Apr 5, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) shoots the ball over Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) during the first quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Raptors 102 - Milwaukee Bucks 98: Just enough

Apr 5, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Toronto Raptors guard Greivis Vasquez (21) shoots the ball as Milwaukee Bucks guard Ramon Sessions (13) defends during the first quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

 

The Toronto Raptors, playing their third game in four nights without Kyle Lowry and Amir Johnson, thought they might have a laugher against the NBA’s worst team. Instead, they found themselves in a nail-biter. Fortunately, the Raps have a not-so-secret weapon named DeMar DeRozan, who consistently elevates his game in crunch time. Despite struggling mightily with his shooting for 3 quarters, DD scored 15 points in Q4 to finish with 23. He was perfect on 4 tries from his happy place, the free throw line, in the game’s final 18 seconds.

The Raps would have been left in the dust without Greivis Vasquez. Our backup point guard, who’s starting until Lowry’s return, shot the lights out, making 6 of 8 from beyond the arc on his way to a team-high 26 points. Jonas Valanciunas had another fine game with 17 points and 13 rebounds. The Euro-on-Euro confrontation with veteran big man Zaza Pachulia fizzled, as Zaza was in foul trouble early. However, when John Henson replaced Pachulia, the Bucks consistently made easy points inside. Henson, a long, lean and mobile centre, used his hook shot effectively to score over JV, and ended with 23 points.

Nando De Colo earns mention again; he led the Raps with 6 assists in only 18+ minutes, and scored 7 points.

The first quarter served notice to the Raps that the Bucks were not about to roll over. Toronto found no room in the paint, and relied on the 3-ball to take a 6-point lead. Nothing could have prepared the Raps for the onslaught in Q2. Milwaukee kept pushing the pace, and Toronto was a step or more behind. The Bucks turned a 4-point deficit into a 9-point advantage, after pouring in a ridiculous 34 points. They missed only 8 of 23 field goals. The Raps had no turnovers in Q1, but gave back that advantage with 6 in Q2. They tightened up considerably in the second half, only giving away the ball 3 times.

A quick start to Q3 pushed the Raps in front, but the Bucks wouldn’t go away. Solid veteran guard Ramon Sessions had 10 assists, many of them on well-timed passes to forwards  Khris Middleton and Jeff Adrien cutting to the basket. Brandon Knight broke Vasquez’s ankles with a dazzling crossover, then drove for an emphatic slam. The Bucks led by a point entering the decisive fourth; cue DeMar for the big finish.

Toronto comes home for 3 days of rest before hosting the tanking poster boys known as the Philadelphia 76ers.

Putbacks: Official attendance was 16, 310, but many of those people must have been hiding under their seats. Entire sections of the upper bowl were empty….with road win #21, the Raps have now clinched a winning record both home and away for the first time in franchise history….Jeff Adrien had a double-double for the Bucks, who aren’t as bad as their record – if they are healthy next season, they will be a team to watch

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