MILWAUKEE—It is a sign of where the Toronto Raptors are, and what they expect from themselves, that simply gutting out a tough win in a close game at the end of a long and gruelling road trip is not satisfactory.
It’s how they win that matters the most to them.
With some stellar execution in the final 90 seconds, the Raptors beat the Milwaukee Bucks 105-99 here Friday night to end a tough trip with a 3-2 record. They head home at 10-6 and with six straight Air Canada Centre dates ahead of them.
“If we have to get guys in there that are going to be committed to the defensive end, we’ve got to do that because to get where we want to go, we’re kidding ourselves if we’re not committed to that end,” Casey said.
Kyle Lowry hit an improbably deep three-pointer to just beat the shot clock and give Toronto a four-point lead with 66 seconds left. That was the 14th three-pointer for the team on the night, a season high.
With the shot clock about to expire, Lowry let fly from about 26 feet at the top of the key to salvage the possession.
After the Bucks had cut the lead to two, DeRozan made his biggest shot of the night, a high-arcing 16-footer over a double team to put Toronto back up by four with 16 seconds to go. Lowry then made the defensive play of the game, stripping Giannis Antetokounmpo of the ball before hitting a layup to seal the game.
“I think Pat (Patterson) and D.C. (DeMarre Carroll) did a good job of crowding him and he just didn’t see me,” Lowry said. “I think that’s what happened. I think they were a little bit bunched up . . . and when he put it down, I went for it.”
But it was the lack of defence through most of the second half that had Casey irked. Toronto did hold an opponent to fewer than 100 points for the first time in nine games, but Milwaukee shot 50.6 per cent from the field.
“I don’t know how many layups we gave up (but) if we’re serious about going anywhere, we’ve got to commit to the defensive end,” Casey said. “It’s not like they’re not trying. I just don’t know if we have the commitment we need from everybody, whoever plays in the game.
While DeRozan led all Raptors scorers, the offence was spread around thanks to their best three-point shooting night of the season.
Patterson continued to work his way out of an early-season shooting slump by making a couple of three-pointers as Toronto got out to a five-point halftime lead. Patterson was just 11-for-52 in the first 12 games of the season, but is 10-for-19 in his last four and finished with 11 points.
Just as important was the three-point effectiveness of Carroll, who made a season-high four and finished with 14 points.
Antetokounmpo had 29 points for the Bucks, including a couple of highlight-reel plays, as he continues his maturation into a dominant player. While still a sub-par jump shooter, he had a first-half dunk — going down the left side of the lane and dunking with his right hand — and a spin move and dunk in the third quarter that were jaw-dropping.