This time, the Milwaukee Bucks took control early. Now they’re just two victories away from the NBA Finals.
Scoring the first nine points of the game, the Bucks built a 25-point lead by the half and repelled every second-half comeback attempt to score a 125-103 victory over the Toronto Raptors Friday night at Fiserv Forum to take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 30 points and 17 rebounds, but he got so much support his performance hardly stood out.
After winning the battle of the benches in Game 1, Milwaukee’s reserves dominated in the first half.
Ersan Ilyasova scored 15 points and Malcolm Brogdon added 12 in the first half, and the Raptors didn’t know what hit them.
Antetokounmpo scored the games first two baskets on dunks as the Bucks opened with a 9-0 run and added a 12-0 run later in the quarter to build a 35-21 lead after 12 minutes and built a 64-39 lead at the half. Ilyasova and Brogdon only scored two points each in the second half, but George Hill scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half.
The Bucks led by as many as 28 points in the third quarter. The Raptors managed to get within 80-67 in the third quarter, but Brogdon scored inside, came up with a steal and assist on one fast-break layup and an assist on another fast-break layup. Milwaukee pushed it back to 95-75 in the closing seconds of the third before Jodie Mieeks beat the buzzer with a running 3-pointer.
Toronto got no closer than 15 points in the fourth quarter, as the Bucks answered every challenge before Raptors coach Nick Nurse pulled his front-liners in hopes of a better result at home Sunday.
Nikola Mirotic scored all of his 15 points in the first half, and Khris Middletonn posted 12 points to give the balanced Bucks six players in double figures.
Once again, defense carried the night. Milwaukee held the Raptors to just 42.5% (37 for 87). While forcing 13 turnovers, the Bucks committed just seven.
Antetokounmpo scored 19 points in the second half, continually making either the shot or the pass that kept Toronto from gathering any real momentum.
Unlike Game 1, the Bucks established their dominance from the start and never let up.
Kawhi Leonard led the Raptors with 31 points, just as he did in Game 1. But the Bucks limited Kyle Lowry to 15 points, half of his Game 1 output. Other than Leonard going 10 for 18, the Raptors other four starters combined to go 11 for 37 (29.7%). Reserve Norman Powell’s 14 points marked the only other Raptor in double figures.
When the Bucks built their huge first-half lead, they limited Leonard to five field goal attempts with a hounding defense that continually forced him to give up the ball.
The Bucks are now 10-1 in the post-season, with a six-game winning streak to match their franchise record for a consecutive wins in the post-season. Two more victories would mean a trip to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1974.
How daunting is the Raptors’ task? The Bucks lost two consecutive times just once the entire season.
Game 3 is Sunday at 6 p.m. Milwaukee time.