After a long stretch of struggles, the Toronto Raptors finally may be gaining some momentum after a pair of impressive victories.
The way the Milwaukee Bucks are playing at home, a win at the Bradley Center would also fall into that category.
The Raptors seek their first three-game winning streak since their 3-0 start when they open a brief road trip on Monday in Milwaukee, where the Bucks have won six of their last seven.
Coming off back-to-back playoff appearances, Toronto (14-20) has been one of the NBA’s more disappointing teams this season, losing 13 of its last 17 games in 2008 and spending time in the Atlantic Division cellar.
But the club is hoping its strong start to the new year is a sign of things to come. After holding Houston to 34.1 percent shooting in a 94-73 win on Friday, the Raptors defeated first-place Orlando 108-102 on Sunday.
“Would I like Jose to play? Would I like Jermaine to play? Yes,” Toronto coach Jay Triano said. “But we don’t have a choice, and I love the way our other guys are responding to the opportunity that’s been presented.”
Much of the responsibility has fallen to Bosh, the team’s leader with 23.5 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. The 24-year-old All-Star has three double-doubles in his last four games, but he said the Raptors need to keep winning before they can be considered to have turned a corner.
“Every game from now on is the biggest game of the year,” Bosh said. “We’ll take any win, any way we can get it.”
Both of the Raptors’ recent victories came at home, but they’ll have to go on the road to try to win three straight for the first time in two months. They won their first three games of the season from Oct. 29-Nov. 1.
The third victory was a 91-87 win at Milwaukee in the Bucks’ home opener. But the Bucks (16-19) have gone 9-4 at the Bradley Center since then, with the only losses to Phoenix, Boston, Cleveland and Detroit.
Since the beginning of December, they’re 6-1 at home, holding opponents under 90 points per game and focusing more on defense under first-year coach Scott Skiles. Their last home game was particularly dominant, as they beat Charlotte 103-75 on Friday behind 31 points from Michael Redd.
But Milwaukee dropped the back end of the home-and-home against the Bobcats, as Redd scored just 17 on 6-of-14 shooting in a 102-92 loss at Charlotte on Saturday. The Bucks also had to deal with the absence of center Andrew Bogut, the former No. 1 overall pick who is averaging a double-double but battling back spasms.
“This had nothing to do with Andrew being out, this was all about the way we need to play,” forward Richard Jefferson said. “… We didn’t come out with the same kind of attack like we were supposed to.”
That hasn’t been a problem at home, where the Bucks will face three teams with losing records this week. After Monday’s game, Philadelphia visits on Wednesday before Jefferson faces New Jersey on Friday for the first time since the Nets traded him away this summer.
But first, Milwaukee will try to end a three-game losing streak against the Raptors. The Bucks lost twice in Toronto by an average of 24.5 points to close last season’s series, with Bosh scoring 32 points each time.