Raptors aim for eighth straight victory over Bucks
MILWAUKEE — The Toronto Raptors will look to continue their dominance over the Milwaukee Bucks when the two teams face off Saturday night at the Bradley Center.
The Raptors have won seven in a row against Milwaukee, including the first three meetings this season.
Toronto will still be without All-Star guard Kyle Lowry, who is recovering from wrist surgery performed on Feb. 28. Without Lowry, things haven’t often gone well for the Raptors offense, which has been outscored by 4.3 points per 100 possessions without him in the lineup despite posting a 5-1 record in those contests.
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When he does play, Toronto has outscored its opponents by 8.1 points per 100 possessions.
With Lowry out, DeMar DeRozan has carried much of the scoring load and is second in the NBA with 34.3 points since the All-Star break, including a 32-point effort Friday night at Washington.
“(I) just relaxed,” said DeRozan, who overcame a slow start against the Wizards but went on to score 15 in the final quarter. “(I told) myself just take my time and don’t be rushed. That’s all I did. I held my composure and just went out there and do what I know, do what I can do.”
Their victory Friday moved the Raptors (37-25) within percentage points of the Wizards (36-24) for third place in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks, meanwhile, sit 10th in the East and need to get hot quick if they hope to close the 1 1/2-game gap that sits between them and the Pistons for the final Eastern playoff spot.
After slumping out of the All-Star break, Milwaukee took a step in the right direction Friday by beating the Clippers, 112-101.
Matthew Dellavedova set the tone with 15 points in 36 minutes off the bench, snapping himself out of a lengthy funk that led to him moving back to the bench in favor of rookie Malcolm Brogdon.
“Delly is a true professional,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. “Sometimes as a fan or from the outside we see someone struggling, but we don’t look at all the little things one does. He does that on a nightly basis. We don’t judge him on makes. We judge him on his competitiveness and he brings that every night and tonight’s another night that he was very high on competitiveness and I thought he ran the team very well.””
Milwaukee had dropped three of four games since the break before its victory over the Clippers, but will again be playing short-handed as Michael Beasley recovers from a hyperextended left knee and Jabari Parker is out for the season with a torn ACL.
There was reason for optimism, though, as the Bucks’ bench — led by Dellavedova’s scoring — finished with 50 points and Khris Middleton, who missed the first 50 games of the season with a torn hamstring, returned to the starting lineup and scored 19 points.
“We missed him a lot,” center Greg Monroe said. “Obviously he causes a problem (and) is a great scorer. He is also a very good playmaker (and) we missed that. It’s tough (when) you lose one guy who does the same thing, in Jabari (Parker), and get one (back). We kind of got lucky (because) if they both were out, we would probably be in more trouble. Definitely good to have Khris back.”