Associated Press

Raptors break out best game of postseason, rout Bucks 118-93 to take 3-2 series lead

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Norman Powell was draining threes, throwing down dunks that would have won the contest All-Star weekend, and he finished with a career playoff-high 25 points on just 11 shots. Plus defensively he caused Khris Middleton trouble.

The Raptors finished with 28 assists, the most in a playoff game since Dwane Casey took over as coach.

Toronto shot 57.7 percent overall, a franchise playoff best.

The Raptors bench played well pitching in 27 points and growing the lead when they were in, part of an overall strong night from the role players in Toronto.

Combine that all with the expected good nights from Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan and you get the Raptors best game of the playoffs. It looked like a different team than the one in Milwaukee.

Toronto raced out to an early lead and went on to rout the Bucks 118-93, giving the Raptors a 3-2 series lead.

This was a game where the Bucks tried to force the ball out of the hands of Lowry and DeRozan as much as they could, using their length and athleticism. However, Lowry had 10 assists, and DeRozan would get the ball off pindown screens and feel the double coming, move the ball, and another quick pass or two later the role-playing player Raptors were getting good looks and knocking them down. Or throwing it down like this.

Or this.

Toronto just looked more comfortable against the Bucks pressure, having seen it for so many games in a row, than they have all series.

Powell had 25 points for Toronto, Serge Ibaka had 19 and three blocks, Lowry had 16 points and 10 assists, DeRozan had 18 points and six assists, even DeMarre Carroll had 12 points on six shots.

The question for the young Bucks team is how does it bounce back from this kind of loss in the biggest NBA game most of them have ever played? Can they get their defensive edge back?

“We’re going to miss some shots, and we can’t let our offense dictate our defense,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said postgame. “And also the turnovers, again. Right off the bat we had three…

“Our defense kind of got hit there in the first quarter, we knew that they were going to come after us, we had to expect that. And we just couldn’t respond.”

The Bucks had some runs in the second quarter and got the lead to nine at one point, but the Raptors always seemed to be in control.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had another strong game with 30 points on 12-of-19 shooting, and rookie Malcolm Brogdon pitched in 19 points on 11 shots, but for the most part the Bucks struggled with their offense in this game. As their coach noted — and as often happens to young teams — they let their offensive woes impact the other end of the court.

At home, the Bucks will likely feel more comfortable, and they will fight for their playoff lives.

The question is, can the Raptors be this sharp again and close them out? Or will the yo-yo nature of this team continue?

 

Serge Ibaka is dunking and Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t going to stop him. Twice. (VIDEO)

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The Toronto Raptors had their best half of their first-round series against the Bucks, taking an early lead and, despite a little shooting slump midway through the second they were up nine at the half.

That was all topped off by two emphatic Serge Ibaka dunks. Ones Giannis Antetokounmpo wasn’t going to stop.

Ibaka dunked around him more than over the Greek Freak, but still.

Raptors answer back Bucks’ “Barney” trolling with Bambi tweet

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The Raptors vs. Bucks first round series is even up, tied 2-2, and while it hasn’t always been pretty it has been competitive.

Off the court, too, with Milwaukee and Toronto trading some joking jibes.

For example, when the Raptors were introduced for Game 3 the Bucks broke out the “Barney” theme music (angering parents everywhere who have worked hard to get that song out of their heads).

After the Raptors won Game 4 and the Bucks looked sloppy, Toronto responded with this Tweet.

Bring on Game 5.

Enough DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry get Raptors ugly win over Bucks 87-76, series tied 2-2

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This game wasn’t pretty. If anything it was much closer to 1997 basketball than 2017 — the game was physical, slow, there was plenty of grabbing, teams shot a combined 23.3 percent from three, there was a lot of isolation basketball, and ball and player movement were sporadic at best.

The Toronto Raptors don’t care.

In desperate need of a win after falling behind 2-1 in the series, the Raptors got what they needed — big games from DeMar DeRozan (33 points) and Kyle Lowry (18), plus improved defense on Giannis Antetokounmpo — and that was enough for an 87-76 victory.

The series is now tied 2-2 heading back to Toronto for Game 3 on Monday.

If the Raptors were going to get back in this series, it had to start with their All-Star guards playing up to that billing, and Saturday afternoon it happened.

In the first half it was DeRozan carrying Toronto, bouncing back from an 0-of-8 shooting performance in Game 3. DeRozan was 8-of-14 for 21 points in the first half, the rest of the Raptors combined were 7-of-28 with 20 points. DeRozan finished the game with 33 points on 22 shots, and had nine rebounds and five rebounds.

The Bucks were struggling as well, and it was tied 41-41 at the half.

The second half saw what the Raptors really need in this series — the emergence of Lowry. He was attacking and had 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting, three assists, and he was creating looks for everyone. He had struggled for the first three games against the length of the Bucks defenders and how they covered the pick-and-roll, but he finally seemed to get a comfort level. Toronto needs him to stay in that zone in Game 5.

Toronto needed more than just its stars, it needed better defense on Antetokounmpo, and they got it, he was 0-of-7 shooting in the second half and finished the game with 14 points on 19 shots. P.J. Tucker deserves particular credit for his defense on the Greek Freak.

Tony Snell ended up leading the Bucks in scoring off the bench with 19, including hitting five threes. If anything, Jason Kidd needed to go to more of him (and Kris Middleton) in the fourth, those two rested too long.

The Raptors also did a good job of slowing the game down, making it a half-court slog, which suits them much better than the more athletic Bucks.

The questions become: In an even series, can the Raptors carry over what they did right, and can the Bucks adjust? Raptors coach Dwane Casey brought Jonas Valanciunas off the bench, can the Bucks use that to their advantage and get Antetokounmpo switched onto smaller defenders? The Bucks looked like a young team when it came to finding and exploiting mismatches in this game. (Norman Powell got the start instead so the Raptors could play small, and he finished with a dozen points and had some key threes.)

If Lowry can play like he did in the second half for the rest of this series, you have to like Toronto’s chances.

PBT Extra: Down 2-1, three things Raptors must do to even series

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Milwaukee owned Game 3 of their first-round series against Toronto, putting the Bucks up 2-1 and looking to be in command on their home floor.

If Toronto goes down 3-1 Saturday they might as well start booking tee times for next week.

So what do the Raptors have to do to even the series? I break down the key points in this PBT Extra. But it all starts with Kyle Lowry being better off the pick-and-roll.