TORONTO (CP)_ Even after his team had walked off the court with a comfortable victory, Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey made no apologies for his pre-game concerns his team would take this one for granted.
“We don’t have any right, yet, to overlook anyone,” Casey said after the Raptors defeated the lowly Milwaukee Bucks 116-94 at Air Canada Centre on Monday night. “This is a tough league and we’re still building, we’re still getting there, so I can’t allow our guys to have that in their thought process.”
Other than a brief stretch of the second quarter when Casey thought his team “got passive offensively and defensively” and let the Bucks cut the Toronto lead to single-digits, it was a convincing performance.
Toronto, which took the lead for good on a pair of John Salmons free throws with 3:45 to go in the opening quarter, led by as many as 31 points in chalking up a third straight victory.
With the win, the Raptors (19-17) are two games above .500 for the first time in four seasons. The last time was March 9, 2010 when Toronto was 32-30.
The Raptors, who now have a 4 1/2 game lead over the Brooklyn Nets atop the NBA’s Atlantic Division, featured a balanced attack with five players in double figures, led by Kyle Lowry’s 23 points.
It was the sixth straight loss for the Bucks (7-30), who are the NBA’s worst team.
Even though the Raptors have now won 10 of their last 11 games against teams with sub .500 records and play their next four against team who have lost more than they’ve won this season, Lowry rejected suggestions Toronto might get complacent.
“I don’t think the schedule softens up,” Lowry said. “You’re playing an NBA team every single night.
“I don’t care what they’re record’s saying, that team we played tonight is a good team. We’re self motivated and we’re not worrying about what other teams are doing, we’re worried about what we’re doing.”
Lowry, Toronto’s point guard, hit 6-of-8 shots from the field, including 4-of-5 three-point attempts, as the Raptors finished their homestand at 3-0 before 15,819 fans.
“It was just another night at the office,” for Lowry, said Casey, adding he’s playing like an NBA all-star.
In addition to Lowry’s team-high performance, DeMar DeRozan had 19 points, seven assists and seven rebounds while Jonas Valanciunas added 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Ersan Ilyasova had a game-high 29 points for the Bucks, who sit last in the Central Division.
Toronto led by 14 after one quarter, eight at the half and 15 points after three quarters.
About the only thing that didn’t go well for the home side was a trip to the foul line for Jermain Defoe, introduced earlier in the day as a new member of Toronto FC.
Sitting alongside American international Michael Bradley, who was also unveiled earlier Monday and given a large ovation while sitting courtside, the Englishman missed all three shots from the charity stripe during a break in second-half action.
The Raptors visit the Celtics in Boston on Wednesday night before returning to the Air Canada Centre to host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night and the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday afternoon.
DeRozan said there’s no concern the Raptors will look past any of their opponents.
“It doesn’t matter who we play, it’s an NBA team,” DeRozan said.
“Besides us, there’s 29 other teams in this league and we prepare for each one of them the same. We don’t want to look back at the end of the season and say we left this game or that game on the floor.”