Mon. Final: Bucks 107, Raptors 97
By Todd Welter
Next game: Wednesday, January 7th vs. Philadelphia
The Bucks may have improved defensively but it is a defense that is still a work in progress.
Good thing they have some guys that do not need to work on their offensive game. Michael Redd scored a game-high 35 points. Charlie Villanueva scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half as the Bucks pulled out a 107-97 victory over the Toronto Raptors at the Bradley Center.
"We made the big shot when it counted," Bucks' head coach Scott Skiles said. "This is the second game in a row that our defense was substandard."
The defense was substandard in terms that it allowed the Raptors to shoot 54% from the field. Chris Bosh especially found it easy to get to the rim as he scored a team-high 31 points on 12-14 shooting. He was also facing a Bucks' defense that was without center Andrew Bogut who missed the game due to back spasms.
Success in the NBA can come in not how you play defense but when. The Bucks defense came through in the clutch as the Raptors went 0-5 during the game's last 2:51 and committed four turnovers in the final quarter. That is the best way to explain the Bucks pulling out a ten-point victory despite the Raptors lighting up the scoreboard at will. The Bucks shooting 48% themselves and finishing the game on a 10-0 run also helped the final outcome.
"We made huge shots," Redd felt. "It was just a tremendous team effort tonight against a tough team. We had to get this win and we did."
The Bucks found themselves down 13 points late in the first quarter and were still down 10 with 2:35 left in the second quarter. Then Redd hit two three-pointers down the stretch that left the Bucks behind 48-45 heading into intermission.
The Bucks grabbed a brief 53-52 lead with 9:53 left in the third quarter. The Raptors then rattled off a 12-0 run to take an eleven point lead with 6:08 left in the quarter. The Bucks responded with a 21-7 run to close out the third quarter ahead 74-71.
Villanueva hit a three with 10:02 left to put the Bucks ahead 81-73. The Raptors charged back with an 8-2 run to cut the Bucks lead down to two with 8:23 left. The Raptors regained the lead with 4:18 left on Bosh's mid-range jumper. Villanueva's short jumper gave the lead back to the Bucks but the Raptors rattled off four quick points to go ahead 95-91 with 2:51 left.
Luke Ridnour closed the gap to 95-94 with a three-pointer and Charlie Bell knocked down a three with 1:54 to go that tied the game up at 97. Villanueva then hit a go-ahead 18-footer to put the Bucks up two with 1:16 left. Ridnour made another three to put the Bucks up five with 34 seconds left and the Raptors downfall was complete.
"I can't fault our guys for blowing a lead," Raptors' head coach Jay Triano said. "Ridnour made two threes and Charlie Bell catches a deflection before it goes out of bounds. There were four plays in a row where the right thing happened but it just didn't go for us. I'm not upset with the guys or pointing the finger at anyone."
The Raptors fall to 14-21 while the Bucks improve to 17-19. Milwaukee will play its second of three straight home games this Wednesday night against the Philadelphia 76ers.