Raptors-Bucks Preview

The Associated Press

The Milwaukee Bucks are starting to find ways to win close games.

Lately, they've always figured out how to beat the Toronto Raptors.

Milwaukee goes for a ninth straight win over the Raptors - and seventh in a row at home in this series - on Saturday night.

After losing three straight by a total of six points, the Bucks (28-28) moved back to .500 with Tuesday's 95-90 road win over Dallas and a 110-107 victory at Houston the following night.

Monta Ellis, whose 27-footer before the buzzer was the difference against the Rockets, had team highs with 49 points and 22 assists during the two-game Texas sweep. He also finished with six steals in each contest to raise his season average to an Eastern Conference-best 2.0.

"He's all over the floor," said coach Jim Boylan, whose team has played six consecutive games decided by five points or fewer - winning half of those. "... He's doing everything for us right now. I look at the guy, and I don't know if anyone in the league is playing as hard as he is right now."

The Raptors (23-36) need someone to step up as they begin their four-game trip following Friday's 93-81 loss to Central Division-leading Indiana. Toronto, losers of three straight and four of five since a season high-tying 5-0 run, trails the eighth-place Bucks by 6 1/2 games.

"We have no choice but to come out tomorrow and play our best basketball,'' said swingman DeMar DeRozan, who finished with nine points on 2-of-10 shooting on Friday after scoring 59 in the previous two. "We've had three tough games and we've been struggling, so we have to come out and bounce back.''

The Raptors, though, don't have history on their side against the Bucks, dropping 12 of the last 14 after a 107-96 home loss Jan. 13.

Toronto's last win in Milwaukee was 91-87 on Nov. 1, 2008.

Raptors newcomer Rudy Gay would like to change that, even if that means playing through minor back spasms for a second straight game.

"I tried to play through it because it's not the time to sit out,'' said Gay, who is averaging 20.5 points and 6.7 rebounds in 13 games since being acquired from Memphis.

Gay totaled 30 points and 13 boards in two games versus Milwaukee this season while with the Grizzlies.

Veteran guard J.J. Redick will get his first look at the Raptors in a Bucks uniform after facing them three times this season with Orlando.

Redick has hit half of his 28 shots and is averaging 14.7 points with his new team.

Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings has just 27 points since Redick arrived, but he seems more concerned about the Bucks climbing back to the break-even point than his 10-for-30 shooting over the last three games.

"We're just getting stops and we're just countering on the offensive end,'' said Jennings, who had 19 points and 10 assists on Jan. 13. "We're just getting easier buckets and we're taking our time more.''

Milwaukee has dropped five of seven at home.

Toronto's season-best three-game road winning streak ended with Wednesday's 103-92 loss to Cleveland.

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