Bucks-Raptors Preview


The Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks erased huge deficits in their most recent games, only to suffer heartbreaking defeats.

Each know they need to get off to better starts going forward.

Looking to avoid a fourth consecutive loss, the Bucks try for a seventh win in eight meetings with the Raptors, who open a seven-game homestand Wednesday night.

Averaging a league-worst 19.5 points in the first quarter, Toronto (8-18) got off to another awful start Monday at Washington. After trailing by 10 after 12 minutes of play and 15 at the break, the Raptors found themselves down 79-61 with 3:02 to play in the third quarter.

Toronto, though, fought its way back and forced overtime behind strong efforts from Jerryd Bayless and Linas Kleiza, but lost 111-108 after scoring three points in extra period.

"That was a bad exhibition of basketball. We had an unprofessional start," coach Dwane Casey said. " ... You have to go off on them at halftime to get them to play. It shouldn't have to ever get to that, and that's why I was disappointed, even with the second-half comeback."

James Johnson shared the same sentiment.

"It's just something that doesn't need to be said. We're professionals, we're grown and this is our job," Johnson said of the team's sluggish play early on. "If you can't come out ready for your job then either we need to find new starters or go find a different day job."

While most would like their chances of regrouping versus the road-weary Bucks (10-14), the Raptors haven't experienced much success in this series of late. Toronto has dropped six of seven to Milwaukee - including all four meetings last season by an average of 9.3 points.

Losers of 10 of 13 on the road, the Bucks suffered their third straight loss overall Tuesday, 107-105 to Phoenix.

Milwaukee allowed a season worst-tying 67 points in the first half and trailed by as many as 21 in the third quarter. The Bucks, however, would rally to go up by four midway through the fourth before ultimately coming up short.

"We just need to come out with a better sense of urgency from the start," said Mike Dunleavy, who had 17 points off the bench. "Most of our games the last week or so, we've been real bad to get going, to get off the jump. Hopefully we can get off to a good start and play a good four quarters (Wednesday)."

In addition to picking up the pace early on, Milwaukee could surely use a more inspired effort from leading scorer Brandon Jennings.

Averaging 19.2 points, Jennings scored only three while putting up just four shots - the fewest in his career when playing more than 12 minutes.

"I just got in and talked to him," coach Scott Skiles said. "He looked a bit disconnected. I'm not sure why."

While Milwaukee won't have to worry about containing the injured Andrea Bargnani (strained left calf), it could have its hands full with Bayless and Kleiza, who each scored 30 points Monday.

Bayless is averaging 16.1 points over the last seven games - significantly higher than his season mark of 11.7. Kleiza, meanwhile, has recorded 20.7 points per contest during the last three.