TORONTO – The Toronto Raptors are keeping the blinkers on, looking straight ahead to the task that faces them in the playoffs.
Despite setting a franchise record with their 48th win of the season in defeating the Milwaukee Bucks 110-100 on Monday, they are not satisfied yet.
“We’re not enjoying it the way we should right now,” said guard Greivis Vasquez, who led the Raptors with 25 points while guard DeMar DeRozan was rested. “This is important, this is huge. We value this, but at the same time we’re going to leave it to the moment and we’re just going to be humble and try to continue to win. We want to get 49 wins.”
Guard Kyle Lowry added 24 points for the Raptors (48-33), who swept their four-game season series against the Bucks (15-66) for the first time in team history.
“They’re a good team,” Bucks coach Larry Drew said. “They’ve been playing well, they’re having a good season. They are gearing up for the playoffs. Even minus a DeRozan it shows you how much talent they have on that team.”
The Raptors, who have clinched the Atlantic Division, had won 47 games in a season twice before — 2000-01 and 2006-07.
The undermanned Bucks had only nine players available.
The Raptors say they are not worried about the team they play in the first round of the playoffs.
“We’re just on a mission,” Vasquez said. “Tunnel vision.”
“I’m more worried about us than about who we play,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said.
Casey said it is possible that he will rest DeRozan again for the final game of the season on Wednesday even if the result of that game would help determine a first-round playoff opponent.
“It’s about us,” Casey said. “It’s about our health. There are no easy teams that are left in the playoffs right now. All the teams are very capable. I’m worried about our guys’ health.”
Center Jonas Valanciunas scored 14 points and had 13 rebounds for the Raptors. Forward Tyler Hansbrough had 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds while forward Amir Johnson added 10 points.
Guard Ramon Sessions led the Bucks with 21 points, and forward Jeff Adrien added 19 points with nine rebounds. Guard Brandon Knight added 18 points, forward Khris Middleton chipped in with 15 and center/forward John Henson had 12.
The Bucks know they face possible changes to improve a young team, and center Zaza Pachulia said he respects the way the Raptors have developed.
“They did a good job in building and they’re playing together,” he said. “They share the ball, they move the ball. We’re going to get better. That’s the team goal to add pieces to get better and to get better individually. Nothing was built in one day, Rome wasn’t built in one day. … and we have to play more team basketball.”
Bucks guard/forward Giannis Antetokounmpo opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer to cut the Raptors’ lead to 12 points. A layup by guard Nando De Colo had the lead up to 17. The Bucks bounced back to trim the lead to seven on Knight’s 3-pointer and two dunks by Adrien. Lowry’s layup with 2:56 to play gave Toronto a 12-point lead. A 3-pointer by forward Terrence Ross increased the lead to 15.
Vasquez opened the second half with a pull-up jumper to put Toronto ahead by 15 points. Lowry’s 3-pointer put the Raptors up by 20 with 4:12 left in the third quarter. The Bucks whittled that to 12 on Henson’s dunk but forward Patrick Patterson made a 3-point shot that had the lead at 17. The Raptors led 84-69 after the third quarter.
Vasquez opened the game 6-for-6 in shooting, including five straight 3-pointers, and finished the first half with 17 points as the Raptors led 59-46 at the intermission. The Bucks ended the half on an 8-0 run.
The Raptors were ahead 32-19 after the first quarter led by nine points from Vasquez.
“We still have to continue to work to get better,” Casey said. “We’re not where we need to be defensively or offensively for the playoffs.”
“We fell behind, we tried to fight back,” Drew said. “We got it under 10 but we just couldn’t get over the hump.”
NOTES: Raptors F Landry Fields (flu) did not play. … Raptors G DeMar DeRozan entered Monday’s game ranked third in the NBA with a cub-record 514 free throws. F Chris Bosh set the previous team record for free throws of 504 in 2008-09. DeRozan dressed for Monday’s game but he was rested and not play. G Greivis Vasquez started in his place. … Bucks G Brandon Knight (right hip) was listed as questionable for Monday’s game but he was in the starting lineup. … Bucks G/F Carlos Delfino (right foot), C Larry Sanders (right orbital bones), F Ersan Ilyasova (right ankle), G O.J. Mayo (right ankle), F/C Ekpe Udoh (ankle and knee) and G Nate Wolters (left hand) were out. … The Raptors visit the New York Knicks on Wednesday to end their regular season. … The Bucks host the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday to end their season.
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