A visit to Toronto might provide the Milwaukee Bucks with an excellent opportunity to end their current road skid and win back-to-back games for the first time in a month.
The Bucks look to snap a four-game road losing streak with a sixth straight win over the Raptors on Sunday night.
In order to move into playoff position in the Eastern Conference, Milwaukee (16-24) must find a way to string together some wins. The Bucks could start by winning consecutive games for the first time since Feb. 8-10 after they held on for a 119-114 victory over New York on Friday night.
Ersan Ilyasova scored 26 points while Brandon Jennings and Mike Dunleavy each added 25. Milwaukee almost blew a 15-point fourth-quarter lead but came out ahead to move within two games of the Knicks, owners of the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
"That's why this was a big game," said Jennings, who also had 10 assists.
Perhaps equally important, the Bucks showed they can hold a lead after failing to keep several slim advantages before losing 106-104 to Chicago on Derrick Rose's last-second shot Wednesday.
"It hurt us losing the one to Chicago," said big man Drew Gooden, who has averaged 19.3 points and 8.4 rebounds in the last seven games. "We still did a terrible job trying to close the game out (Friday). We can't allow that."
Milwaukee usually has had little trouble holding leads during a five-game winning streak over the Raptors, which dates to a 101-96 loss at Toronto on Jan. 22, 2010.
Though the Bucks are 6-15 away from home this season, they have made 50.2 percent of their shots and averaged 108.3 points while winning their last three trips north of the border. Former Raptors swingman Carlos Delfino had 25 points with nine rebounds and Gooden scored 20 with 14 boards in Milwaukee's 105-99 win at Toronto on Feb. 8.
Gooden is averaging 20.3 points and 12.0 rebounds in his last three games against the Raptors.
Back spasms kept Ilyasova out at Toronto last month, but the Raptors (13-27) need to be ready for his presence Sunday. Helping to fill in for injured center Andrew Bogut, the 6-foot-10 Ilyasova has totaled 58 points on 23-of-31 shooting in the last two contests overall.
Ending their struggles against Milwaukee could get even tougher for the Raptors, who will be without point guard Jose Calderon after he sprained his ankle during Saturday's 105-86 loss at Detroit.
"We'll have to come up with something," coach Dwane Casey said about replacing Calderon, whose X-rays were negative. "We have Jerryd (Bayless) and (Gary) Forbes at the point, and (Leandro Barbosa) can slide over. We'll figure it out."
On a positive note, Andrea Bargnani (22.4 points per game) returned to the Raptors' lineup Saturday after missing 20 games with a calf injury. Though Bargnani had just eight points in 19 minutes at Detroit, he's averaged 22.7 in his last three games versus Milwaukee.
Averaging 21.5 points in his last four games overall, Toronto's DeMar DeRozan has combined for 45 on 17-of-33 shooting in the last two home games against the Bucks.
- Milwaukee Bucks
- The Bucks
- Ersan Ilyasova