MILWAUKEE - It wasn't the bounce-back performance they expected, but it was the one they needed.
Coming off a disappointing loss, their first of the young season in Atlanta 24 hours earlier, the Raptors responded with a gritty victory and one they can be proud of despite shooting just 40 per cent from the field.
Rudy Gay, like the rest of his team, was not perfect, but delivered on his promise to be better after turning in one of his worst outings as a Raptor on Friday.
"We learned from last night," said Gay, the Raptors' leading scorer, who had a career night rebounding the ball in Toronto's 97-90 win over the Bucks Saturday. "It shows how resilient we are. We just picked it up and still got the win, even if it wasn't pretty."
In terms of offensive efficiency, it wasn't pretty.
Gay, fresh off a 6-for-23 shooting night, shot just 4-of-14 from the floor. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry also struggled, each shooting 5-for-14, while Jonas Valanciunas was 3-of-8 in just 16 minutes.
"I mean, myself, I can't remember the last time I knocked down a shot personally," Gay joked after the game. "But as far as the team [goes], we were moving the ball around and we defended our asses off."
"It definitely wasn't our offence," Raptors coach Dwane Casey admitted. "We had to do it with our defence. We had to dig in."
Hanging their heads following Friday's defeat, Casey reminded his players they were just two games into a long season. His message to Gay and the others: if your shot's not falling, find another way to help the team win.
Gay grabbed a career-best 15 rebounds and got to the line 10 times, DeRozan dished out five assists and Lowry contributed six boards and four dimes. All three were a factor on defence.
"I'm just trying not to be one-dimensional," Gay said. "[Friday,] my shot wasn't falling. Tonight my shot wasn't falling. I just wanted to make an effort on defence and on the glass...try to make myself a part of the game, because Friday I didn't feel like I was."
Shot selection was still an issue for Gay and so too were turnovers - he had five. With six minutes remaining and following a sloppy pass, Gay missed a 25-foot three-point jumper and committed a frustration foul. As a result, Casey took Gay out of the game.
Whether the Raptors' coach felt he needed a breather or whether he was sending Gay another message, the forward responded when he re-entered a minute-and-a-half later.
"I know he probably didn't like it," Casey said of his decision to sit Gay down midway through the final quarter. "But I know what's best for him. He needed to sit down for a little bit [and] let his second wind kick in. We got him right back in and he finished it out."
Gay checked back in with 4:24 left to go with the Raptors up two on the Bucks. He didn't attempt a single field goal the rest of the way, but knocked down a couple free throws and pulled down six big rebounds.
"Nobody wants to come out of the game in the fourth quarter," Gay said candidly after the victory. "I don't know anyone who does. But no matter what happens, you have to stay focused and do the best you can for the team."
The Raptors took advantage of six Milwaukee miscues in the third quarter to stretch their lead to as big as 13 before the Bucks made a run in the fourth, tying the game at 85 with just under six minutes to play and Gay on the bench at the time. A similar stretch, late in the second quarter, turned the game in Atlanta, but this time, the Raptors responded, mainly on the defensive end.
"We are becoming a resilient team," Gay said. "Times where we would fold last season, we are showing we can come back after a tough loss and still win games."
Dominating the boards, the Raptors out-rebounded Milwaukee 60-38, including an 18-6 advantage on the offensive boards Saturday night.
Including Gay's career total, seven Raptors tallied five or more rebounds and the team won the battle of the boards for a third consecutive game.
"[It was a] concerted effort to rebound," Lowry said. "That's our team game. When we go to small ball, we all have to rebound."
Through three games, the Raptors have out-rebounded their opponents by 42 with a plus-23 differential on the offensive glass. Moving the ball After totalling just 15 assists in each of the team's first two games, the Raptors registered 19 dimes on 31 made field goals.
"I think the ball really moved a lot better tonight," said Lowry, who had four assists without committing a turnover. "I think everyone made a concerted effort from watching the film this morning of last night's game to try to get the ball from side to side and get everybody involved early."
Quiet night for Jonas
For the second straight night, Jonas Valanciunas played fewer than 18 minutes, a product of the match-up against smaller, quicker front lines according to Casey.
Casey has opted to use small lineups in the fourth quarter of each game, matching up with both the Hawks and Bucks, who have done the same.
"When you go small, he's not ready to be that five man yet, alone," Casey said of Valanciunas, preferring to use Amir Johnson or Tyler Hansbrough as an anchor in the middle with four smaller, more versatile players. "He's going to get there, believe me - he's going to get there. He's not there yet."
The Raptors return home, where they'll host the two-time defending champion Miami Heat at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday.
You can catch all the action live at 7:00pm et on TSN Radio 1050 Toronto.