Last Updated: 2019-05-19
The top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks thrashed off the second-seeded Toronto Raptors 125-103 as 6.5-point home favorites in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday night to take a 2-0 lead in the series that heads to Toronto, Canada, for Game 3 Sunday, May 19, 2019. The Raptors are now in a difficult situation and have to find the way to bounce back on the home court, so we expect to see a thrilling battle at Scotiabank Arena.
The Bucks are without Pau Gasol (ankle) and Donte DiVincenzo (heel), but all their important players are ready to go. The Raptors will miss OG Anunoby (appendectomy) whose defensive abilities would be welcome against the Bucks.
The Raptors opened as 2.5-point favorites with the total at 220.0 points and the Bucks at +125 money line odds. Toronto lost five of its six meetings with Milwaukee this season including both duels at Scotiabank Arena where the Raptors were listed as 5.5 and 7-point favorites.
What’s at Stake?
The Raptors are in dire straits and cannot afford another loss, as no team in the NBA history has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series. The Bucks have a chance to take a commanding lead and get one step away from the NBA Finals, so the stake is huge for both teams.
Milwaukee is on a six-game winning streak and looks unstoppable at the moment. The Bucks barely won the opening game of this series, but their dominant performance in Game 2 will boost their confidence even more. On the other side, the Raptors at a tight spot and need to prove their worth in Game 3 if they want to stay alive in this series.
The Bucks were trailing for most of Game 1, escaping with a win thanks to a terrific performance in the fourth quarter, so they entered Game 2 on a high note and built a 25-point lead in the first half. On the other side, the Raptors scored just 39 first-half points while dropping 39 in the third quarter, so they have to storm the front in Game 3 or will be in big trouble.
The Bucks’ team effort led them to the victory Friday night, as six players scored in double figures. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way with 30 points, 17 rebounds, five assists, and a couple of blocks, while Ersan Ilyasova posted 17 points off the bench, making seven of his 11 field-goal attempts. The Bucks’ second unit added 50 points and had a huge influence, especially in the second quarter.
Kawhi Leonard led the Raptors with 31 points on 10-of-18 shooting from the field while making all his ten attempts from the charity stripe. However, the Raptors have a negative net rating with Kawhi on the floor in four straight outings, so the other members of the starting lineup will have to do a much better job in Game 3 if they want to beat the red-hot Bucks.
Pascal Siakam fouled out in 26 minutes on Friday, scoring just eight points along with two assists and a rebound. Siakam is struggling at the defensive end, and the Raptors will have to switch defenders on Antetokounmpo in order to save Siakam for some offensive action. Marc Gasol was a non-factor with two points and five rebounds in 19 minutes on the floor, hitting just one of his nine field goals. Serge Ibaka had eight points and ten rebounds, but he also has to contribute more on both sides of the ball.
As I’ve mentioned, the Raptors cannot allow another slow start and have to find their best offensive game in front of the home audience. They need to make open jumpers, especially from beyond the arc, while the Raptors must slow down the tempo or will be blown away by the Bucks who just love to push the ball in transition. The Bucks scored 28 fast break points in Game 2, so the Raptors have to be patient and find the open man at the offensive end.
The Raptors are in a must-win situation and will play under huge pressure, but it can also arouse them to put on a strong performance and finally defeat the Bucks. The visitors are certainly playing in a great form and have won all their four outings on the road this postseason, but I think the Raptors will find the way to cope with them in Game 3 on the home court. Hereof, I will take the Raptors to cover and make this conference final interesting to watch even though the Bucks are 6-1 straight up and ATS in their last seven encounters with the Raptors and 3-0 straight up and ATS in the previous three H2H duels in Toronto.
I will stick with the under on the totals, as the Raptors’ only way to win this game is to slow down the tempo while playing tough defense. Both head-to-head duels at Scotiabank Arena in the regular season were finished in the under with 203 or fewer points in the total.
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