MILWAUKEE -- Three games into the Raptors season, it is quickly becoming apparent these are not the same old Raps.
Given just about every excuse to lie down and take one off -- and don't kid yourself it happens, even in the NBA -- the Raps eschewed the excuses and met their third consecutive challenge in the past four days head on.
It wasn't pretty, but it was effective as the Raps held on for an 91-87 win despite a crowd-rallying push by the Bucks in the dying minutes.
In no particular order, for the second time in four days the Raptors were up against a team playing its home opener, they were playing their first back-to-back games of the season, and were coming off an OT battle with Golden State in which they prevailed.
No, the host Bucks aren't going to be confused for an NBA powerhouse but unlike the Raps they were coming off two days of rest and they weren't about to go down without a fight.
In the end none of it mattered as the Raps survived a five-minute lull at the start of the game, and then on the strength of another fine defensive effort and a stand- out game from point guard Jose Calderon, who took it upon himself to be the Raps go-to scorer, made it a perfect 3-0 for the season.
Fittingly, it was Calderon's three-pointer with 22 seconds left that turned out to be the difference maker.
It gave him a season-high 25 points, five more than Chris Bosh netted.
"This team, this game last season, we would lose by 12 or 13 points," Calderon said. "That is the change we have made in this team. That doesn't happen anymore. We are there, we fight. The other team might be good for some minutes, but we are going to be right there with them and try to win every night."
Calderon admitted he was feeling the fatigue of the first back-to-back this year, but with this team, that is no longer an excuse.
'I WAS READY'
The three-pointer he sank with 22 seconds left on the clock that put the Raptors in charge was typical of the way the whole night went.
The ball went inside to Bosh, who was surrounded. He looked out, spied a wide-open Calderon beyond the three-point line and Calderon didn't miss.
"I was ready," Calderon said. "He knows me and I know him. I know when he gets trapped he's going to look for me. My (defender) was in between and he decided to go so CB passed me the ball. I was ready for that jumper five seconds before he passed me the ball."
Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell said he knew what the Bucks had in store for his club just reading the morning fishwrap.
"If you read the papers this morning, the thing they were talking about was not letting Chris and Jermaine beat them. If you look at the game, every time we threw the ball inside they collapsed down so we told Jose early -- it was the first play of the game when he turned down a wide-open three -- so we told him and the other guys they were going to have to shoot the basketball.
"I thought Chris and Jermaine did a great job getting rid of the basketball and letting their teammates make plays." Despite the blanket coverage in the paint Bosh and O'Neal wound up with 31 points between them in addition to 18 rebounds.
"We stayed in the game," Mitchell said. "We played defence and we got some key rebounds. There are going to be nights when teams are not going to let Chris and Jermaine beat them. Jose , Jamario, JK and AP are, as I told you guys ... one of them is going to have to step up.
"We are 3-0 and it's because every night it has been a different guy giving us a lift. Friday it was Andrea and AP. Tonight it was Jamario and Jose."
Jamario Moon, who did a fine job defensively on Richard Jefferson also chipped in with 15 points. Jefferson was a non-factor in the fourth quarter managing just five points largely because he was playing with five fouls for most of that frame thanks to Moon's solid play.
The Raptors didn't get out of Toronto until after midnight and were not in their hotel rooms in Milwaukee until 1:30 a.m. yesterday, so fatigue was a concern going into last night's game, particularly given the physical nature of Friday's win over Golden State. The back-to-back games were the first of three this month for Raptors, although one of those is a day game followed by a night game. Coach Sam Mitchell already has decided to give the team today off and they don't play again until Wednesday. All told, the Raps play back-to-back 17 times this season.
Jose Calderon played his 100th consecutive game Friday night. He has not missed a game since March 21, 2007 against Orlando with a back bruise. Anthony Parker is next on the list with 85 consecutive starts .
A MAN DOWN
The Raptors still are travelling one man short from their optimum travel number. Point guard Will Solomon remained in Toronto re-habbing his strained left hamstring. Hasaan Adams, who missed the first road game in Philly, returned to the active roster Friday and was with the team last night. Nathan Jawai, who is dealing with a cardiac problem, did not make the trip.
WON'T LET UP
Parker thinks he and any of his teammates would be doing new teammate Jermaine O'Neal a huge disservice if they were to start gambling on defence expecting O'Neal to be there to bail them out. "I don't look at it that way because then you're putting him in a tough position," Parker said. "I mean he had five fouls last night and a lot of them were coming over in help situations. You don't want to put him in those situations. If he's getting fouls and sitting on the bench then maybe that gets him to where he doesn't want to help as much because he gets penalized for it."