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Slumping Raptors brace for Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo

Jan 3, 2023; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) reacts after scoring a basket in the second quarter during game against the Washington Wizards at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Raptors hope a six-game homestand that opens Wednesday night against the Milwaukee Bucks will reverse their recent struggles.

After losing 122-114 to the Indiana Pacers on Monday in Indianapolis, the Raptors have lost nine of their past 12 games, including five of six at home.

“This is a perfect opportunity in front of our home crowd,” said Pascal Siakam, who scored 26 points on Monday. “I just want us to continue to stay together. Hoping that the atmosphere in the arena is great and we come in with a lot of energy as players. This is an important stretch for us.”

The Bucks also have had their problems recently. They had lost five of their past six before defeating the visiting Washington Wizards 123-113 on Tuesday with Giannis Antetokounmpo scoring 19 of his career-best 55 points in the fourth quarter.

Antetokounmpo was back in action after sitting out one game due to a knee injury. He has scored 40 or more points in each of his past three contests, racking up 143 points in that span. It’s a Bucks franchise record for a three-game period, surpassing Flynn Robinson’s 129 points from February 1969.

“I want to get in a position (so) that my game is boring,” Antetokounmpo said. “I just do what I do and people don’t talk about it because it becomes boring.

“I do it every single night. That’s what I want to do. I want other people to feel like my game is boring. But I don’t get bored. The greats, the best players, never get bored. They go out there and they always give their best any given night.”

He also had 10 rebounds, seven assists and two steals.

“He’s just been phenomenal,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “It’s hard to come up with all the words to describe him. He was incredibly special (on Tuesday).”

Also returning to the Bucks’ lineup on Tuesday was Jrue Holiday, who missed the three previous games because of illness. He had six points in 19 minutes off the bench.

Brook Lopez amassed 21 points and 12 rebounds for Milwaukee, with reserve Bobby Portis contributing 17 points and 13 rebounds.

Milwaukee’s George Hill missed a third straight game because of a non-COVID illness.

The Wednesday game will be the first game of the season between the teams. Toronto went 3-0 against Milwaukee last season.

Fred VanVleet and Precious Achiuwa returned to the Raptors’ lineup on Monday. VanVleet missed two games because of a back ailment, while Achiuwa was out for seven weeks due to a sprained right ankle.

“It’s time for us to show what we’re about,” VanVleet said after practice on Sunday. “I think you’ll definitely see a better product going forward as we get healthy and we start to get whole.”

VanVleet scored nine points on Monday in slightly more than 36 minutes. Achiuwa had three points and three blocked shots in 12 minutes.

The Raptors got little from their bench at Indiana, with Pacers reserves outscoring Toronto reserves 54-7. Toronto coach Nick Nurse said his biggest concern about his reserves is the lack of defense.

“They’re just not getting any stops,” Nurse said. “We had (the Pacers) really bottled up and they weren’t scoring at all and the floodgates kind of opened. I don’t expect (the second unit) to go out there and maintain the same level of defense that the first unit has, but they’ve got to at least maintain a little bit.”

–Field Level Media