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.