The Toronto Raptors capped off one of the most significant weeks in team history on Saturday with a win over the Milwaukee Bucks, and despite the absence of both Kyle Lowry and Amir Johnson, they set a new franchise-high with their 21st victory on the road this season.
For the third time in as many games, Toronto overcame a slow start in the first half after allowing it’s opponent to dominate in the low post. But behind leading scorer DeMar DeRozan, who netted 15 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter, the visitors earned an important victory that featured another strong effort from the reserves.
With Lowry resting a bruised knee, Greivis Vasquez was once again crucial on both ends of the floor during the win, tying a season-high with 26 points on the way to scoring in double-figures for the fourth straight game.
In just his fourth game back from resting an injured elbow, forward Patrick Patterson got the start with Johnson sidelined, and as always caused matchup issues for Toronto’s opponent while having an impact on the outcome that couldn’t be seen in the post-game box score.
Now 45-32 overall and just two wins shy of matching the franchise record of 47 victories, the Raptors have been on a tear since winning two straight over the Boston Celtics on March 26 and 28, and couldn’t have chosen a better time to start playing some of the best team basketball that we’ve seen them play all season.
Winners in six of their last seven contests, the Raptors have firmly stood their ground as the third seed in the Eastern Conference, and with less than two weeks remaining in the regular season, the Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets are running out of time to overtake the surprising young Raptors.
After Toronto earned a 2-2 split in the season series with the Indiana Pacers on Friday at the Air Canada Center, the entire pack gained a game in the East on the Central Division leaders. But more importantly, the Raptors’ most recent win came on yet another night when both Chicago and Brooklyn also went home victorious.
In the Atlantic Division, the relentless Nets have posted the same 7-3 record over their last 10 as the Raptors. But with two of their final six games against playoff-bound opponents and another versus the troublesome New York Knicks, the Nets’ final stretch may be a little more challenging than Toronto’s.