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News » BUCKS 117, RAPTOR 95 Pulling out of a nosedive Balanced attack has 7 players in double figures

BUCKS 117, RAPTOR 95 Pulling out of a nosedive Balanced attack has 7 players in double figures

BUCKS 117, RAPTOR 95  Pulling out of a nosedive  Balanced attack has 7 players in double figures By TOM ENLUND

The Milwaukee Bucks snapped a four-game losing streak with a 117-95 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night at the Bradley Center.

The Bucks led by as many as 20 in the third quarter and took an 83-74 lead into the fourth. Going with a small lineup that included point guards Luke Ridnour and Roko Ukic, the Bucks pushed their lead to 95-78 with 8 minutes 40 seconds left. Consecutive three-pointers by Ukic and Ridnour gave the Bucks that lead.

The Raptors closed to within 11 with 5 minutes left but jumpers by Carlos Delfino, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and Ridnour pushed the lead back up to 17 with 3 minutes left.

Rookie guard Brandon Jennings scored 22 points to lead the Bucks , who had seven players score in double figures. Forward Chris Bosh led Toronto with 26 points.

Wednesday's game matched two teams that had been headed in opposite directions.

The Bucks' loss in Boston on Tuesday was their eighth defeat in nine games and dropped them two games below .500 for the first time this season. Toronto's home victory over Minnesota on Tuesday gave the Raptors their first three-game winning streak of the season.

The Bucks have been looking to shore up their defense: In the four games prior to Wednesday, they gave up an average of 102.0 points per game on 52.7% shooting.

"We've had several issues (defensively)," said coach Scott Skiles before the game. "The defense on the point of attack has gotten worse and worse. We have to do a better job of keeping the other team's point guard in front of us. Too many of them are breaking us down and getting in the paint. The good point guards in the league will do that and create a lot of problems. So we have to do better there.

"There's a fine line between being a really good defensive club and not so good. It's multiple efforts, seeing what's going on, it's being in tune with the game plan, it's playing really hard, being smart about your level of quickness and your opponent's, not fouling . . . there's many things that go into it. We're at a point of the season where we need to get better at all those things."

The Raptors were showing signs of improvement defensively as they held each of their previous three opponents under 40% shooting.

"I just think we're supporting each other a lot more and helping each other (defensively)," said Toronto coach Jay Triano before the game. "We've become a bit tighter with our coverages. Before, we were a little bit loose. And we're putting a little more pressure on the ball. There's been a renewed passion."

The Bucks made one of their first eight shots Wednesday and five of their first 17 but were in a 10-10 tie with the Raptors midway through the first quarter. After three more ties, a free throw and a three-pointer by Antoine Wright gave Toronto a 20-18 lead. But Jennings then got hot and scored the Bucks' final 11 points - including a pair of three-pointers - to give Milwaukee a 29-22 lead after one quarter. Jennings had 14 points in the first quarter.

A layup by Milwaukee's Ukic and a jumper by Jennings opened the second quarter, and a three-pointer by Ersan Ilyasova later extended the Bucks lead to 36-24. Bosh scored the next five points, but Ridnour sank a jumper and two free throws to push Milwaukee's lead back to 11 points. Toronto closed to within five late in the quarter but the Bucks finished strong and held a 57-45 halftime lead.

The Bucks out-scored Toronto, 9-1, early in the third quarter and held their biggest lead of the game to that point, 70-52, after Ilyasova took a nice pass from Carlos Delfino for a layup. The Bucks later pushed the lead to 20 but Toronto had it down to nine going into the fourth.

Copyright 2009, Journal Sentinel Inc. All rights reserved. (Note: This notice does not apply to those news items already copyrighted and received through wire services or other media.)

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