Bucks, Raptors ready to resume heated rivalry

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The Milwaukee Bucks and the Toronto Raptors will be seeing quite a bit of each other — and that is even before a possible meeting in the playoffs.

After the Bucks visit the Raptors on Tuesday night, the teams will still have two more regular-season meetings, at Milwaukee on April 1, then at Toronto on April 3.

The Bucks won the only meeting so far this season, 115-105 at home on Nov. 2.

Neither team will be putting too much emphasis on regular-season results between the Bucks, who lead the Eastern Conference, and the Raptors, who are second in the East. The Bucks won the season series 3-1 last season and had an NBA-best 60 wins, but the Raptors won the Eastern Conference final in six games on the way to the NBA championship.

“They’re rolling and we’re playing a little bit better,” Raptors guard Fred VanVleet said. “Hopefully, we give ourselves a good shot. They kicked our (butts) all last year, too, in the regular season and it didn’t much matter in the playoffs.”

The Raptors are coming off a 127-81 home victory Sunday over the Indiana Pacers, the largest margin of victory (46) in franchise history. They actually led by 49 points when Matt Thomas made a 3-pointer with 43 seconds to play.

The Raptors have won 17 of their past 18 games.

The Bucks have won 17 of their past 19 games after a surprisingly difficult 137-134 overtime road victory Monday over the Washington Wizards.

The Bucks on Tuesday will be playing their third game in four days.

“I watch them play and they win every game by 20 points and I don’t know what to make of it, other than nobody can even come close to them, right?” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “I mean, I don’t know what their margin of error is, but when I do watch them, it’s boring. It’s over by halftime half the time, and nobody ever really makes a threat. … They’re really good. They’ve really got it going. … It’ll be a challenge, but we’ll be OK.”

The Bucks did not have one of those easy victories on Monday. Their star, Giannis Antetokounmpo, had 22 points and 14 rebounds when he fouled out with 1:33 left in regulation. The Wizards overcame a 17-point deficit to lead 123-121 with 1:01 to play.

Khris Middleton, who finished with 40 points, took over in overtime and scored Milwaukee’s final nine points.

Over the weekend, the Bucks became the first team this season to clinch a playoff spot.

“I feel like we got some of the best players in the league,” Bucks guard George Hill told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently. “I feel like we still got an All-Star in Eric Bledsoe that got kind of snubbed — to me. We’ve got K-Midd (Middleton), we got Giannis, we got the defensive player of the year — in my opinion — in Brook Lopez, we have a great bench, we have a great defender in Wes (Matthews), so I think we got a great team and we can compete with anybody.”

The Raptors are on a nine-game winning streak at home and are averaging 125.1 points and shooting .519 (415-800) from the field, including .413 (138-for-334) from 3-point distance, during that span.

–Field Level Media

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