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Field Level Media - Professional sports content solutions | FLM

Apr 4, 2024 8:47 pm

Struggling Bucks look to get back on track vs. Raptors

giannis

With losses in four of their last five, the Milwaukee Bucks continue a five-game homestand on Friday against the Toronto Raptors, looking to correct course in pursuit of the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed.

Milwaukee (47-29) dropped its second game in as many nights against teams eliminated from the postseason, losing 111-101 on Wednesday to the Memphis Grizzlies. The defeat, which opened the Bucks’ stretch at home, came on the heels of a 117-113 loss on Tuesday at the Washington Wizards.

Damian Lillard missed both losses and Milwaukee’s last three games overall due to a groin strain. The Bucks are 1-7 this season without the eight-time All-Star in the lineup.

Lillard is second on the Bucks in scoring, averaging 24.4 points per game, and leads the team with 7.1 assists per game. With Lillard already sidelined, Khris Middleton — the third-leading scorer at 15.1 points per game — sustained a left ankle injury that kept him out on Wednesday. Middleton had 21 and 24 points in the two previous contests.

While looking to carry the load with key contributors missing, two-time Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo “was running on fumes” in his 21-point performance, per Milwaukee coach Doc Rivers.

“As a coach, you’ve got to make a judgment call sometimes, and medical (staff) makes the call more. They kept saying, ‘He’s OK.’ But I have eyes, and I didn’t like the way he was moving.”

“Experience” is what Antetokounmpo cited for remaining in the lineup for 32 minutes against Memphis.

“Making mistakes, make good plays, playing through good or bad,” said Antetokounmpo, who leads the Bucks in points (30.7 points), rebounds (11.5) rebounds and steals (1.2). “Just being able to absorb as much as you can, because in our league, you’re going to face adversity.”

The Bucks’ lineup and playing-time concerns pose challenges heading into their final six games. The Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic and New York Knicks are in striking distance in the standings.

The Knicks are 2.5 games behind Milwaukee for second place in the East, the Magic are two games back and the Cavaliers are 1.5 games behind through Wednesday.

Toronto (23-53) limps in eliminated from postseason contention and two losses shy of matching the longest skid in franchise history.

“We’ve got to continue working. We’ve got to continue pounding,” Raptors coach Darko Rajakovic said of the losing streak. “Every day is a new opportunity to stand up and keep fighting.”

The Raptors dropped their 15th straight decision on Wednesday in the most-lopsided fashion in the organization’s 29 seasons, 133-85 at Minnesota.

Wednesday’s loss marked the third game during Toronto’s ongoing losing streak in which it failed to score at least 90 points.

A bevy of the Raptors’ leading contributors earlier in the season has been sidelined, including Scottie Barnes (hand), RJ Barrett (rest) and Jakob Poeltl (hand).

Immanuel Quickley returned to the lineup for the past two games after having missed the previous six. He scored 16 points in Minnesota, matching Javon Freeman-Liberty’s output off the bench and Gradey Dick for a team high.

The rookie Dick has seen an uptick in playing time over the past month, with 12 of his 13 games logging at least 30 minutes coming since March 7. Dick has scored in double figures in six of his past seven games.

–Field Level Media

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