Bargnani expected back to face Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks aren't getting much production at centre as they try to make a playoff push, while Toronto big man Andrea Bargnani's breakout season wasn't enough to put the Raptors in contention.
With a scoring slump holding them back, the Bucks look to take advantage of a lowly Raptors team that expects to have Bargnani back after a one-game absence Wednesday night (7 p.m. ET).
Milwaukee (31-40) is coming off a 2-4 homestand and has dropped 11 of 15 but still remains near the top of a logjam of six teams battling for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
"We just have to take care of business," forward Keith Bogans said. "Bottom line is we have to win games if we want to get into the postseason."
A lack of scoring was of particular concern for Milwaukee during its stretch at the Bradley Center, averaging 84.0 points and shooting 38.2 per cent over its last four games.
Playing without injured guard Michael Redd (knee) and centre Andrew Bogut (back), the Bucks are trying to remain upbeat. But Francisco Elson, who has replaced Bogut in the lineup, offers little on the offensive end.
Elson had seven points in a 96-84 loss to Portland on Saturday night and is averaging 3.4 on the season.
He'll likely be matched up with Bargnani, who sat out Sunday's 100-76 win over the Los Angeles Clippers due to a sore left heel, ending a streak of 130 consecutive games.
Bargnani, the only Raptor to appear in the first 69 games of the season, is averaging career highs of 15.1 points and 5.4 rebounds in his third season after being selected No. 1 overall in the 2006 draft. He's been especially good in recent weeks, averaging 21.1 points and shooting 55.2 per cent in his last 12 games.
Milwaukee is in desperate need of a similar boost on offence.
Forward Charlie Villanueva has remained consistent, averaging 21.2 points in 30 games since joining the starting lineup, but veteran Richard Jefferson can't break out of his shooting slump. Jefferson is averaging 15.3 points and shooting 34.9 per cent over his last three games.
"I haven't played as well as I would like … down the stretch," he said. "I haven't done that the last few games. I'm one of those people who have to step up and play better."
Jefferson has struggled in three games against Toronto (25-45) this season, posting 10.7 points a contest while shooting 29.0 per cent. The Bucks, though, have won two of those meetings.
Despite a 31-point effort from Chris Bosh, Toronto lost 107-97 at Milwaukee on Jan. 5.
Bosh, who celebrated his 25th birthday Tuesday, is hoping the Raptors can play well in the stretch run even though the playoffs are out of reach. He had 16 points and 13 rebounds to lead a spirited effort versus the Clippers.
"When we come out and play the way we did, it's fun," Bosh said. "That's what I think we have to get to now. We just have to have fun playing the game of basketball and the way you have fun is play defence, lock them down and run. When you're running, getting dunks and everybody is scoring, everybody is touching the ball, that's when it's fun."