Bucks 125 – Raptors 103 (MIL leads series 2-0)
Giannis Antetokounmpo powered the Bucks to a dominant Game 2 win over the Raptors on Friday, tallying 30 points, 17 rebounds, five assists, one 3-pointer, one steal, two swats and four turnovers through 35 minutes of floor time. After struggling with his shot during a narrow Game 1 win, the Greek Freak was back in MVP-mode on Friday night, going 10-of-20 from the field and 9-of-12 from the charity stripe while wreaking havoc on the defensive end of the floor. Not only is he in the running to take home the MVP award this season, but it was also announced on Friday that he’s a finalist in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation, and you could make a solid case for him to come away with both those trophies this season.
Ersan Ilyasova was Milwaukee’s second-leading scorer in the blowout win, finishing with 17 points (7-of-11 FGs, 1-of-2 FTs), three rebounds, two assists, two triples and two steals in 21 minutes off the bench. He was fantastic throughout the game, taking numerous charges, and he ended his evening with a team-high +22 plus-minus rating. Khris Middleton put up 12 points, two treys and one assist in his 29 minutes of action, Nikola Mirotic produced 15 points, two 3-pointers and six boards over 23 minutes; and Malcom Brogdon came off the bench for 14 points, four rebounds, five assists, three triples, one steal and one turnover across 25 minutes.
The only Milwaukee players that really struggled during the blowout victory were Eric Bledsoe (3-of-10 shooting) and Brook Lopez (1-of-7 shooting), but the end result was a win, and the Bucks are now just two Ws away from reaching the Finals for the first time since 1974. For what it’s worth, this was Milwaukee’s sixth 20-point win of the postseason, tying them with the Warriors, Spurs and Jazz for the most 20-point blowouts in a single postseason run. Of the aforementioned teams, only one (Utah) did not come away with the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Kawhi Leonard had a solid game, netting 31 points on 10-of-18 shooting (10-of-10 from the line) to go with eight rebounds, two assists, one 3-pointer, one block and two turnovers in 38 minutes, but he really didn’t get much help from any of his teammates. "If we wanna do anything or be a championship team we've gotta play through the adversity,” said Leonard after the loss. “It's our challenge now to come home for Game 3 and try to get a win."
Marc Gasol had another atrocious outing, converting on just one of his nine field goal attempts on his way to two points, five rebounds, one assist, one block and two turnovers in 19 minutes. The Raptors clearly had a game plan to get him going early after he went just 2-of-11 from the field in their Game 1 loss, but he just kept chucking up bricks throughout game, and missed quite a few wide-open looks. Gasol hasn’t really had a big-time performance since landing in Toronto, and he’s been nearly invisible through the playoffs thus far with meager averages of 7.9 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.1 blocks per game on 39.8% shooting.
Pascal Siakam wasn’t much better, hitting 4-of-9 shots for eight points, one rebounds, two assists and one steal before fouling out 26 minutes. "I've got to be more aggressive, I've got to do a better job, I've got to be better," Siakam said after the game. "I've got to be smarter. There's a couple fouls I just can't have. It's part of growing. It's good to see that at the biggest stage you can't make mistakes. I'm going to continue to learn, get better, watch film and make sure I'm better next game."
Siakam was phenomenal during the 2018-19 season, but the third-year forward has been in quite the rut since Game 2 of Toronto’s second-round series, connecting on just 37.6% of his field goal attempts and 20% of his long-range bombs – and that’s simply not a trend that can continue for Toronto to have any chance of advancing to the Finals. He’s been expending a lot of energy chasing around The Greek Freak on defense, and hasn’t had much luck containing him, so maybe Nick Nurse will adjust that part of his scheme for Game 3. Also, Siakam’s massive drop-off in efficiency from 3-point range has created a lot of spacing issues for Toronto, which has allowed Giannis to roam all over the floor, making it that much harder for any Raptors to penetrate the paint.
Danny Green had another forgetful game, going 2-of-6 from the field and 2-of-2 from the stripe on his way to eight points, two 3-pointers, four rebounds, one steal and one block over 22 minutes. After the loss, he aptly summed up how the first two games have gone for Toronto. "Reasons like tonight are why we're so disappointed we let Game 1 slip away. With how they shot the ball we knew that was our chance to get them while they were rusty. They weren't going to shoot that poorly two games in a row,” said Green. "They did what they're supposed to do. There's still a lot of basketball left. We've got two at home now and we've got to protect our home court. It's not a series until somebody wins on the road... By any means we're not doubting ourselves, we're not getting discouraged."
Norman Powell was a lone bright spot amongst the Raptors second unit, scoring 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting to go with two triples, four boards, two dimes and one turnover in 25 minutes off the bench. If he keeps playing like this, and Green continues to struggle, you have to wonder if Nick Nurse will consider making a change to his starting group.
Overall, the Raptors have looked a bit disjointed through the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals, which isn’t terribly surprising given how little Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard shared the floor during the regular season. The two star players are still trying to get a feel for each other, while Milwaukee looks like a well-oiled machine. It’s not over yet, but the Bucks dominant Game 2 win isn’t a great sign for the Raptors.