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Raptors out-tough Bucks again to take 3-2 series lead

Inexplicably, the Milwaukee Bucks are playing scared. And now the Deer has something to Fear.

Kawhi Leonard scored 15 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter as the Toronto Raptors scored their third straight series win, 105-99, to take a 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference finals Thursday night at Fiserv Forum.

Toronto outscored the Bucks, 33-24, in the fourth quarter, scoring seven huge points off offensive rebounds in the final five minutes.

The Bucks had never lost three straight games during the regular season and were 10-1 in the playoffs after winning the first two games of this series. Now they’ve lost three straight and appear to have lost all confidence.

Fred VanVleet absolutely killed the Bucks with seven 3-pointers in nine attempts for all of his 21 points, as Toronto made 18 3-pointers in 43 attempts. The Bucks, who took the league by storm with their “Let It Fly” offense in the regular season, made just 10 of 31 3-pointers.

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 24 points, but his 4-of-9 free-throw shooting created an air of timidness early on, and the Bucks never got back on track after roaring out to an 18-4 lead.

The Bucks got back to even at 93-93 on Brook Lopez’s only 3-pointer of the night with 2:44 left.

But VanVleet drilled his seventh triple of the night, and the Raptors led the rest of the way. After a dunk by Antetokounmpo, Leonard missed a jumper from the left win. But he followed his own shot, and picked up a loose ball before getting fouled and making two free throws.

Down three at 100-97, the Bucks lost their last chance to get back to even when Malcolm Brogdon lost the ball out of bounds — a play originally ruled Bucks’ ball but overturned on replay.

Eric Bledsoe had his best game of the series with 20 points, but he made just 2 of 7 3-pointers. Brogdon added 18 points and Lopez finished with 16.

But the Bucks’ outside shooting attack disappeared again. Somehow the Raptors were able to again pack the inside to stop Antetokounmpo and still prevent any damage from the arc.

Khris Middleton, who scored 30 points in Tuesday’s Game 4 loss, scored just six points on 2-of-9 shooting. Nikola Mirotic continued his own disastrous series, going 0 for 4 and riding the pines after playing just nine minutes.

George Hill scored 12 off the bench, but Pat Connaughton’s 3-pointer marked the Bucks’ only other points off the bench.

Kyle Lowry chipped in 17 points for the Raptors.

The Raptors enjoyed a 31-18 edge in free throw attempts, as Leonad and Lowry combined to go 15 for 17, while the entire Bucks team went 13 for 18.

Milwaukee won the rebound battle, 53-45, but three huge offensive rebounds by the Raptors led to Marc Gasol’s 3-pointer with 4:54, two free throws by Leonard with 1:48 and 1 of 2 free throws by Gasol with 34.7 seconds left.

Gasol’s free throw made it 100-97, and Brogdon’s huge turnover followed as he was defended by Pascal Siakam.

Now the Bucks will have to win Game 6 in Toronto Saturday night and Game 7 back in Milwaukee on Monday. They’ll have to find some answers that have eluded them the last week.

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