The Bucks moved one step closer to the NBA Finals with a 125–103, blowout win over the Raptors in Game 2 of their best-of-seven series. The Eastern Conference finals will move to Toronto on Sunday with Milwaukee holding an imposing 2–0 lead. After a come-from-behind victory in Game 1, Milwaukee led wire-to-wire Friday. Here’s how the Bucks ran away with the game:
Milwaukee’s depth is becoming an issue for Toronto. After his starters looked gassed late in Game 1, Raptors coach Nick Nurse went slightly deeper into his bench in Game 2, finding some minutes for a seldom-used Jodie Meeks. It didn’t matter. The Bucks’ role players are just simply outshining their opponents. Ersan Ilyasova was huge, drawing numerous charges while chipping in 17 points off the bench on 7-of-11 shooting. Malcolm Brogdon scored 14. George Hill added 13. In total, Milwaukee had six players score in double figures, compared to only three for Toronto. It didn’t matter that Eric Bledsoe shot poorly from the field, or that Brook Lopez came nowhere close to his Game 1 performance. The Bucks are so well balanced they can dominate as other players step up. Oh, and Giannis Antetokounmpo looked more like his MVP-self Friday as well, collecting 30 points, 17 rebounds, five assists and two blocks while often overwhelming Pascal Siakam.
The Raptors’ offense looked disjointed trying to keep up with Milwaukee’s pace. Kawhi Leonard scored 31 points and shot efficiently, but no one else could offer serious support. Toronto’s non-Kawhi starters combined to shoot only 29.7%. Kyle Lowry couldn’t recreate his magic from Game 1. Siakam struggled with foul trouble, and his athleticism has been largely neutralized by the length of the Bucks’ defense. Marc Gasol played 19 tough minutes, hitting only one of his nine field-goal attempts as he was being dared to shoot. Perhaps moving home will help Toronto’s role players, but their pitiful performance stood in stark contrast to Milwaukee’s supporting actors in Game 2. Kawhi can only do so much. It’s incredibly easier said than done, but the Raptors desperately need to find more efficient looks across the board. They also need to hit the ones they’re receiving now. Nurse said after the game he likes a lot of the looks his team is getting. Maybe the shift in scenery will help the Raps capitalize on those looks.
Milwaukee’s defense is hellacious. The Raptors are struggling mightily combating the Bucks’ length. Milwaukee is freely sagging off Siakam and Gasol in the half court, and it’s mucking up the game for everyone else. Both of those players may as well not exist above the break, and they currently aren’t able to make the Bucks pay. The result is an incredibly crowded paint for everyone else. When Toronto does manage to get the ball inside, the brave souls who’ve made the journey to the paint are introduced to a thicket of limbs that make finishing near impossible. The Raptors finished the game with 14 turnovers—doubling the Bucks’ seven—and that undoubtedly played a big role in their demise.
There are no easy answers for the Raptors moving forward. They’ve tried to play fast for two games, and the Bucks are thriving as they dictate the style of the series. Even if Toronto finds a way to grind the series to a halt in Game 3, navigating Milwaukee’s half-court defense presents a wildly difficult set of challenges. For the Raptors, the hope now has to be hitting more open shots, and banking on the home energy injecting new life and confidence into a scuffling supporting cast. The Bucks are continuing to do what they did during the regular season when they were by far the best team in the league. Giannis remains an unstoppable force, while the well-constructed roster is working well around (and even without!) him. It’s too early to bury the Raptors, but the Bucks won’t make the task any easier for them. Game 3 is Sunday.