Raptors end Bucks’ eight-game winning streak with 97-93 victory

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TORONTO — Fred VanVleet scored 29 points to lead the short-handed Raptors to a 97-93 victory over Milwaukee on Thursday, snapping the Bucks’ eight game winning streak.

The Raptors (10-13) ended a four-game losing skid with just their second win in their last six games, and third at home this season.

Pascal Siakam had 20 points and eight rebounds, while rookie Scottie Barnes had 13. Back after missing two games with a deep calf bruise, Gary Trent Jr. had eight points and eight rebounds.

Jrue Holiday scored 26 points to lead a Bucks team (14-9) that was missing star Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Raptors were coming off an ugly 98-91 loss to Memphis, dropping five straight at home for the first time since January of 2011. Siakam said after the loss to the Grizzlies that “the fans deserve better.”

They were solid out of the gate Thursday, holding the Bucks to a three-point lead then assembling an 11-point lead of their own. They led 73-68 to start the fourth.

The Bucks pulled to within two early in the final frame, but VanVleet almost single-handedly led the Raptors on a 7-0 run to put them up by nine.

A layup by Sandro Mamukelashvili had the Bucks within two with 4:34 to play, but the Raptors buckled down on the defensive end and when VanVleet muscled through a pair of Milwaukee defenders to the basket and scored, the Raptors were back up by six with 3:06 to play. VanVleet raised his hands in the air, encouraging the fans at Scotiabank Arena to cheer. They obliged.

Bobby Portis Jr., however, connected on a three-pointer with 33 seconds to play to slice the difference to three points. VanVleet drained a pair of free throws for some breathing room, but a pair of back-to-back fouls with 14 seconds to play sent the Bucks to free-throw line for five shots. They missed two.

Precious Achiuwa missed a pair of free throws with 3.6 seconds to play, but Barnes grabbed the offensive rebound that all but sealed the victory.

Toronto has been hit hard by injuries. OG Anunoby sat out his eighth straight game with a hip injury, and there’s no timeline for his return, while Khem Birch remains out with knee swelling.

The Bucks were also short-handed, missing a trio of big men in Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez and DeMarcus Cousins.

Trent Jr., who wore one white shoe and one black, made his presence felt immediately, connecting on a three-pointer for the first points of the game.

“Obviously he’s a scorer and a shooter and we could use as much of that as we can handle right now, that’s for sure,” coach Nick Nurse said before the game.

Toronto made six of the 10 shots from long-distance in a solid first quarter, and led 26-23 to start the second.

The Raptors kept up the momentum and when Achiuwa scored on a running dunk, swinging from the rim like a gymnast on the high bar, Toronto went up by eight. The home team went into the locker-room at halftime with a 48-40 lead.

Chris Boucher, who’s played sparingly the past few games, missed an easy layup and held his head with both hands in frustration. He hit his next two shots though, including a putback dunk that he followed up with a glare at the TV camera.

While Anunoby still isn’t practising after his recovery recently stalled, Nurse sounded more hopeful about Birch.

“I think it’s getting better,” Nurse said. “He’s not in practice or anything but I see him in the gym and it seems like he’s working fairly hard so I think it’s improving, hopefully he’ll be back soon.”

The Raptors’ season-long seven-game homestand continues on Sunday against Washington. Toronto is at home for 10 of its 13 games in December.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

 

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