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 

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

Just Posted

Glimpses of Revelstoke’s past for Jan. 16

First diesel train, bitterly cold weather and testing a magnetometer

Jocelyn’s Jottings: Scared by my latest hydro bill

Luckily I have set up an equal payment plan with BC Hydro… Continue reading

Snow, snow and snow for Revelstoke

The white stuff will continue to fall into next week

Revelstoke already double last year’s snowfall

The city is just below halfway to the snowiest winter on record

Have your say on what it takes raising toddlers in Revelstoke

The study started collecting data last summer and is expected to continue until at least May

‘Like an ATM’: World’s first biometric opioid-dispensing machine launches in B.C.

First-of-its-kind dispensing machine unveiled in the Downtown Eastside with hopes of curbing overdose deaths

Canucks extend home win streak to 8 with 4-1 triumph over Sharks

Victory lifts Vancouver into top spot in NHL’s Pacific Division

BC Green Party leader visits northern B.C. pipeline protest site

Adam Olsen calls for better relationship between Canada, British Columbia and First Nations

B.C. society calls out conservation officer after dropping off bear cub covered in ice

Ice can be seen in video matted into emaciated bear cub’s fur

Horgan cancels event in northern B.C. due to security concerns, says Fraser Lake mayor

The premier will still be visiting the city, but the location and day will not be made public

B.C. landlord sentenced to two years in jail for torching his own rental property

Wei Li was convicted of intentionally lighting his rental property on fire in October 2017

B.C. town spends $14.14 per resident for snow removal in one month

Costs of snow removal to the Town of Princeton skyrocketed in December.… Continue reading

PHOTOS: Eastern Newfoundland reeling, search underway for missing man after blizzard

More than 70 centimetres of new snow fell overnight, creating whiteout conditions

Prince Harry, Meghan to give up ‘royal highness’ titles

‘Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,’ says Queen Elizabeth II

Most Read