Raptors-Bucks Preview

The Milwaukee Bucks are starting to find ways to win close
games.

Lately, they’ve always figured out how to beat the Toronto
Raptors.

Milwaukee goes for a ninth straight win over the Raptors – and
seventh in a row at home in this series – on Saturday night.

After losing three straight by a total of six points, the Bucks
(28-28) moved back to .500 with Tuesday’s 95-90 road win over
Dallas and a 110-107 victory at Houston the following night.

Monta Ellis, whose 27-footer before the buzzer was the
difference against the Rockets, had team highs with 49 points and
22 assists during the two-game Texas sweep. He also finished with
six steals in each contest to raise his season average to an
Eastern Conference-best 2.0.

“He’s all over the floor,” said coach Jim Boylan, whose team has
played six consecutive games decided by five points or fewer –
winning half of those. “… He’s doing everything for us right now.
I look at the guy, and I don’t know if anyone in the league is
playing as hard as he is right now.”

The Raptors (23-36) need someone to step up as they begin their
four-game trip following Friday’s 93-81 loss to Central
Division-leading Indiana. Toronto, losers of three straight and
four of five since a season high-tying 5-0 run, trails the
eighth-place Bucks by 6 1/2 games.

“We have no choice but to come out tomorrow and play our best
basketball,” said swingman DeMar DeRozan, who finished with nine
points on 2-of-10 shooting on Friday after scoring 59 in the
previous two. “We’ve had three tough games and we’ve been
struggling, so we have to come out and bounce back.”

The Raptors, though, don’t have history on their side against
the Bucks, dropping 12 of the last 14 after a 107-96 home loss Jan.
13.

Toronto’s last win in Milwaukee was 91-87 on Nov. 1, 2008.

Raptors newcomer Rudy Gay would like to change that, even if
that means playing through minor back spasms for a second straight
game.

“I tried to play through it because it’s not the time to sit
out,” said Gay, who is averaging 20.5 points and 6.7 rebounds in
13 games since being acquired from Memphis.

Gay totaled 30 points and 13 boards in two games versus
Milwaukee this season while with the Grizzlies.

Veteran guard J.J. Redick will get his first look at the Raptors
in a Bucks uniform after facing them three times this season with
Orlando.

Redick has hit half of his 28 shots and is averaging 14.7 points
with his new team.

Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings has just 27 points since
Redick arrived, but he seems more concerned about the Bucks
climbing back to the break-even point than his 10-for-30 shooting
over the last three games.

“We’re just getting stops and we’re just countering on the
offensive end,” said Jennings, who had 19 points and 10 assists on
Jan. 13. “We’re just getting easier buckets and we’re taking our
time more.”

Milwaukee has dropped five of seven at home.

Toronto’s season-best three-game road winning streak ended with
Wednesday’s 103-92 loss to Cleveland.