The Milwaukee Bucks haven’t won a playoff series since the 2000-01 campaign and can take another step toward ending their drought when they host the Toronto Raptors in Thursday’s Game 3 of the Eastern Conference series. Milwaukee wrestled homecourt advantage away by winning the opener in Toronto but the Raptors regained momentum with a solid 106-100 victory in Game 2.
Toronto All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry was the Game 2 hero by scoring 22 points but perhaps the biggest factor was the defensive effort against Bucks All-Star small forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. After being helpless while Antetokounmpo hit 13-of-18 shots in Game 1, the Raptors’ pressure-packed mentality forced “The Greek Freak” to go 9-of-24 from the field despite having 24 points and 15 rebounds. “He’s a heck of a player - you have to give it to him with the things he’s able to do out on the court,” Toronto All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan told reporters. “We try to limit other guys from doing things but it’s tough once he gets going.” DeRozan is off to a strong start in the series by averaging 25 points and 7.5 rebounds.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBATV, TSN (Toronto), FSN Wisconsin (Milwaukee)
ABOUT THE RAPTORS: Lowry’s solid Game 2 performance was much-needed after he tallied just four points on 2-of-11 shooting in the opener. He has traditionally struggled in the postseason and the Game 1 showing prompted reminders of last season’s poor postseason play but coach Dwane Casey insists he was unconcerned about Lowry. “I’ve been in the trenches with him before and he’s always bounced back,” Casey told reporters. “That’s just who he is. He’s a fighter. I just knew he wasn’t going to be satisfied the way he played in the first game. He’s human. Everybody has a night like that. We just can’t panic every time a guy has a night like that. It’s a tough league.”
ABOUT THE BUCKS: Antetokounmpo is averaging 26 points and 11.5 rebounds in the series and realized after Game 2 he would need to make adjustments to deal with Toronto’s change in defensive tactics. “They didn’t allow me to go in the paint,” Antetokounmpo told reporters. “Every time I drove the ball, everybody was sucking into the paint. They were more physical. I still have to make the right plays and try to find my teammates.” Antetokounmpo could use sustained help from shooting guard Khris Middleton, who scored 20 points in Game 2 after struggling to 10 on 4-of-15 shooting in the opener.
1. The Raptors were 14-of-29 from 3-point range in Game 2 after struggling to 5-of-23 in the opener.
2. Toronto PF Serge Ibaka drained four 3-pointers in Game 2 and is averaging 17.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in the series.
3. Backup Milwaukee C Greg Monroe is averaging 16 points and 9.5 rebounds through two games.
PREDICTION: Bucks 108, Raptors 104