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 

Just Posted

Nanaimo man who fell off cliff returns there to rescue eagle from vulture attack

James Farkas breaks hip in fall from beach cliff, returns months later to save eagle on same beach

Nanaimo athletes win Island track and field championships

Every Nanaimo high school was represented at last week’s event

B.C. Supreme Court dismisses review around ferry workers’ right to strike

B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers’ Union collective agreement expires November 2020

City of Nanaimo announces winner of street banner design contest

Amy Pye’s artwork shows people living in harmony with the ocean and nature

Nanaimo Mounties to return stolen rifles to owner

Guns had been seized this month by police who found the suspect carrying rifles wrapped in a blanket

600 new campsites coming to provincial parks and recreation sites across B.C.

Tourism Minister announced half of the new spots to 13 most popular provincial parks

Beefs & Bouquets, May 23

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail bulletinboard@nanaimobulletin.com

Raptors beat Bucks 105-99 to move within 1 game of NBA Finals

Leonard scores 35 as Toronto takes 3-2 series lead over Milwaukee

Bookfest helps fill school library shelves leading up to next week’s event

Vancouver Island Children’s Book Festival is June 1 at downtown Nanaimo venues

Municipalities protest after B.C. declares marijuana crops ‘farm use’

UBCM president seeks answers in letter to John Horgan government

CMHC defends mortgage stress test changes amid calls for loosening rules

Uninsured borrowers must now show they could service their mortgage if rates rose two per cent

B.C. woman left ‘black and blue’ after being pushed off 40-foot cliff at lake

West Shore RCMP looking for witnesses as investigation continues

Christmas morning burglar sentenced in Nanaimo

Justin Redmond Feusse, 20, sentenced to 240 days in jail for Christmas day break-and-enter

RCMP searching for missing Vancouver Island teenager

16-year-old Lasheena Seward was reported missing from a group home in Port Alberni

Most Read