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Bucks, Raptors each aim to sweep back-to-backs

Jan 16, 2023; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Bobby Portis (9) drives for the basket against Indiana Pacers guard T.J. McConnell (9) in the second quarter at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks welcome the Toronto Raptors to town on Tuesday for the second half of a back-to-back for both teams.

Milwaukee rallied past Indiana by outscoring the Pacers 39-21 in the fourth quarter on Monday afternoon to pick up a 132-119 victory. With Giannis Antetokounmpo sidelined for a third consecutive game due to knee soreness, the Bucks recovered from back-to-back losses in Miami and a 13-point deficit against the Pacers thanks to Jrue Holiday’s 35-point, 11-assist performance.

“I’m pretty comfortable,” Holiday told Bally Sports Wisconsin in his postgame interview, speaking of leading the offense with Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton both out. “I feel like my teammates help a lot. They make me feel comfortable.”

Monday marked Holiday’s third consecutive game with a double-double, and his 35 points were a season high.

Bobby Portis also gave Milwaukee a double-double on Monday with 21 points and 11 rebounds, Brook Lopez scored 19 points and Grayson Allen scored eight of his 17 points in the decisive fourth period.

George Hill, who had not played since Jan. 6, came off the bench to score nine points and provide pivotal defense late in the fourth quarter.

“Just to stay ready, to be able to come in, get a timely steal, knock down (3-pointers),” Holiday said of Hill’s impact on the win. “Just be the ultimate professional.”

Toronto is coming off its own Monday matinee win, escaping New York with a 123-121 overtime triumph over the Knicks.

The Raptors surrendered an RJ Barrett dunk as time expired in regulation to go to the extra frame, then weathered a furious Knicks rally in the final minute of overtime.

Fred VanVleet scored 33 points and distributed eight assists, Scottie Barnes scored 26 points and Pascal Siakam approached a triple-double with 20 points, nine assists and eight rebounds in Toronto’s fourth win over the last five games.

The victory also kicked off a stretch for the Raptors in which they play 10 of their next 12 games on the road. Tuesday’s trip to Milwaukee is the second of three straight away from home.

“We’ve lost a lot of close games this year,” VanVleet said. “This was a good one. Executed big plays, stuff that don’t go your way — make mistakes — make up for it. … Just find a way to win. Good teams find a way to win.”

The Raptors were 0-3 in overtime games on the season coming into Monday’s win, including a 104-101 loss to Milwaukee on Jan. 4. VanVleet posted a double-double of 28 points and 12 assists along with eight rebounds in that matchup, but Toronto could not overcome Antetokounmpo’s 30 points and 21 rebounds.

Siakam had his worst scoring performance of the season in the last meeting with Milwaukee, scoring 11 points on just 4-of-18 shooting from the floor.

Siakam leads Toronto in scoring, rebounding and has the most assists per game this season, and his field-goal percentage for the campaign is tops among the Raptors’ primary starters.

For Barnes, the 2021-22 Rookie of the Year, Monday marked his third consecutive game scoring at least 21 points and fourth such outing in his last five games.

“He was tough when he drove it and took the shot,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said of Barnes’ performance in New York. “Good in the low post, and then good in the high post. We started running some stuff through him.”

–Field Level Media