Bucks fall to defensive-minded Raptors
But then the Bucks fizzled when faced with a 2-3 Raptors zone defense for much of the second half, and Toronto escaped with a 101-96 victory on Friday night at the Air Canada Centre.
Toronto made seven straight stops late in the final quarter and went on a 13-0 run to transform a six-point deficit into a 94-87 lead with 37.3 seconds remaining.
It added up to another road disappointment for the Bucks (17-24), who dropped to 5-17 away from the Bradley Center.
The Bucks' late fade spoiled a fairly strong effort as they limited Raptors star Chris Bosh to 17 points, after he had scored a career-best 44 in Toronto's 113-107 loss in Milwaukee on Wednesday.
"Their zone took us out of our rhythm offensively," said Bucks center Andrew Bogut, who had 22 points but was limited to five in the second half. "We got five or six stops in a row but we couldn't score.
"We were up by five at that point (at the end of the third quarter). Maybe we score twice or three times and we're up by double digits. Their zone was so packed in and they were letting us have open threes, and we weren't knocking them down."
The Bucks struggled from beyond the three-point arc, where they often have flourished this season. But they sank only 5 of 26 three-point tries (19.2 percent) and were 3 of 15 in the second half.
"The three is really the only way we have to counteract the other team shooting so many free throws against us, and we just couldn't make any," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said.
"I'm not taking anything away from Toronto, but there's a reason most teams in the NBA don't stay in a zone very much. You generally get punished. We had some openings in it, but our vision got narrow. We stopped seeing what was going on and looked a little rattled by it."
Reserve guard Luke Ridnour kept hitting shots in the second half but he had little help. Ridnour scored a team-high 27 points on 9-of-13 shooting, including 20 points in the second half.
Bucks forward Carlos Delfino, who had been hot from three-point range (13 of 24 over the previous three games), made just 1 of 8 from beyond the arc. Charlie Bell was 1 of 6 and Brandon Jennings 0 of 3.
"We missed so many open looks," Delfino said. "This is the first time we've really faced a zone and it's something that surprised us. We have so many shooters."
The Raptors (22-22) were playing without center Andrea Bargnani, sidelined due to a sore lower back. But this time they didn't rely solely on Bosh as they received solid contributions from several players.
Point guard Jarrett Jack led the way with 27 points and guard Marco Belinelli had 16 points, including 10 in the first half to give a sagging Raptors team a burst of energy.
"He really hurt us in the first half," Skiles said.
Toronto also flourished at the free-throw line, sinking 31 of 42 attempts while the Bucks were 21 of 24.
"We picked up full court to start the third (quarter) and got our guys' legs into it a little bit," said Raptors coach Jay Triano.
"When we couldn't get over the hump (late in the game) we decided to go zone for a little bit, and we could play smaller guys and it created great energy for us."
The Raptors won for the eighth time in their last nine home games and improved to 6-0 at home against Central Division teams.
"Teams are going to get leads; it's the NBA," Bosh said of the Bucks' solid star which resulted in a 57-48 halftime lead.
"So we can't hang our heads. We are always in the game, especially at home.
"We didn't want to disappoint the crowd tonight. We kept the effort up, kept fighting, playing good basketball and pulled one out."
Skiles also was angry with the Bucks' first possession in the third quarter when they busted a play, and the coach yanked forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute a short time later.
"For us to have a possession and for us to go right down the floor and not know what we're doing is incredibly unacceptable," Skiles said. "Then, boom, we have a one-point lead.
"We regained our footing and took it back up again but couldn't sustain it."