The Toronto Raptors came into Milwaukee and almost laid an egg as they were emotionally flat after a big win at home over the Pacers the night before. Fortunately, Greivis Vasquez set a career-high with 6 three-pointers and tied his season-high of 26 points to keep his sleepwalking teammates in this game until DeMar DeRozan could turn things on in the fourth quarter and allow Toronto to head home with a 102-98 victory over the last place Bucks.
Head Coach Dwane Casey was livid about his team’s effort in the first half.
“The first half, we played like crap,” Casey said. “There are no nice words you can put to it. We talked about it after half-time and after the game. We can’t approach the game that way. It is not acceptable for where we want to go and how we want to do. If we want to be average – fine – I told the guys, but to get where we want to go and be a playoff caliber team, we got to perform better than that.”
The defensive-minded Raptors allowed the Bucks to shoot 58.5 percent from the field in the first half and a 10-0 Bucks run to end the second quarter meant Toronto was down 56-47 at the half. Vasquez and John Salmons combined for 20 points before the break and Jonas Valanciunas was effective in the paint when his teammates remembered him, but this was a listless group deserving of Casey’s rage. The Bucks Khris Middleton, Ramon Sessions and John Henson all scored in double-digits before half as shots went uncontested and the driving lanes were open.
“One thing you can bring is your defensive fundamentals,” Casey said. “A stance, transition defense and all the things that are included on the defensive end. We let them shoot 58 percent in the first half and I – you can’t accept that and I am not going to accept that.”
The Raptors got Casey’s message loud and clear, starting the third quarter on a 13-2 run to get back into this game and holding the Bucks to just 41.2 percent shooting during the quarter to stay in it. As has so often been the case this season, Toronto ramped up their defense another notch in the fourth quarter to hold Milwaukee to just 33.3 percent shooting and DeMar DeRozan poured in 15 of his 23 points to help secure the win.
“We did a better job in the second half,” Casey reluctantly acknowledged. “In the second half everybody did a lot of good things. Everybody came in and contributed.”
Valanciunas scored 17 points and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds. Nando De Colo had 7 points and a team-high 6 assists in 18.5 minutes.
Henson led the Bucks with 23 points and 9 boards. Middleton scored 20 points and Jeff Adrien had 19 points and 12 boards. Sessions had 13 points and 10 assists. As a team, the Bucks shot 48.1 percent from the field, outscored Toronto in the paint 64-34 and had 20 fast break points to the Raptors 3.
The Raptors edge was they nailed 12 three-pointers to just 1 for the Bucks as all to often Milwaukee didn’t get out to challenge the long ball.
In a season of on-going surprises, the Raptors claimed their 21st road win of the season to set a new franchise mark for wins away from the Air Canada Centre. This is the first season in team history with a winning record on the road.
“Our focus has been good on the road for whatever reason,” Casey said. “We keep the same routine. We try to make sure our travel is efficient so guys can get rest. The guys have focused for the most part, excluding the first half tonight. They have really focused throughout the year on the road.”
The Raptors return home to face the 76ers on Wednesday and everyone will get a couple of days without a formal practice to rest and recuperate. If Toronto can win 3 of their remaining 5 games, they will surpass the franchise record for wins in a season of 47 set in 2000-2001 and again in 2006-2007. Their remaining games are 76ers, Knicks, Pistons, Bucks and Knicks.
The Bucks play Indiana on Wednesday.
Raptors Dwight Buycks, Toronto Is The Same As The States
“It is just being back home in the States is always better than being overseas,” Buycks said. “(Canada) is pretty much the same, actually I feel like I am in the States.”