8 is enough as Milwaukee Bucks stymie Toronto for 4th straight win


The last time the Milwaukee Bucks saw the Air Canada Centre, they left with their worst loss of the season, a 124-82 demolishing at the hands of the Toronto Raptors on Nov. 21.

The lessons Jason Kidd has been imparting on defense have taken root since then.

The Bucks held the Raptors to a season-worst 32.1 percent shooting night and a season-low 75 points Monday night, winning their fourth straight game 82-75 despite playing without starting point guard Brandon Knight, out with a sore quad, and after losing O.J. Mayo to a second-quarter ejection.

That left Milwaukee (26-22) with just eight players, but that was enough.

With Knight unavailable for the first time this season, Jorge Gutierrez—who was playing for the Canton Charge in the NBA D-League a week ago—started at the point guard spot and played 28 minutes.

The Bucks got off to a solid start, holding Toronto (33-16) to 25 percent shooting in the first quarter while building a 23-14 lead.

Khris Middleton picked up the offensive slack early with nine first-period points and Giannis Antetokoumpo got his Greek Freak by putting Raptors guard Louis Williams in the spin cycle.

The Bucks led at the half 47-41, maintaining their composure after Mayo picked up two technical fouls and was tossed with 4:08 to go in the second quarter.

Mayo protested the lack of a foul call against Toronto’s All-Star point guard, Kyle Lowry, but didn’t have much to say about it after the game.

“It was a great win,” Mayo told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Happy we got that win. Eight guys out there. We got the job done.”

Kidd wasn’t exactly happy about the deal, but he wasn’t sweating it, either.

“(Monday night) was not the game to get kicked out,” Kidd said. “He felt bad because he really believed he let his teammates down. But the nice thing is his teammates picked him up.”

Feb 2, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) shoots the ball as Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas (17) defends at Air Canada Centre. The Bucks won 82-75. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Milwaukee rallied to win after blowing a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter.

Kenyon Martin scored for the Bucks off an alley-oop feed from Middleton on the first possession of the fourth quarter as the Bucks grabbed a 75-60 lead.

That “75” stayed on the scoreboard for a very, very long time, though.

The Bucks went 8½ minutes without a point and Toronto stormed back with 15 consecutive points, tying the game on Tyler Hansbrough’s tip-in off a Williams miss with 3:33 remaining.

But the defense saved the day.

The Bucks held Toronto scoreless over the final 3:33, scoring seven straight points to secure the win.

Antetokounmpo hit 1-of-2 from the foul line to put Milwaukee back on top 76-75 with 3:26 left and the Raptors went 0-for-5 with two turnovers in their last seven possessions.

Jared Dudley sealed it with a 3-pointer with 2:08 remaining that pushed the Bucks’ lead back to two possessions.

The defensive showing moved the Bucks into a second-place tie with the San Antonio Spurs and Charlotte Hornets, allowing an average of just 95.5 points per game. Milwaukee is second in the league in defensive rating, allowing 98.7 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com/Stats. Only the Golden State Warriors at 97.1 are better.

The four-game winning streak is Milwaukee’s longest since a four-game run from Feb. 26-March 4, 2013. The Bucks’ last five-game win streak was in November 2007.

Milwaukee is also a season-high four games better than .500, the first time they’ve been that far clear of the breakeven point since they were 25-21 two years ago to the day, Feb. 2, 2013.

Feb 2, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Milwaukee Bucks guard Jorge Gutierrez (13) prepares to shoot the ball in front of Toronto Raptors guard Greivis Vasquez (21) during the second quarter at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Gutierrez didn’t score a point in his first NBA start since April 16, the Brooklyn Nets’ 2013-14 season finale, but had five assists and four rebounds.

“His teammates trusted him,” Kidd said. “That just shows the team unity and that the guys believe they’re doing the right thing.”

Middleton scored a season-high 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting while also grabbing nine rebounds and netting three steals.

Dudley had 14 points and five assists, while Antetokounmpo logged 12 points, 12 rebounds and two blocked shots. John Henson also had 12 points and two blocks and Jerryd Bayless notched eight points, nine assists and seven boards in 33 minutes off the bench.

Lowry, who will start the All-Star Game for the Eastern Conference on Feb. 15, had only two points and five assists on 1-of-7 shooting in 29 minutes.

DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 16 points. Jonas Valanciunas had 12 points and 13 rebounds, Williams scored 12 points and Terrence Ross added 10. Patrick Patterson finished with nine points and 11 rebounds.

According to ESPN’s playoff odds, the Bucks are all put a lock for the postseason at this point with a 99.5 percent chance of earning a berth. Their lead over ninth-place Brooklyn is up to 6½ games and they are solidly in sixth place—three games behind the fifth-place Cleveland Cavaliers and 4½ games up on seventh-place Miami.

The Bucks return home Wednesday to host the moribund Los Angeles Lakers (13-35), who were beaten by the New York Knicks 92-80 on Sunday.

It’s the first meeting of the year between the clubs. Milwaukee swept the two meetings last season, winning 94-79 at home on Dec. 31, 2013, and 108-105 in Los Angeles on March 27.

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