Game Preview: Raptors at Bucks
After a solid 114-106 victory in Washington, the Raptors are in Milwaukee to take on the Bucks. With their second back-to-back in a week, Saturday's game will be Toronto's fifth over the previous seven days. The Bucks will also be on a back-to-back, coming off a 112-101 victory against the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday.
Tip-off: 8:00 P.M. ET
Broadcast info: SN1 / TSN1050
DeRozan doing it all
With Kyle Lowry out and rehabbing from wrist surgery, everything DeMar DeRozan does becomes more important. Thanks to a spectacular stretch from the three-time All-Star, the Raptors are 5-1 without Lowry, hardly an easy feat considering all that Toronto's other all-star guard brings to the floor each night.
In Friday's victory, DeRozan scored 15 of his game-high 32 points in the fourth quarter. He finished with 32 points and 13 rebounds (also a game-high), to go with five assists. He scored or assisted on Toronto's final 11 points of the game.
In Toronto's current five game stretch without Lowry DeRozan is averaging 34 points on 51 percent shooting. His 32-point performance on Friday was his 274th 20+ point performance in a Raptors uniform, giving him the franchise record for 20+ point performances. In addition to 32 points on Friday, DeRozan also grabbed those 13 rebounds to go along with five assists as he works to do everything in his power to lead the Raptors to success.
"He had 13 rebounds, 32 points," Dwane Casey said. "He gave it to us."
DeRozan made all three of his three-point attempts against the Wizards, including a dagger with 20.9 seconds remaining to put Toronto ahead by six. The key to his big finish? Keeping cool.
"Just relaxed," DeRozan said. "Just take my time. Don't be rushed. Don't be pressed. That's all I did. Just hold my composure, go out there, do what I know I can do."
Wright earning praise
Toronto's second unit had a bad showing in a Wednesday loss to the Wizards. That same unit made up for it big time in Friday's victory against the same Wizards team. Sophomore point guard Delon Wright had a strong outing in Washington, facing off against All-Star John Wall.
"Delon did a great job," Dwane Casey said. "He did a good job. [John] Wall was all over him, under him, everything else. He had four blocked shots which was huge for a guard. His length, he just did an excellent job of playing against one of the premier guards in our league in John Wall."
Wright played 22 minutes on Friday, scoring nine points on 2-for-2 field goals and 4-for-6 free throws. He made his only attempt from deep, adding a rebound, assist, and steal, along with four blocked shots.
As long as Lowry is out, there is an opportunity for Wright and fellow backup Fred VanVleet to show what they can do. For Toronto to be successful, Cory Joseph needs help from the second unit. Friday's victory showed a glimpse of what that second unit can do when they're focused defensively and moving the ball on offence.
The right way
Much has been made of the way Toronto has started games this season. Regardless of starting lineup or players available, more often than not, the topic of conversation in postgame availability sessions has been needing to get off to better starts.
The Raptors shot 63 percent in the opening quarter on Friday and they'd like to replicate that energy level in Milwaukee.
"I thought we came out of the gate [strong]," Dwane Casey said. "Especially the second unit, they had issues the last game, I thought they came out and played with force, moved the basketball which was important in the first quarter."
Toronto built a 19-point lead against the Wizards in the first half, then watched as Washington trimmed that lead to a single point heading into the fourth. In a final quarter that went down to the wire, that early lead and strong start was a much needed cushion to help the Raptors withstand the final push from Washington.