Game Notes: Toronto 99 – Milwaukee 105

* People will be talking about Jerry Bayless’ offense, but what caught my attention was his defense. Brandon Jennings came into the game averaging 26 points per game this month and he was held to 11 points while going 4-14 from the field. Bayless’ defense resulted in a 24 second shot clock violation late in the first half and frustrated Jennings throughout the game. When I asked Bayless about his approach to guarding Jennings he told me, “Sometimes we would try to trap him but most of the game I just tried to front him and force him into taking tough shots.”

* One of the turning points in the game was the phantom foul call on Bayless while Jennings was attempting a three-pointer. Jennings went 1-3 from the free throw line. As Rasheed Wallace would say, “Ball don’t lie.”

* Bayless on the team struggling late in the game: “I guess we just had a brain fart.”

* DeRozan went 4-7 from the field in the first quarter (8 points) and then went 5-15 the remainder of the game (13 points). Honestly, why can’t this kid put things together and be consistent from quarter-to-quarter? It’s maddening to watch. Sure, he scored a team-high 21 points, but seeing his play change from quarter-to-quarter is tough to watch. It’s almost as bad as the fact he attempted 22 field goals but only four free throws.

* Here’s what Scott Skiles had to say before the game: “We need these wins. Games like today are the games where you find out the will of your team, how much fight they have and things like that. Can we come in here and beat them again? This is a big game for us. Lets see how the guys react.” I imagine Coach Skiles was happy with his team rebounding from a tough first half to steal a road win.

* Drew Gooden and Ersan Illysova combined for 52 points and 18 boards. Yikes.

* Carlos Delfino was in the Raptors’ locker room after the game catching up with former teammates.

* I know there is value in Toronto holding onto Leandro Barbosa until the end of the season because of the cap space it will clear, but, what about dealing him to Indiana for a draft pick and AJ Price? It would help Toronto add some nice pieces without taking away too much financial flexibility. Plus, it would be great to see Barbosa get a chance to play in the playoffs.

Random Stats: Milwaukee has won six-straight games against Toronto… Milwaukee is 13-4 when scoring more than 100 points… Toronto is 1-10 when they allow opponents to score more than 100 points… Milwaukee ended the first half scoring seven straight points… Ed Davis had his tenth  double-digit rebounding game with his game-high 10 rebounds… Drew Gooden had his 12th game of 20 or more points… Jerryd Bayless scored 10 of his 16 points in the third quarter… 

Bayless Gives Toronto A Boost

Just last week I was chatting with some other members of the media who cover the Raptors about how Toronto would limp through any games they were forced to play without Jose Calderon.

Sure, the lose of Andrea Bargnani was tough, but the reality is Calderon does such a great job running the offence that his loss would be a tough one to swallow for the Raptors.

Well, with the Spaniard limping through Toronto’s locker room prior to the game in a walking cast, it looked like the worst fears of Raptors fans were about to become a reality.

I guess Jerryd Bayless didn’t get that memo.

Toronto raced out to a 14-8 lead thanks to the infusion of energy Bayless provided the starting five. Bayless went 2-3 from the field during that stretch while scoring four points while dishing out three assists and getting a steal in his first six minutes of burn.

Watching the game unfold it was easy to be impressed with Bayless in the first half. Toronto finished the first half shooting 54% from the field (24-44) and had an impressive 16 assists on 24 field goals which helped Toronto go into halftime with a 56-51 lead.

In the second half, however, they only had six assists as a team.

“The point I made about Jerryd (Bayless) is you need to make sure you see people as they are coming off the screen and they are ready to shoot,” Casey explained. “It’s timing. Andrea (Bargnani) is a little rusty coming off of screens, catching the ball, handling the ball. All of those things put together with Jerry in a new situation because usually he has the ball in an agitated situation where he is able to attack and pick-and-roll and kind of look for his with the second unit. With the first unit he has the job of getting everybody involved and that’s a new endeavour for him.”

Even though there was some noticeable growing pains, there was plenty of positives like his six assists and only one turnover.

Bayless also scored 16 points while hounding Jennings into one of his worst shooting games of the season.

“I thought Jerryd (Bayless) did a much better job or running the point guard position,” Casey raved. “It’s a difficult thing to get everybody else involved. His job, and his gift, is attacking the basket and scoring himself, but one thing he has got to learn to do himself – and he’s doing a better job of it – is involving other people, feeding Andrea (Bargnani) and seeing other guys on the roll. On one pick-and-roll he made a nice little pass to Amir (Johnson) who was rolling to the bucket. Those are the kinds of things we need to have out of him.”

While the loss was tough to swallow, the fact Bayless was able to run the offense while getting open looks for himself and his teammates had to be an encouraging thing for the coaching staff to see.

Plus, the team didn’t flatline with Calderon out of the line-up like many people predicted. That’s got to be worth something, right?