The Milwaukee Bucks still have yet to lock up a playoff spot, and their chances of finishing seventh in the Eastern Conference seem to be slipping away.
The Bucks look to regroup Saturday night when they try to defeat the visiting Toronto Raptors for the 10th straight meeting.
Milwaukee (36-39) has dropped 10 of 14 after Friday’s 101-83 defeat at New York. The Bucks’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot remained at two, and they can do so Saturday with a victory over Toronto (29-47) coupled with a loss by Philadelphia in Miami.
Milwaukee trails seventh-place Boston by 2 1/2 games as it tries to avoid a first-round postseason matchup with the Heat.
The Bucks’ nine-game win streak over the Raptors is their longest against any foe, and they may not have to be too worried should they get off to a slow start Saturday.
That’s because Milwaukee has bounced back from poor first quarters in both meetings this season. The Bucks were down 34-16 after one period in a 107-96 victory Jan. 13 and by nine through 12 minutes in a 122-114 overtime win March 2 at home.
Last month’s matchup saw Monta Ellis score six of his 23 points in overtime while Brandon Jennings finished with a career-high 19 assists for Milwaukee. Raptors guard Kyle Lowry posted his third career triple-double with 10 of each in points, rebounds and assists.
The Bucks’ Ersan Ilyasova had 29 points and 11 rebounds in that contest. Ilyasova averaged 25.0 points on 54.8 percent shooting and 9.5 rebounds on a 2-2 homestand capped with Wednesday’s 107-98 loss to Minnesota.
That’s the type of production Milwaukee is hoping for after the forward finished with seven points on 2-of-9 shooting against the Knicks. Jennings scored 25 points for the Bucks, who gave up 42 in the third quarter after leading by nine at halftime.
“They got it going in the third,” coach Jim Boylan said. “I thought our defense was good in the first two quarters.”
The Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan is averaging 20.5 points in the season series and the 6-foot-7 forward figures to again be a tough matchup against the Bucks’ smaller perimeter players.
DeRozan has turned in back-to-back 25-point efforts. He took advantage of the smaller Luke Ridnour defending him for large stretches in Toronto’s second straight win, 95-93 on the road Friday over the Timberwolves.
“I knew I had a smaller guard on me,” DeRozan said. “I knew I had an opportunity to post up. I knew he wasn’t going to block my shots.”
The Bucks will get their first look at the Raptors with Rudy Gay who missed the last meeting with back spasms after being acquired by Toronto on Jan. 30 from Memphis. Gay scored 26 against Minnesota as he continues to adjust to his new team.
“We’re just learning more and more how to play with each other,” Gay said. “I’m learning how to play with everybody.”