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The Cleveland Cavaliers’ meltdown over the last two weeks seemed like the perfect opportunity for the Toronto Raptors to jump up and claim the top spot into the Eastern Conference, but instead they’ve gone into a funk as well. The Raptors will try to snap a season-long five-game slide when they host the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday.
Toronto seemed to bottom out with a 113-78 setback at Charlotte last Friday but then dropped the next three, including crushing two-point defeats to the San Antonio Spurs and at the Memphis Grizzlies this week. “I mean, fifth straight loss, we’re not playing good basketball,” Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, who missed a potential game-winning shot on Wednesday at Memphis, told reporters. “We’re playing hard but we’re not playing good basketball. We’re not shooting well, we’ve just got to figure it out.” Toronto will play its next three at home against sub-.500 teams, including a Bucks squad that comes in just as cold with losses in six of the last seven contests. Milwaukee snapped its own five-game slide with a 127-114 win over the Houston Rockets on Monday but could not find a way around a Philadelphia 76ers team that was missing rookie sensation Joel Embiid in a 114-109 home loss on Wednesday.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, FSN Wisconsin (Milwaukee), Sportsnet One (Toronto)
ABOUT THE BUCKS (21-24): Milwaukee is surrendering an average of 112 points over the last seven games and gave up a season-high 72 points in the first half on Wednesday. “As a team, we believe (defense is) where it starts for us,” center Greg Monroe told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We lose sight of that and it haunts us. We knew they were going to shoot a lot of 3s. So take that away first and be ready for the ball movement. That’s unacceptable. Seventy points, 60 points in a half is unacceptable if we’re serious about what we say. Everybody has to look in the mirror and see what kind of team we want to be.” Monroe did his part with a season-high 28 points and nine rebounds in 30 minutes off the bench on Wednesday.
ABOUT THE RAPTORS (28-18): Toronto needs to figure out a way to defend Monroe after letting the opposing center – Memphis’ Marc Gasol – go off for a career-best 42 points in Wednesday’s 101-99 loss but is more concerned with its offense. The Raptors, who spent the first half of the season pacing the Eastern Conference in scoring average, slumped to an average of 95 points during the last five games. “Some of it is rhythm, some of it is guys playing in different positions and some of it is just missing shots,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey told reporters. “I have to do a better job of drawing things up for them, get them different looks, whatever it is. I have all the confidence in the world in our shooters.”
1. Bucks PF Jabari Parker is 7-of-28 from 3-point range in the last seven games.
2. Raptors All-Star SG DeMar DeRozan (ankle) could miss his third straight game.
3. Toronto took each of the first two meetings this season, including a 122-100 home win on Dec. 12.
PREDICTION: Raptors 115, Bucks 108
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