The Toronto Raptors are closing in on a third straight Atlantic Division title, but Kyle Lowry doesn’t want to take anything for granted.
The Raptors look to show a sense of urgency Tuesday night when they try to sweep the season series from the Milwaukee Bucks.
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Toronto (44-21) is atop the division by 5 1/2 games over Boston with 17 games left in the regular season.
The Raptors had a three-game win streak snapped with Monday’s 109-107 loss to Chicago.
"(We need to) take the lesson of not being aggressive and that starts with me," Lowry said. "Starting the game off relaxed, not being aggressive and not being defensive-minded, so I take a little bit of that on me."
Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have been terrific of late. Lowry is averaging 26.4 points on 51.9 percent from the floor over the last eight games after scoring 33 with a season high-tying 11 rebounds Monday.
DeRozan had 27 points against the Bulls and is scoring 29.7 per game in the last seven. The All-Star guard had 22 points and eight assists, while Lowry had 16 and nine in a 111-90 win at Milwaukee on Dec. 26.
The Raptors have won all three matchups with the Bucks this season by an average of 15.6 points, improving to 9-1 in the past 10.
However, they’ve dropped three of four on the road while giving up an average of 110.5 points, a far cry from the 98.6 on the season that ranks third-best in the Eastern Conference.
Toronto didn’t do the Bucks any favors as Milwaukee tries to make up ground in the playoff race. Despite three straight wins, the Bucks are five games back of eighth-place Chicago in the East.
If the playoffs aren’t a reality this season, Milwaukee appears to be in good shape for the future with both Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo playing at a high level.
Parker is averaging 21.2 points on 51.6 percent shooting over the last 13 games, while Antetokounmpo has put up 22.4 with 8.4 assists and 7.9 rebounds in his past seven.
Antetokounmpo set a franchise record with his fourth triple-double of the season Sunday, tallying 28 points, 14 assists and 11 boards in a 109-100 win at Brooklyn. He had 12 points, nine assists and eight rebounds at halftime.
"Sometimes it doesn’t look like he’s sweating, or breathing hard," coach Jason Kidd said, "and that just shows how talented he is."
Antetokounmpo, though, was limited to a season-low four points against Toronto on Dec. 26, and Parker wasn’t much better with nine.
Parker is coming off Sunday’s 23-point effort on 11 of 17 from the floor.
The Raptors are expected to have Jonas Valanciunas available after he exited in the first quarter Monday with a injury to his left hand. X-rays were negative, allaying any fears he fractured the hand for the second time this season. The center missed 17 games with the injury, including two against the Bucks.
Valanciunas had a team-high 19 points in a 106-87 home win over Milwaukee on Nov. 1.