TORONTO — The Milwaukee Bucks have been playing better in the first half than the second half recently.
The Toronto Raptors have been better in the second half.
The teams will meet Monday night at the Air Canada Centre, where the Raptors have been showing that it’s not so much how you start but how you finish.
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The Raptors, who defeated the Boston Celtics 101-94 Friday, have won eight of their past nine games. Their only loss in their recent surge was to the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
While the Raptors were completing wins in back-to-back games Friday after overcoming a slow start Thursday to defeat the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Bucks lost both ends of their back-to-back set to the Atlanta Hawks on Friday and the Washington Wizards on Saturday.
The Bucks (11-11) blew a 20-point halftime lead Friday to lose to the Hawks 114-110, then were tied at the half before losing 110-105 in Washington on Saturday.
“You can’t turn the ball over late,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. “I think we had 20 turnovers (Saturday night) and that led to a lot of points (24). We shot a lot of 3s in that five-minute span. Our strength is the paint. We’ve got to get back to the paint and work inside-out.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo is a key to the any success the Bucks have. He led them with 28 points (11-for-18 from the field), 13 rebounds and seven assists Saturday.
He also turned the ball over seven times in 41 minutes.
“Giannis is an all-star,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “I wasn’t in the league last year but he has improved a lot. He’s a handful. He has the longest stride. His jump shot has improved and his passing and rebounding. … We tried to make it crowded for him and he did turn the ball over a few times.”
The Raptors (16-7) trailed at halftime on Friday before using a third-quarter surge to prevail 101-94 over the Celtics, who are being touted as a threat to the Raptors in the Eastern Conference.
DeMarre Carroll was rested in Saturday to protect his right knee and Norman Powell took his spot and again excelled when given the chance, scoring 20 points. Carroll is expected to start Monday against the Bucks.
“It was a very good team win for us,” said Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, who scored 34 points. “Everyone stepped up (Friday night). Norm (Powell), I know some games he plays and some he doesn’t, but 20 points. Pat (Patterson) didn’t shoot the ball well but came up with some big rebounds. We had a great team win tonight and against a team that plays extremely hard. They are missing their All-Star guard (Isaiah Thomas), but they played extremely hard and they played well and together.”
The Raptors, who trailed by one point entering the fourth quarter on Thursday before defeating Minnesota 124-110, played more the way Dwane Casey wants to see them play Friday against the Celtics.
“I think it was just the attention to detail,” Casey said. “Guys were into the ball in pick and rolls, (Thursday night) we weren’t and the proof is in the pudding. This is a talented offensive team and if we can do that against these guys we have to do that for the majority of the rest of our schedule.”