TORONTO - The Toronto Raptors' decision to focus on perimeter play backfired against the hot-shooting Milwaukee Bucks.
Head coach Dwane Casey had Jose Calderon and Jerryd Bayless start at guard in Toronto's 105-99 loss to the Bucks, moving DeMar DeRozan to small forward.
That allowed the guards and small forwards on both teams to set the pace, with Milwaukee's offence putting the game away in the fourth quarter Wednesday.
"We have got to run the three-pointers off the line and trust our help," said DeRozan of Toronto's lax defence in the final five minutes of play. "That's one thing that we didn't do. We kept letting them line up threes and they kept knocking them down.
"It's definitely frustrating because we had the game."
Former Raptor Carlos Delfino scored 25 points for Milwaukee (11-14), including 11 points in the fourth quarter. Dwight Gooden started at centre and scored 20, Stephen Jackson added 17 and Mike Dunleavy came off the bench to score 18 points.
Calderon had nine points and 15 assists for Toronto (8-19), while DeRozan scored 25 points and pulled down four rebounds. The Raptors have now lost three in a row.
Casey's plan to put the ball in Bayless' hands was derailed when the veteran guard exited the game at the end of the third quarter with a sore left ankle. He had six points and seven assists in 25:49 of play.
"He's been manning up with it," said Casey of Bayless' nagging ankle problems. "I mean, it's been hurting him. It hurt him in the Washington game (a 111-108 loss to the Wizards on Feb. 6), he came through and played on it. He stubbed it a little bit in the Washington game.
"We'll see how it is. Someone else has to step up and take up the slack."
Bayless missed 13 games in January after spraining the same ankle. He did not speak to media after the game. No diagnosis on the injury was given.
Bucks head coach Scott Skiles recognized that Delfino, Jackson and Dunleavy out-performed their opponents.
"We made shots tonight," said Skiles. "Our execution wasn't great. You know when the ball was passed around the perimeter we were able to knock down shots. We still turned the ball over too much. We were way too careless.
"We didn't have a lot of wisdom with the way we played but we won so we'll take it."
The Raptors fouled Milwaukee throughout the fourth, hoping that Delfino's hand would cool off. Unfortunately for Toronto, the gambit failed as the Bucks proved to be clutch and the Raptors came up short on several of their own field-goal attempts.
"Yes, I am lucky. It is like playing roulette," said Delfino. "I have just been working on my game and tonight I was making shots.
"We went small and we continued to make shots."
Raptors power forward James Johnson had an emphatic one-handed slam with just over four minutes left in the third to bring the crowd to its feet and tie the game 69-69. But Dunleavy responded with a three-pointer that cooled off the Toronto fans.
The Raptors struggled with turnovers in the third, giving up the ball four times. That offensive futility allowed Milwaukee to take a 76-73 lead after three quarters.
Although Bayless played seven minutes in the third, nagging ankle pain kept him out of the fourth.
The Bucks put Dunleavy on the floor in the second quarter. He responded by racking up 16 points, including three three-pointers, in the quarter. Dunleavy also pulled down three rebounds in the period.
Jackson came in with Dunleavy and added eight points in the second as Milwaukee took a 58-51 lead.
"They've got the No. 1 bench in the NBA right now and they showed it," said Johnson, who scored 15 and had seven boards. "They came out hard, they played hard and they brought their energy so kudos to Milwaukee."
The Raptors' offence revolved around the perimeter with Calderon, Bayless and DeRozan getting most of Toronto's touches in the first quarter. Calderon had five points, Bayless four and DeRozan eight on a combined 15 field-goal attempts in the first 12 minutes of play.
The up-tempo play from the trio gave Toronto a season high in first quarter points and a 29-28 lead. The Raptors hadn't led at the end of the first quarter since their 95-90 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Jan. 13.
Notes: Announced attendance was 15,291. ... Forward Andrea Bargnani missed another game with a strained left calf muscle. The Raptors leading scorer has missed 13 of Toronto's last 15 games. ... Toronto centre Solomon Alabi was also inactive. ... Milwaukee centre Andrew Bogut is still out with a left ankle fracture, while forward Ersan Ilyasova was a last-minute scratch with back spasms. ... The loss against the Bucks was the first in a seven-game homestand for the Raptors. That stretch will tie a franchise record for most consecutive games in Toronto. ... Canadian R&B singer The Weeknd sat courtside.