TORONTO â€” Raptors coach Dwane Casey expects Game 6 in Milwaukee to be a 48-minute dogfight Thursday night as Toronto looks to close out its first-round playoff series against the young, athletic Bucks.
“Our No. 1 thing (Thursday) night is to go in with a warrior’s mentality,” he told reporters after practice Wednesday. “And not go in, get hit with a punch and say ‘OK, we’ve got Game 7.’ It’s going to be a 48-minute battle, war, however you want to describe it.”
Coming off 87-76 and 118-93 wins, third-seeded Toronto leads the sixth-seeded Bucks three games to two.
Defending champion Cleveland awaits the series winner. The second-seeded Cavaliers have been off since sweeping No. 7 Indiana on Sunday.
The Raptors are hoping to end a recent stretch of futility when it comes to closing out series in Game 6 on the road. They lost to Indiana and Miami last year in Game 6 before rallying to win Game 7. Three years ago, they dropped Game 6 against Brooklyn before being beaten by the Nets in Game 7.
The Raptors have acknowledged being taken aback by the vocal crowd at the BMO Harris Bradley Center for Game 3, which turned into a 104-77 blowout loss for the visitors.
Casey says the answer to a hostile crowd is to outwork the home side.
“You’ve got to play through the noise,” he said. “Like everything else in this league, you’ve got to play above the noise.
“It’s going to be loud. I thought the first game there, it kind of put us back on our heels a little bit, along with their play …. I thought we were playing in mud most of the game. So we’ve got to be mentally and physically prepared as we were in Game 4 there. I thought we were more ready for what was about to hit us.
“Again, it’s going to be loud and it’s going to be a dogfight for 48 minutes.”
All-star point guard Kyle Lowry exuded calm when he met reporters, holding the microphone in his hand like a talk-show host as he sat at the podium at the team’s training centre.
Rather than approach Game 6 as if it was a Game 7, Lowry said the Raptors just need to focus on one possession at a time Thursday.
“It’s very cliched, I understand that, but that’s really how you’ve got to take it.”
Centre Jonas Valanciunas said the team is prepared for the challenge.
“We’re still fixing some little things but we’re ready and we’re going there to win,” said the seven-foot Lithuanian.
Toronto has profited from dropping Valanciunas to the bench and starting the athletic Norman Powell in a smaller lineup the last two outings. Casey has deployed Valanciunas off the bench to counter the Bucks use of Greg Monroe.
Lowry had nothing but praise for both Valanciunas and Powell, calling them both true professionals for adapting to their new roles.
“He’s changed the series,” Lowry said of Powell whose ability to drive to the basket has opened up space for Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and other Raptors.
“It’s pretty cool. It’s fun to watch,” he added.
Lowry had little to say about the back stiffness that affected him during Game 5.
“My body’s fantastic right now,” he said dryly. “Thank you for asking.”
He was clear that he was not about to let a physical ailment keep him off the court.
“You dream of being in the playoffs as kid … The playoffs, in the NBA, there’s nothing like it,” he said.
Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press