MILWAUKEE — Four days after letting a victory slip away in overtime at Toronto, the Milwaukee Bucks get a second chance against the Raptors when the teams meet Friday night at the Bradley Center.
“We felt like we gave one away there, honestly,” Bucks wing Khris Middleton said Thursday following the team’s practice session. “They’re a great team, they’re going to come here tomorrow and try to get the game over with, try to let us know we can’t compete with them. We have to just stay with our game plan, stay with our mentality we’ve been playing with the last couple games and hopefully we’ll come out with a win.”
More Bucks coverage [hhmc]
Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan set a Raptors franchise record in that contest, scoring 52 points on 17-of-29 shooting with five 3-pointers but the Bucks kept the rest of the Raptors at bay for much of the game and shot 47 percent themselves in the 131-127 loss.
Stopping DeRozan will be atop Milwaukee’s to-do list Friday night and that starts on the defensive end, where coach Jason Kidd will try to effectively double-team the league’s eighth-leading scorer.
He’s been especially hot since the calendar flipped to 2018, averaging 48.5 points in Toronto’s last two contests.
“You’ve got to pick and choose what parts of the game you’re going to try to take the ball out of his hand,” Kidd said. “He’s very good at trying to beat the double team. He’s seen it all, he’s been in the league for some time. The one thing about him is his pace — he doesn’t change and he gets to the spots where he knows he can be effective.”
He’s long been one of the top offensive talents in the league but the 3-pointer has helped DeRozan move to a new level.
So far this season, 17 percent of his shots have come from distance — a career-high — and he’s made 114 through 36 games, nearly matching his total of 124 from all of last season.
DeRozan, though, doesn’t see those numbers as a big deal.
“I don’t think nothing of it,” he said after knocking down five Wednesday night against the Bulls.
While DeRozan has been the driving force, he’s been far from Toronto’s only weapon this season. Delon Wright set a career high against Chicago with 25 points and 13 rebounds while Fred VanVleet added 13 on 5-of-7 shooting, marking his ninth double-digit scoring game of the season.
That duo bolstered a bench unit that’s averaging 39.7 points on 45 percent shooting over the last 10 games.
“They’ve been great for us all year,” DeRozan said. “We come out slacking but the bench always picks us up, and vice versa. (Against Chicago), the bench did what they’ve been doing all year, got the energy going. We fed off that, and got back in the game.”
The victory Wednesday night at Chicago extended Toronto’s winning streak to three games and kept the Raptors second in the East, 2 1/2 games behind Boston.
They’ve won five of the last six meetings with the Bucks and six of their last seven regular-season contests at the Bradley Center, where Toronto is 20-22 all-time.