The Eastern Conference Finals continue as the top two teams in the conference lock up north of the border. The top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks are on the road as they travel to face the second-seeded Toronto Raptors in Game 3 Sunday night. In the opening game of the series Wednesday night, Milwaukee rallied for a 108-100 home win to draw first blood. The Bucks cruised to an easy 125-103 win in Game 2 of the series Friday night to take a 2-0 advantage. Can Toronto find a way to get up off the mat and pick up the victory to avoid a 3-0 hole?
Milwaukee Bucks Seek Commanding 3-0 Series Edge
Milwaukee, after needing a second-half rally to come back and get the victory in Game 1, had no such problems in Game 2 of the series. The Bucks blitzed Toronto off the jump and didn’t look back en route to the victory and a 2-0 series edge. Milwaukee held a 14-point advantage after the opening quarter and extended that advantage to 25 points at the half. The Bucks withstood a charge by the Raptors in the third quarter and then pulled away in the fourth quarter to get the win. Milwaukee shot 46.7 percent from the field, including 13 of 41 from three-point range, and controlled the glass 53-40. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 30 points, 17 rebounds and five assists in the win.
Another big performance from the MVP:
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) May 18, 2019
While the Bucks are led by the Greek Freak, who was named a finalist for the NBA MVP award on Friday, the biggest thing going for them is their versatility. Milwaukee has tremendous depth and the ability to have 10 or 11 guys potentially put up double figures on any given night makes life difficult for opposing teams. That’s been a strength for the Bucks all season and that has carried over in the playoffs. Milwaukee had five players in double figures in Game 1 of the series and followed that up with six players cracking the double-digit mark in Game 2. It’s been a variety of players that have contributed in the first two games: it was Brook Lopez piling up 29 points and 11 boards in Game 1 to lead the way. While he struggled a bit in Game 2, finishing with six points after shooting one of seven from the floor, other guys stepped up.
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) May 19, 2019
Ersan Ilyasova had 17 points off the bench in Game 2 while Malcolm Brogdon chipped in 14 and George Hill added 13. They combined to shoot 17-of-29 from the floor in Game 2. All told, the Bucks got 54 points from their bench in Game 2, which was a major improvement over the 22 points that they contributed in Game 1. The one-sided win made it easy for Mike Budenholzer to limit the minutes of his key guys as no one logged more than Antetokounmpo’s 35 in Game 2.
One player who has been quiet this offseason has been Nikola Mirotic, a 6-10 forward who is a 36 percent career three-point shooter. His poured in 15 points in Game 2, which was his highest output of the postseason. If Mirotic can start to get hot from the outside, it could be a short series.
Toronto Raptors Trying to Get on the Board
Toronto was punched in the mouth out of the gate in Game 2 as the struggles that they had in the fourth quarter of Game 1 carried over. The Raptors now find themselves in a near must-win situation here down 2-0 in the series. Toronto was down 9-0 in the first three minutes and that told the tale of the game. The Raptors were down 14 after the opening quarter and were down as many as 28 points before cutting the deficit to 13 in the third quarter. Toronto never posed a serious threat as the Bucks were tough on the defensive end of the floor. The Raptors shot 42.5 percent from the field, including 10 of 32 from three-point range, and turned the ball over 13 times. Kawhi Leonard finished with 31 points and eight rebounds to lead Toronto in the loss.
KLaw roll pic.twitter.com/mQy5wf6WqK
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) May 18, 2019
The Raptors haven’t gotten a ton of production from the key personnel that got them to the Eastern Conference Finals. While Leonard has been good, putting up 31 points in each of the first two games of the series, things haven’t worked as well with the rest of the guys. Kyle Lowry tried to carry the Raptors in Game 1 with 30 points, including hitting seven of nine three-point attempts, but had 15 points on four of 13 shooting in Game 2. The only other player in double figures in Game 2 was Norman Powell, who broke the 20-minute mark for the first time since logging 21 minutes in Game 4 against Orlando in the first round. Three key players that the Raptors need more from if they hope to have a shot in the series are Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka.
VanVleet has fallen off a cliff in the playoffs, shooting only 28.4 percent from the field, including 21.2 percent from three-point range, while averaging only 4.1 points a game. Gasol was only one of nine from the field over 19 minutes in Game 2 and is a miserable three of 20 from the floor in this series. Ibaka is only six of 15 from the field in the conference finals: he and Gasol have to find a way to contain Lopez and Antetokounmpo or the Raptors are in serious trouble.
Gasol has been a major disappointment for the Raptors. He was averaging 15.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.7 assists with Memphis. He’s averaging 13.6 points with the Raptors in the regular season but just 7.9 points in the postseason. Toronto gave up valuable bench depth in C.J. Miles and Delon Wright in the deal with the Grizzlies. That deal is not looking good, despite the fact that the Raptors made it this far.
- Bucks are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 after allowing 100 points or more in their previous game
- Bucks are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 road games vs. a team with a home winning % of greater than .600
- Bucks are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games following a straight up win
- Raptors are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games vs. a team with a winning straight up record
- Raptors are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games overall
- Raptors are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 vs. Eastern Conference foes