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Raptors dominate suddenly listless Bucks; tie series

Are you ready for a best-of-three?

The Milwaukee Bucks, riding high after winning their first two games at home, are now limping badly after a 120-102 loss to the Toronto Raptors Tuesday night left them in a 2-2 tie in the Eastern Conference finals.

Simply put, the Bucks were embarrassed.

Key players disappeared, and the Bucks could never counter Toronto’s adjustments or superior effort.

Because of that, the Bucks dropped consecutive games for just the second time all season. They have yet to lose three in a row, but another effort like this one on Thursday could jeopardize that.

A bench that dominated in Games 1 and 2 never showed up. Malcolm Brogdon missed his first six shots and finished 2 for 11. Ersan Ilyasova, who poured in 17 points in Game 2, led all Bucks reserves with a paltry seven points. George Hill posed just five points, Brogdon four and Pat Connaughton three.

Toronto played a 1-2-2 zone when Giannis Antetokounmpo was on the court, and the Bucks superstar had to work as hard as ever for his 25 points and 10 rebounds. Khris Middleton led the Bucks with 30 points and seven assists.

They were the only two players to show up.

And while the offensive struggles were noticeable, the Bucks defensive shortcomings were much more glaring.

Kyle Lowry led the Raptors with 25 points, six assists and five rebounds, Kawhi Leonard scored 19 points despite an obviously painful leg injury, and Marc Gasol added 17 points.

But the real difference in this one came from a previously unheard from Toronto bench.

Norman Powell scored 18 points, Serge Ibaka contributed 17 points and 13 rebounds and Fred VanVleet scored 13. Powell posted a plus/minus rating of 29, VanVleet went plus 25 and Ibaka plus-24.

Meanwhile, Hill went minus-17, Connaughton minus-16 and Brogdon minus-10.

Toronto’s bench outscored the Bucks’ bench, 48-23.

Eric Bledsoe also had another dismal night with just five points in 20 minutes.

The Bucks got out to a quick start for a 12-5 lead. The Raptors picked things up from there and took the lead for good when Leonard made a free throw to give them a 32-31 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Nikola Mirotic, acquired for his 3-point-shooting prowess, is just 6 for 28 from behind the arc in the series. And with the Bucks struggling from behind the arc, the Raptors are packing their defense into the lane to make life miserable for Antetokounmpo.

Game 5 is Thursday night in Milwaukee.

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