Sun, May 19, 2019 - Page 10 News List

Bucks rout Raptors to snatch 2-0 lead

MVP FINALIST:Giannis Antetokounmpo defended his place on the shortlist with an explosive start that set the pace for a game in which the Bucks never trailed

AFP, LOS ANGELES

The Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, right, tries to steal the ball from the Toronto Raptors’ Serge Ibaka in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Photo: AP

Giannis Antetokounmpo on Friday scored 30 points and grabbed 17 rebounds to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to a convincing 125-103 victory over the Toronto Raptors for a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The top-seeded Bucks, who rallied to win Game 1 of the best-of-seven series, never trailed and led by as many as 28 points to double their lead in the series, which moves to Toronto for games 3 and 4 today and on Tuesday.

“Mentally, we were ready for this game,” Antetokounmpo said. “Once the game started, we did a great job setting the tone. We knew Toronto was going to come and try to play hard and try to get one at our place.”

Antetokounmpo played a key role in setting that tone — with a dunk, an emphatic block on Raptors center Marc Gasol and another dunk in the opening minute of the contest.

“I know every night when the game starts my teammates are looking at me,” Antetokounmpo said. “I think it definitely gave the team a lot of energy.”

The Bucks made sure the Raptors never got a sniff, roaring to an 18-point lead in the first quarter on the back of nine quick points from Nikola Mirotic and a 12-0 scoring run late in the period.

Milwaukee led by 25 points at halftime, with Ersan Ilyasova contributing 15 of his 17 before the break and Malcolm Brogdon 12 of his 14 off the Bucks’ bench in the first half.

Overall the hosts’ reserves out-scored Toronto’s 31-11 in the first half and 54-39 overall.

Six Bucks players scored in double figures, starting with Antetokounmpo, coach Mike Budenholzer said.

“I think everybody fed off of Giannis and how he started the game,” Budenholzer said.

Kawhi Leonard led the Raptors with 31 points. He came out firing in the third quarter, but despite his aggression, the Raptors never got the deficit below 13.

Kyle Lowry finished with 15 points, connecting on just four of 13 shots from the field. Norman Powell added 14 off the bench, but they were the only Raptors to score in double figures.

“We didn’t play very well tonight,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “We were just a step too slow. We settled in with some space and gave them some confidence early, and you just can’t do that.”

Milwaukee notched their sixth straight win in these playoffs and their sixth post-season victory by at least 20 points, tying an NBA record.

The Bucks’ only defeat this post-season came in Game 1 of the second round against Boston.

Antetokounmpo was one of three finalists for the NBA MVP award announced on Friday along with Houston’s James Harden and Oklahoma City’s Paul George.

Harden is the reigning MVP, but if he wins this year, the honor would again come amid playoff disappointment after the Rockets were eliminated from the second round by the Golden State Warriors.

The Thunder were eliminated in the first round as George struggled with a shoulder injury that eventually required surgery.

The MVP winner is to be announced on June 24 in Los Angeles.

Antetokounmpo and George are also in the running for Defensive Player of the Year, along with Utah’s Rudy Gobert, who won last year.

The finalists for Rookie of the Year are Deandre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns, Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks and Slovenian Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks.

However, Antetokounmpo said that the honor was far from his thoughts, despite the chants of “MVP, MVP” that fans rained on him in the fourth quarter.

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