Kyle Lowry had 23 points as the Toronto Raptors won their third straight game Monday night, 116-94 against the lowly Milwaukee Bucks.
The Toronto point guard hit 6-of-8 shots from the field, including 4-of-5 three-point attempts, as the Raptors (19-17) moved 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 came into the night with a four-game lead over the Brooklyn Nets atop the NBA’s Atlantic Division, featured a balanced attack with five players putting up double figures in points.
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 (7-30), who sit last in the Central Division and are the NBA’s worst team. Milwaukee has lost six straight games.
Toronto’s John Salmons hit a pair of free throws to break a 19-19 tie with 3:45 to go in the opening quarter and the Raptors led the rest of the way to complete their homestand at 3-0.
After Milwaukee cut the Raptors’ lead to single digits by halftime, Toronto stretched it to 88-73 after three quarters and led by as many as 31 points in the fourth before an appreciative crowd of 15,819 at Air Canada Centre.
The crowd included the city’s two newest sports stars, Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley of Toronto FC, who were introduced earlier in the day and given a big round of applause when introduced to Raptors’ fans.
The Raptors led by as many as 19 points in the second quarter but their hot shooting cooled off and they stopped getting to the basket as the Bucks hung in, cutting the margin to single digits, 58-50 by halftime.
Ilyasova was 7 of 8 from the field, including three three-pointers, in the first half for a game-high 19 points as the Bucks looked to snap a five-game losing streak and win for the first time in 2014.
The Raptors led 38-24 after a first quarter in which they shot lights out from both the field and foul line. Lowry led the way with 10 points in the opening quarter as the Raptors shot a tidy 62.5 per cent from the field and were a perfect 15 for 15 from the foul line.
Toronto also hit three of six three-pointers.
The Bucks were no slouches from the field at 50 per cent but attempted just four free-throws.
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.