Charlie Villanueva thought any win the Milwaukee Bucks could get without Andrew Bogut would be big.
This one was Villanueva's first. Michael Redd scored a season-high 35 points and Villanueva added 13 of his 25 in the fourth quarter Monday night, leading Milwaukee to its first victory without Bogut in 21 months, 107-97 over the Toronto Raptors.
Milwaukee, which finished the game on a 13-0 run, lost its previous nine games - including four this season - without the former No. 1 draft pick, who missed his second straight game with back spasms.
"Andrew's a very important piece to what we're trying to do," said Villanueva, who also was injured when the Bucks won three meaningless games late in the 2006-07 season without Bogut. "Any win we can get without him is a great win. Andrew's a great player and hopefully he comes back soon."
But the Bucks did just fine without him for one night, thanks to Villanueva, who said it was no big deal to play against the Raptors, the organization that drafted him seventh overall in 2005 but dealt him for T.J. Ford the next year.
Too bad his broad smile betrayed him.
"I make my shots when I play Toronto. We should be playing Toronto every game," said Villanueva, averaging 23.2 points in the last five games against the Raptors, 10 above his career average.
Instead of relying on defence, which has been much better of late, the Bucks simply outscored the Raptors down the stretch, getting 11 points each from Charlie Bell and Ramon Sessions and sending one of the NBA's most disappointing teams to another loss after it appeared Toronto had built some momentum with a big win over Orlando on Sunday.
"It's disappointing because this certainly was a winnable game," said Anthony Parker, who finished with 12 points.
Even with a 14-21 record, Toronto is within sniffing distance of the playoffs in the woeful Eastern Conference as the season approaches the halfway point. Milwaukee (17-19) would be the eighth seed, even though Villanueva acknowledges it's way too early to think about that.
"This is one of the teams that's competing for the eight, seven, six spots," Villanueva said. "Getting this win was huge, big, well-needed."
The Raptors, playing without centre Jermaine O'Neal and guard Jose Calderon on this two-game road trip, turned to Chris Bosh, who had 31 points on 12-of-14 shooting and 11 rebounds to help Toronto hold the lead through most of three quarters. The Raptors shot 54 per cent for the night.
"I felt we could've been a little more aggressive," Bosh said.
But neither he, nor Andrea Bargnani, who added 21 points as O'Neal's replacement, could keep up with the Bucks down the stretch.
"You can break down any segment of the game and they were able to hit tough shots," Raptors coach Jay Triano said. "We were up five, then they hit tough shots. We were up four, then they hit tough shots."
Will Solomon, who started 1-for-9 as Calderon's replacement but tied a career high with 11 assists, hit a long jumper from the wing to give Toronto a 95-91 lead with 2:52 left.
Luke Ridnour, who had been 0-for-5 to that point, answered with a three-pointer and Bosh added two more free throws before a three-pointer by Bell tied it 97-97.
Toronto then went cold, missing its final five attempts as Villanueva added an 18-footer and Ridnour a three-pointer with 34 seconds left to give Milwaukee its seventh win in the last eight home games.
"We're playing with a lot of confidence at home," Villanueva said. "We're starting to protect our home court. You can't lose at home. That's our mentality."
Notes: Toronto rookie Roko Ukic had 11 points. ... The Bucks are 4-21 overall when Bogut is out. ... It was Bosh's 18th double-double this season. ... Redd had 13 points in the third quarter. ... Milwaukee was also without Malik Allen (back) for the fifth straight game. ... Toronto has hit a 3-pointer in 813 consecutive games.
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