If the Toronto Raptors are to stop their string of home losses, they will have to end the Milwaukee Bucks’ eight-game winning streak on Thursday night.
The Bucks stretched their streak Wednesday night by eking out a 127-125 home victory over the Charlotte Hornets on a layup by Giannis Antetokounmpo with two seconds remaining.
The Raptors, meanwhile, have lost five straight home games after a 98-91 defeat at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday. The Raptors are 2-8 at home.
“It really doesn’t have anything to do with being home, to be honest with you,” said Fred VanVleet, who scored 15 points on Tuesday. “We could play on Pluto for all I care, it’s just disappointing to lose. We expect to win around here. We have high standards, and that’s not going to change.”
Injuries have been a problem for the Raptors. They will still be without OG Anunoby (hip pointer) and Khem Birch (knee) on Thursday. Gary Trent Jr. (calf) did practice on Wednesday and could return to play against the Bucks.
With the Raptors’ lineup depleted, the Grizzlies concentrated on stopping VanVleet. It could be part of the plan for Toronto’s opponents.
“It’s going to come with the territory,” VanVleet said. “Obviously, I’m getting better as a player, but also given the makeup of this team with guys out, they could show a little bit more attention.
“We just tried to find other ways to manufacture points. It didn’t really happen all that well for us (against Memphis), but I’ll continue to learn and grow from it because it’s going to be that way, especially in this league where whoever we play is going to watch the film and see if they can take some of that.”
If Trent returns, it could help VanVleet.
Pascal Siakam scored 20 points and Scottie Barnes had 19 against Memphis, but Toronto missed 29-of-39 3-point attempts.
“They really packed it in on us, they just stayed off everybody, there wasn’t a whole lot of space and kind of baited us into some early shots and we kept taking them, one after another,” said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse. “Didn’t make many.”
Antetokounmpo finished with 40 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists against the Hornets, who led 41-25 after the first quarter and increased the lead to 18 in the second.
DeMarcus Cousins, officially signed to a one-year, non-guaranteed contract on Tuesday, made his debut for the Bucks on Wednesday and had seven points and four rebounds in nearly 15 minutes.
The Bucks needed help in the frontcourt with center Brook Lopez out with a back injury since the season opener.
“I was waiting on an opportunity to call,” Cousins said on Tuesday. “Honestly, I had a workout earlier, maybe two days before Milwaukee called, with Denver. They didn’t have an open roster spot, but I didn’t hear anything back after that. And then the Bucks came in and moved swiftly.”
Before the game, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said that he thought Cousins is “mentally … in a good place.”
“So we’re excited about having him for, whatever this is, 60 games or so,” Budenholzer said.
“Last time I played with him, we had a pretty good team, and he’s a heck of a talent,” said Bucks guard Jrue Holiday, who played with Cousins on the New Orleans Pelicans. Holiday had 11 points and seven assists on Wednesday.
–Field Level Media