Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2) reacts while he holds the ball as Milwaukee Bucks centre Brook Lopez (11) looks on during second half Game 2 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals in Milwaukee on Friday, May 17, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Bucks hammer Raptors 125-103 to take 2-0 playoff series lead

Toronto heads home in a hole after second loss to Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 30 points and 17 rebounds to lead Milwaukee 125-103 over the Toronto Raptors on Friday, putting the Bucks up 2-0 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals.

Now the Raptors are faced with a mammoth task: digging themselves out of a 0-2 series deficit. It’s something Toronto has never done before.

Kawhi Leonard had 31 points and eight rebounds to lead the Raptors, who were done in by one of their worst first halves of the season. They trailed by 18 points in the first quarter. It grew to 25 points by the second.

Kyle Lowry had 15 points, while Norm Powell had his best game of these playoffs with 14 points.

Pascal Siakam, who averaged 24 points against Milwaukee in the regular season, had just eight points and one rebound and fouled out with 5:17 to play. Marc Gasol struggled mightily, finishing with two points on 1-for-9 shooting and looking out of sorts all night. Serge Ibaka had 10 rebounds to go with eight points.

Now the series heads to Toronto for Game 3 on Sunday.

Two nights after a close Game 1 loss that left the Raptors lamenting an opportunity missed, Game 2 got ugly early. Antetokounmpo threw down a dunk in the opening minute, then mauled Gasol on a dunk attempt from behind on the Raptors’ next possession, prompting “M-V-P!” chants from the Fiserv Forum crowd. The big block seemed to shake Gasol, who missed his first four shots, and smacked his hands in frustration when he fumbled a pass.

A George Hill basket capped a 12-0 run gave the Bucks an 18-point lead, and they roared into the second up 35-21.

The Raptors’ suffering continued. When Lowry missed on a free throw, a large section of fans chanted “Playoff Lowry!” And when Lowry fouled Ilyasova with 1:02 to play, the Raptors point guard took a seat with a troublesome fourth foul, and Ilyasova’s free throw gave the Bucks a 23-point lead. Milwaukee took a 64-39 advantage into the halftime break.

Antetokounmpo converted a three-point play to begin the third, stretching the Bucks’ lead to a game-high 28 points. But the Raptors outscored the Bucks the rest of the quarter, slicing the difference to 13 points a couple of times. Seldom-used Jodie Meeks scored on a three-pointer at the buzzer and the Raptors trailed Milwaukee with 95-78.

The same rowdy section of fans serenaded Leonard during fourth-quarter free throws with “Future Clipper!” in reference to rumours that the Raptors star is headed home to L.A. to play next season.

Leonard’s three-point play pulled Toronto within 15 points with 6:10 to play, but Antetokounmpo was fouled by Leonard the next time down the floor for his own three-point play. Hill’s three-pointer with 4:06 to play all but sealed the Bucks’ victory, and both coaches went deep into their benches soon after.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse was asked pre-game what’s easier: preparing for a game after a win or after a loss?

“The losses should give you an edge and it should give you a determination thing, too,” Nurse said. ”But in the playoffs, it doesn’t bode very well if you lose two in a row. So it puts a little bit more heat on you to get the win done on the second game.”

That heat has been cranked up a couple hundred degrees. Of the seven other times the Raptors have dropped the first two games of a playoff series, they’ve gone on to lose all seven series. Four of the series were sweeps.

The start of the game was a virtual reversal of two nights earlier, when the Raptors had the Bucks — rusty perhaps from their six days off between games — on their heels from tipoff. The Raptors led for 37 of the 48 minutes in a 108-100 loss, falling apart in a second half that saw every Raptor not named Lowry or Leonard shoot 1-for-23.

RELATED: Bucks stop Raptors 108-100 in series opener

There was zero rust on Friday.

The Bucks outrebounded Toronto 53-40, two nights after beating the Raptors 60-46 on the boards. The Bucks turned the ball over just seven times, compared to 14 for the Raptors, costing them 19 points.

The Bucks won a league-high 60 games in the regular season, two more than the second-seeded Raptors. The winner of this series will have homecourt in the NBA Finals against either the Golden State Warriors or the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Raptors are playing their second Eastern Conference final in franchise history, while the Bucks are making their first appearance in the conference final in 18 years.

The Bucks have had a countdown going since the playoffs began: how many victories before they hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy as the NBA champion? Friday made it six more wins.

Game 4 is Tuesday at Scotiabank Arena.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

NBA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Columbia Avenue and Hwy 3 hot spots for crashes in Castlegar

In 2019, there were 624 accidents in Castlegar and 3047 over the last five years.

Nelson’s American sister city faces COVID-19 culture war

In Sandpoint, Idaho, wearing a mask is about Black Lives Matter, gun rights, and COVID-19

UPDATE: Body of Slocan River drowning victim recovered

The man was swimming near Winlaw on Wednesday.

July Kootenay real estate sales at record high

Sales and prices of Kootenay real estate on the rise

Nelson’s SMRT1 Technologies to provide vending tech to Vancouver company

UpMeals will launch 22 machines across Canada using SMRT1’s personalized machines

Canada to match donations to Lebanon relief

Canada is directing all of its aid for this crisis directly to humanitarian organizations, not the Lebanese government

$45K in donations received after couple’s sudden death in Tulameen

Sarah MacDermid, 31, and Casey Bussiere, 37, died August long weekend

Famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer brings movements of joy to Long Beach

Infamous dancer is exploring Vancouver Island, visiting the B.C. Legislature and other destinations

Battle of Fairy Creek: blockade launched to save Vancouver Island old-growth

‘Forest Defenders’ occupy road to prevent logging company from reaching Port Renfrew-area watershed

COVID-19 could mean curtains for film and TV extras

Background performers worry they’re being replaced by mannequins on film and TV sets

Laid-off B.C. hotel workers begin hunger strike demanding job protection

Laid-off workers not sure what they’ll do when government support programs end

‘Huckleberry’ the bear killed after B.C. residents admit to leaving garbage out for videos

North Shore Black Bear Society said it was local residents who created a ‘death sentence’ for bear

Researchers find cannabis use in pregnancy linked to greater risk of autism

Researchers caution findings only show association — not cause and effect

Small Manitoba town mourning after well-liked teens killed by tornado

Melita residents feeling profound grief after the deaths of Shayna Barnesky and Carter Tilbury

Most Read