Jake's Take: Keeping the Faith
Jake LeRoy [@JakesTake34]
Bucks vs Raptors
|Bucks 92, Raptors 74
JAKE'S CLICK 'N ROLL:
During the waning moments of Saturday's loss to Detroit, Milwaukee's sparkly new Jumbotron displayed a motivational message to the downtrodden Bucks fans still in attendance. The Jumbotron showed the clip of Andrew Bogut's game-winning tip against Indiana with a corresponding message along the lines of, "Don't give up." At the time, I thought the idea was too little too late. It's one thing to be down by one point with one second left. It's a whole other to be down 11 with one minute left. Recent events have me reconsidering my lack of faith, though.
The date was Sunday, Dec. 12. The Packers just capped off an ugly 7-3 loss to the Lions with some extremely questionable playcalling during their final possession. Aaron Rodgers had just suffered his second concussion of the season and would likely miss the next game on the road against the vaunted Patriots. It was at this point - sitting at 8-5 with three quality opponents on the horizon - I gave up all hope of the Packers even making the playoffs. My pessimistic pants were zipped, buttoned and belted.
There was no way the Packers could sneak into the playoffs behind two huge wins over the Giants and Bears. Just like there was no way those same Giants could somehow surrender 28 unanswered fourth-quarter points to Philadelphia and Detroit would win a road game in Tampa Bay, making what was about to occur even possible. Magically these events actually occurred.
In my wildest dreams, there was no way I could expect the Packers to knock off the No. 1-, No. 2- and No. 3-seeded teams, all on the road, was there? The Super Bowl would have to wait at least another year. Except it wouldn't.
Now the Packers were going up against the Steelers, though. This Pittsburgh team wasn't like the inexperienced and unproven Philly, Atlanta and Chicago squads. The Steelers had the most Super Bowl titles of all-time, including two in recent memory. A third in the last six years seemed like a foregone conclusion. They were too goo and too experienced for the Packers to overcome.
Well, we all know how that played out. Over the course of six strenuous weeks, the Packers prevailed over what seemed like insurmountable odds, bringing home the world championship the state of Wisconsin so desperately needed. Maybe my once pessimistic attitude made this journey seem much more difficult than it really was. I don't think so, though. I doubt there were many who thought the Packers would be holding a celebratory parade on this day way back when they lost to the miserable Lions.
That brings us back to the Bucks. Sitting at a season-worst 11 games below .500, it would be easy to write this team off. They've just about as healthy as they've been all season, but are showing no signs of turning this season-long slump around. They may be losing to the likes of Detroit and Philadelphia, but it shouldn't be forgotten that four of Green Bay's six losses this season came to non-playoff teams.
I'm not suggesting the Bucks can somehow make the playoffs and take out the Heat, Celtics and Bulls on their way to the Larry O'Brien Trophy. The seven-game series that encompass the NBA Playoffs make that possibility a slim one. (For the record, I think the Packers could beat any team in a seven-game series.) The Bucks could still make this season interesting, though. They could slip into the playoffs and give one of the aforementioned powerhouses a battle in the first round. It may not be a Super Bowl title, but it's a reasonable goal.
I'm keeping my faith in the Bucks until they're mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. I don't think I could've said that three days ago, though. But the Packers have instilled in me a previously lost sense of possibility in the Bucks. Any fat ladies I come across over the next two months will not be singing. And if they are, it's purely coincidental.
- I've seen Toronto's DeMar DeRozan play most during Summer League action, and what stood out to me during those contests was his midrange game. Tonight is no different. He's 4-for-4 through one quarter of play and each those buckets came from between 15 and 18 feet from the hoop. I don't think a single one touched rim either. He's only slightly above the league average with a 41 percent success rate from that range on the season, but it's a skill he can build on.
- Andrea Bargnani has no conscious. Fact. Bargnani has to have one of the most one-tracked minds in the NBA. He shoots first, shoots last and shoots every time between, and it doesn't matter if he's hitting or not. The Italian has hit just 31 of his last 100 shots coming into tonight's contest, and that's in just five outings. It might be understandable if that's spread over 10 games, but it's not. He's putting up 20 shots a game and connecting on just 31 percent of them. Included in this stretch are stellar performances of 5-for-24, 3-for-15 and 10-for-26. I can say with 100 percent certainty I would not want Bargnani as a teammate.
- On the day the NBA announced this year's three-point contestants, the Bucks and Raptors proved why neither team had a representative. Each team shot 0-for-6 from long range in the first half with Jose Calderon and Carlos Delfino "leading" their respective squads with 0-for-3 efforts. It really shouldn't be a huge surprise considering the Bucks (33.8 percent) are 24th in the NBA in three-point percentage and the Raps (31.2 percent) are dead last.
- Jon Brockman may have single handedly kept Drano in business for the next year. The bearded wonder said goodbye to his power source over the weekend opting instead for the clean shaven look, which no doubt left a small animal's worth of fur in the sink/shower. It remains to be seen if the multi-ounce weight loss makes Brockman more aerodynamic.
- I've always thought of Calderon as one of the more proficient jump shooters in the league; kind of like a Steve Nash Lite. He's proving me way wrong tonight. Jennings is inviting Calderon to shoot by routinely going behind screens and Calderon is accepting the invitation every time. Apparently he got the wrong directions to the party, though, because he can't hit a thing tonight, going just 2-of-15 through three quarters.
- Ersan Ilyasova set a season high and personal record with six pump fakeouts in last week's win in Toronto. Amir Johnson was victimized most, leaving his feet a previously unheard of five times. I was hoping to see a repeat performance in person tonight, but it appears the Raptors have learned their lesson and are keeping their feet firmly planted to the floor.
Closing It Out
It may not have been pretty, but a win's a win and I'll accept it with a smile. The Raptors hung around through three quarters, but a 14-4 run to start the fourth quarter proved too much for them to overcome. While I don't believe anyone would confuse Milwaukee's showing as a tell-tale sign that it's turned the corner, an 18-point win is nothing to sneeze, no matter how bad the other team may be. And make no mistake about it, the Raptors are not a good basketball team.
The Bucks held Toronto to 36 percent shooting, including a cringe-worthy 0-for-10 from beyond the arc. This is the same Raptors team that recently had their record streak of consecutive games with a three-pointer snapped at 986. DeRozan, who finished with 18 points on an efficient 9-of-13 shooting, was the only Raptor that seemed capable of doing anything, yet Toronto continually force fed Bargnani.
John Salmons, who seemed a little extra frisky tonight, paced a well-balanced Milwaukee attack with 17 points. His 7-of-18 shooting wasn't great, but he displayed an enthusiasm that hasn't been seen in a while. Corey Maggette added 16 points and nine boards while The Prince finished with 10 points and game-high 14 rebounds. Andrew Bogut played slightly lethargic, but still managed to finish with 14 points and five blocks.Ultimately, I'm just happy the Bucks rewarded my restored faith for at least one more game. I would like to think the Bucks took at least a few nuggets from the Packers' run to the Super Bowl. The Packers could've let their onslaught of injuries keep them down, but they didn't. They could've let slim odds kill their confidence, but they didn't. They could've let bad losses slay their spirit, but they didn't. Hopefully the Bucks will follow their lead and let the good times continue to roll.
Note: These are the views of the 6th Fan Blogger. Thoughts and opinions expressed in this articles are not necessarily the views of the Milwaukee Bucks.