:23 PM ET

At the very least, the Raptors shook off whatever bug produced that abomination Saturday night in Detroit.

And don’t think that wasn’t high on Dwane Casey’s to-do list when he woke up Sunday morning. Assuming, of course, he slept.

Duds like the ones the Raptors produced Saturday have a tendency to cost coaches sleep and even 18 hours after the fact, Casey wasn’t sugar-coating anything.

He knows and expects growing pains in a season like the one the Raptors are going through will happen, but he couldn’t fathom and wouldn’t accept how complete the breakdown was on Saturday.

Casey didn’t get the win he would have preferred Sunday but at the very least he (and just as importantly Raptors fans) didn’t see a repeat of the injustice the Raps did to the game of basketball the night before.

Against a game but somewhat undermanned Milwaukee side, the energy and the fight that was completely absent the night before for the Raptors returned.

Even without starting point guard Jose Calderon who is day-to-day with a sprained ankle, the Raptors took control of the game early on getting scoring from every corner of the roster.

Most noticeable was the improvement on the defensive end where the Bucks were made to work for their points unlike the Pistons a night earlier.

“The one thing I did like was our approach coming into the game,” Casey said following the 105-99 loss.

“Our effort, our intensity coming in was much better than it was (Saturday) night.”

In all honesty, it could not help but be better, but Casey seemed genuinely concerned heading into the game that the step back Saturday was going to spill over into Sunday’s game and maybe linger.

“There was no resemblance of what we worked on since training camp (Saturday) night,” Casey said. “As far as I’m concerned we are back to square one fundamentally. I thought the guys were there but the fundamentals were not.”

That last comment was made pre-game, but by game’s end, even though it came following a loss, there was almost a sense of relief that Saturday was more a one-off than the start of any trend.

The Raptors actually had a 13-point lead in this one early in the second quarter, but a poor finish to that frame saw the Bucks get the deficit down to five after scoring the final seven points.

Buoyed by that late rate, the Bucks came out in the second half with both more energy and more focussed. Ersan Ilyasova in particular seemed to find his range going off for 18 of his game-high 31 points.

The Raptors were led by DeMar DeRozan’s 21.

At the very least the Raptors managed to put Saturday’s brain fart behind them.

What they still need to figure out, and this has been a year-long process, is how to finish a game off.

BAYLESS THE STARTER

This isn’t Jerryd Bayless’ first rodeo. He has started before.

But this is one more opportunity to prove to people that he can create for teammates like he creates for himself.

Right now Bayless is better at the latter than the former, but that doesn’t mean it always has to be that way.

“I thought Jerryd did a much better job running the point guard position, which is a difficult thing to do in getting everyone else involved because his job and his gift is attacking the basket and scoring himself,” Casey said.

Bayless has long been blessed/cursed with the reputation of being a score-first, pass-second point guard.

“I think I do (create for others),” Bayless said after a six-assist afternoon in his seventh start of the season but first as point guard.

“That’s what I have been trying to do this year. It has been one of my main focuses. It’s a matter of opinion, I guess. It is what it is. It’s a stereotype league. Once you get a stereotype it’s tough to break. I think Chauncey (Billups) went through the same thing when he was a younger player. This is just another opportunity for me and I’m going to try and do the best I can.”

Based on Casey’s post-game comments, he sounds like he won his head coach over a little bit with his performance Sunday.

ANOTHER STEP FORWARD

Andrea Bargnani was a little crisper with his shot and took a little while longer to feel the fatigue in his legs, both signs that the Raptors’ leading scorer is indeed on his way back.

But it’s a process and it doesn’t happen fast enough for most, Bargnani among them.

“I just have to keep pushing aggressively and the rhythm is going to come back,” Bargnani said after an 11-point night against the Bucks.

Casey saw improvement too from one night to the next and perhaps even pushed his own self-imposed limits with Bargnani allowing him to play just over 30 minutes a night after limiting him to 19 in his return.

The difference, quite obviously, was the Raptors were very much in Sunday’s game while Saturday night’s was decided by pretty much half time.

“I felt much better tonight but in the second half my legs weren’t there but that is going to come,” he said.


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