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Bucks, Raptors meet for first time since playoffs
TORONTO -- The Milwaukee Bucks and the Toronto Raptors have not played each other since April 27.
That was when the Raptors defeated the Bucks 92-89 to take their first-round playoff series in six games and the teams will meet for the first time this season Monday night at the Air Canada Centre.
The first thing Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan mentioned about the playoff series after practice Sunday was that the Bucks won Game 1, which was played at the ACC.
"It was one of those series that was a challenge for us," DeRozan said. "Once we figured it out, we got control of it and eventually we won it, but I always think back to that Game 1."
Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo also mentioned Game 1 when he talked about the series.
"It definitely helps us," Antetokounmpo told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I was talking with (Bucks guard Sterling) Brown about it and he was like, 'You guys lost the series,' but I told him we won the first game (in Toronto), we lost the second one, but at the end of the day, we learned from it. I think we're more mature as a team, we're playing better and hopefully (Monday) we can get a win against these guys because we really want it."
The Bucks face a difficult task Monday. The Raptors are 13-1 at the ACC, including 11 wins in a row, and can equal a club record for consecutive team wins at 12 against Milwaukee.
"They ended our season early," Bucks guard Matthew Dellavedova said after Milwaukee defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday. "Obviously, it was very disappointing so we're going to be very focused, locked in and ready to go."
The Raptors (24-10) had lost two in a row for only the third time this season when they defeated the Atlanta Hawks 111-98 Friday on their return home.
The Bucks (19-15) defeated the Thunder 97-95 Friday and have won two in a row.
"I think the two wins definitely helps," Dellavedova said. "But, it's more the way we did it, the whole team being engaged and really having to fight for both those wins."
The Raptors won the regular season series 3-1 over the Bucks last season. Antetokounmpo averaged 24.8 points, 8.8, rebounds and 5.2 assists on 55.6 percent shooting in the 10 games between the teams last season, including the regular season and playoffs.
DeRozan, who has average 24.1 points per game to lead the Raptors this season, said he enjoys watching Antetokounmpo, who is averaging 29.1 points and 10.4 rebounds.
"He's a freak of nature," DeRozan said. "I remember his first couple of years, he was skinny. Now, you watch and he's out there looking like a grown man, and he's playing like one. He's played like a franchise player. It's fun to watch a guy like that, who is 6-11 with a seven-whatever wing span handling the ball, creating for himself and his teammates. It's fun to watch as a basketball fan."
The Bucks have made some changes since last season, including the addition of guard Eric Bledsoe in a trade with the Phoenix Suns.
"They're a lot better," DeRozan said. "Not just with Bledsoe. You see how much Giannis improved. All those guys. They've got a great coach in Jason Kidd. They're well coached. ... Having a guy like Bledsoe definitely helps."
"They're a little bit different now offensively," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "Bledsoe gives another piece to the equation that we've got to guard."
Despite the Raptors' record, Casey feels they can be better. "I think we have a lot of growth, a lot of room for improvement in a lot of areas," he said. "It's little things, there's nothing glaring."
The key to the playoff series against the Bucks last season was Game 5, which the Raptors won 118-93. Casey liked the Raptors moved the ball.
"The ball was moving, zipping around," he said.
It is the style the Raptors have introduced this season so that they can get more players involved besides DeRozan and point guard Kyle Lowry, their key players.
"We've played them a lot here, so just understanding they're a little bit different -- you add someone like C.J. Miles and it definitely helps them with the 3s," Kidd said. "But DeRozan and Lowry are the engines and you've got to pay attention to those guys."
Raptors forward Serge Ibaka is expected to return to the lineup Monday after the team suspended him for the game Friday for being involved in what was termed an "altercation" with a staff member after the loss to the Thunder on Wednesday.
Updated January 1, 2018