DeRozan, Raptors' offense will test Bucks' defense
MILWAUKEE — The Toronto Raptors wrap up a five-game road trip Friday night when they face the Milwaukee Bucks at the Bradley Center, where they have won their last five meetings with the Bucks.
Overall, the Raptors have won 10 of the last 11 meetings with the Bucks, including all four contests last season. DeMar DeRozan appeared in there of those games and averaged 21.3 points on 50 percent (22-for-44) shooting.
DeRozan scored 24 points and grabbed five rebounds and nine assists in the Raptors' last game, a 115-102 victory at Houston Wednesday that snapped a two-game losing streak.
Sixteen of those points came in the third quarter, including one stretch when he scored 11 in a row.
“Guys did a great job of screening for him, and he got into the DeMar mode and went to work,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey told reporters after the game. “We're running some of his familiar plays that we were running for him, giving him some screens and some switches that we wanted him to have, and he did a good job. He carried us in the third quarter when they made a run.”
He comes into the game third in scoring with 30.5 points per game this season but DeRozan has scored those points in a somewhat unconventional game for the modern NBA. He's just a 27 percent shooter on 29 attempts from 3-point range but from mid-range, where he's taken 25 percent of his shots this season, he's shooting 46.3 percent.
“He gets it the old-fashioned way,” Casey told The Washington Post. “His midrange game is impeccable, and he's probably playing right now with the most confidence he's had in his entire career.”
DeRozan will have to work for those shots Friday against a Bucks' defense, which has held opponents to a respectable 43.3 percent per game from the floor but is giving up 102.6 points per game this season.
Milwaukee's defense has looked especially good down the stretch in its last two games against Golden State and Orlando as the Bucks switched to a smaller lineup that moved Giannis Antetokounmpo — essentially serving as the Bucks' point guard this season — into the center position.
“Having Giannis, Jabari (Parker), (Tony) Snell and me out there, we're four guys that can switch anything,” Mirza Teletovic said. “You don't have to be tactical about anything. You just switch it and try to guard your man one-on-one.”
Coming off a 93-89 victory Monday over Orlando, the Bucks are trying to win consecutive games for the first time in nearly a month and just the second time this season. While Milwaukee has shown improvement on the defensive end of the floor, the Bucks' offense is still a work in progress and prone to lengthy scoring droughts at times, forcing them to play from behind.
They showed flashes of progress against the Magic, picking up 25 assists on 35 makes while Antetokounmpo recorded his first triple-double off the season and Parker knocked down a career-high five 3-pointers.
“That just shows what sharing the ball can do,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. “Catch-and-shoot is one of our strengths. We didn't over-dribble and we shared the ball. That's how we got back in the game. There in that first quarter, we lost a little of our pace and our identity by just trying to do it by ourselves offensively instead of sharing the ball.
“Sharing the ball is the way we're going to have to play if we're going to have any success.”