Sunday, January 13: Milwaukee vs. Toronto (most important game since the last one)
After a terrible start, the Toronto Raptors seem to be turning their season around.
They'll try to notch their third three-game win streak of the season on Sunday in a matchup against a Milwaukee Bucks team they've struggled against recently.
The Raptors (14-22) started the season 4-19 but Friday's 99-78 rout of visiting Charlotte was their 10th win in 13 games. The turnaround began two games after they lost starting forward Andrea Bargnani (16.0 points per game) indefinitely to a torn elbow ligament in a Dec. 10 loss at Portland.
Without Bargnani, Toronto has seemingly discovered better offensive balance. Four others are averaging 10.3 ppg or more, with DeMar DeRozan leading the way at 17.8. Seven different players have been the Raptors' top scorer at least once over the last 13 games. Alan Anderson filled that role with 16 off the bench in Friday's victory while three others scored at least 12.
Toronto is averaging 99.0 points over its last 13 games compared to 95.2 in its first 23 contests. The Raptors also are averaging 5.3 more assists in those 13 games.
"Everybody was looking for the open guy," said Jose Calderon, who had 15 points and six assists. "Sharing is fun when you do that. It was great to see everybody scoring and moving the ball."
An improved defense has also contributed to the team's recent success. The Raptors have allowed 90.2 ppg during their 10-3 surge after previously giving up 102.6. They're 8-0 when holding opponents below 90, which has happened five times during that span.
Toronto will likely need to continue that strong defense as it attempts to end a four-game home losing streak to Milwaukee and win for only the third time in the last 14 meetings overall.
The Bucks (18-17) suffered their first loss in three games under interim coach Jim Boylan, 103-87 to Detroit on Friday. Boylan took over after Scott Skiles and Milwaukee mutually agreed to part ways on Monday.
Playing their third game in four nights, the Bucks were outscored 33-11 in the third quarter. They shot 39.6 percent from the field and a season-worst 1 of 16 (6.3 percent) from 3-point range.
"It seemed like our legs got a little heavy in the third quarter," Boylan said. "Pretty evident by the fact that we missed a lot of open, good looks that we had throughout the game."
At least one thing has remained consistent for Milwaukee: Larry Sanders' defense. Sanders has blocked at least one shot in 22 straight games and leads the NBA at 3.3 per contest.
Toronto got rookie Terrence Ross back on Friday after he missed the previous game with a sore left ankle. Meanwhile, Amir Johnson continues to play through an ankle injury. Averaging 8.6 ppg this season, Johnson has scored 13 or more in four of his last five.
"He brings it every night," coach Dwane Casey said. "Most guys with an ankle like his would be out for two or three months. He's a warrior. He's the heart and soul of our team."
Boylan would surely like to get more out of leading scorer Monta Ellis (18.9), who has averaged 13.3 points on 17-of-45 shooting since the coaching change.
Same starters for Toronto vs. Milwaukee. Calderon, DeRozan, Fields, Davis and Johnson. #Raptors have dropped 7 straight to the Bucks.