John Salmons finds his rhythm for Bucks

John Salmons isn't claiming he's in a groove yet.

But hey, it's a start.

The Milwaukee Bucks guard went back into the starting lineup Tuesday night and responded with a strong performance to help the Bucks grab a 92-74 victory over the Toronto Raptors before an announced Bradley Center crowd of 11,975.

Salmons had missed eight games with a strained right hip and returned against Phoenix last week.

But a neck injury severely limited his effectiveness as he came off the bench against the Suns and Golden State, and he still didn't look right as the Bucks lost at home to Detroit on Saturday.

This time Salmons was able to play 35 minutes and finished with a team-high 17 points and six rebounds as the Bucks (20-30) snapped a four-game losing streak.

"This is the best I've felt since I've been back," Salmons said. "I was trying to be aggressive, and I felt pretty good moving around.
"I couldn't even look back (due to neck stiffness) a couple games ago."

Milwaukee finally put away the Raptors in the fourth quarter with a 14-0 run, extending a six-point lead to 82-62 with 5:46 remaining.
Salmons was one of five Bucks players in double figures.

Corey Maggette added 16 points and nine rebounds, center Andrew Bogut had 14 points, five rebounds and five blocks and point guard Brandon Jennings contributed 12 points and four steals.

Forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute came off the bench to post a double-double with 10 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.

Bucks coach Scott Skiles said he definitely noticed a difference in Salmons' play.

"This is the most he's played now, and so he's got to get used to that again," Skiles said. "They (the Raptors) don't have great basket protection. The goal is to drive in there and try to put pressure on them at the rim.

"John did a nice job of that early in the game. Corey went in there. Brandon tried to go in there. We want (Salmons) to get comfortable again. It's clear he hasn't had a comfort level out there.

"You could tell; he played (35) minutes and after about 32 minutes of it he was just about done.

"Fortunately we had a nice lead and we could take him out right there. But he had some nice little runs where he looked good."

Salmons was able to get inside the Raptors defense to score on several occasions. And he knocked down an open three-pointer which ignited the Bucks' string of 14 consecutive points in the final quarter.

"I needed that," he said.

The Bucks now hit the road for a two-game trip, playing in Washington on Wednesday night and Memphis Friday night before returning home against Indiana on Saturday night.

Andrea Bargnani led the Raptors (14-38) with 23 points on 9-of-21 shooting and guard DeMar DeRozan added 18.

But Toronto lost for the 14th time in its last 15 games, after halting a 13-game slide with a victory over Minnesota on Friday.

The Bucks had allowed four straight opponents to shoot 50% or better, but they held Toronto to 36% shooting (31 of 86). Raptors point guard Jose Calderon was just 2 for 15 and had six points.

Salmons wasn't proclaiming any major breakthrough based on a single performance.

"I'm just keeping at it, that's all I can say," Salmons said. "It's been a tough year for everybody. We know one game is not going to do it for us."
Salmons said he was in pain in Phoenix due to the neck injury and probably should not have played there or at Golden State.

"It's frustrating. I've never been prone to injuries in my career," he said. "And it was my knee starting off the season and my hip.

"It's been tough. At this point, we've just got to focus on us and continue to try to get better."

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