Nick Ballistreri previews Game 3 of the Bucks v Raptors Series and thinks that Toronto can make it interesting in Canada.
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The Milwaukee Bucks are 2 wins away from their first NBA Finals appearance since 1974. In dominating fashion, the Bucks showed the whole world that the 60 wins in the regular season was no fluke. They never trailed, and completely flexed their muscles all game en route to a huge 125-103 win in Game 2. In Game 3, the venue shifts to Toronto, where the Raptors hope to salvage their season. Even though to this point, the Raptors look outmatched, with the series moving to Toronto, they are not counted out. Draftkings Sportsbook has the Raptors listed as -2.5 favorites, and -134 on the moneyline, while the Bucks come in at +117.
When Giannis Antetokounmpo started the game with an alley oop off the backboard to himself, fans at Fiserv Forum knew they were in for a show. On the next play, he soared for a huge block of Marc Gasol. After that? Another dunk. Giannis let the Raptors know early and often that he was not losing this game.
Antetokounmpo finished with 30 points and 17 rebounds. He got to the line 12 times, and it just seemed like he got whatever he wanted in Game 2. The bench was key for the Bucks. With starters Brook Lopez and Eric Bledsoe combining for only 14 points, they needed someone else to step up. Look no further than Milwaukee’s bench. Ersan Ilyasova came up with 17 off the bench, and Brogdon and George Hill chipped in 15 and 13, respectively.
For a team with a starting lineup as good as the Bucks, when the bench scores 54 points like they did last game, they’re going to win. There are just too many weapons on this team, and they proved it. Every time the Raptors went on a run to try and make things interesting, the Bucks responded with a better run of their own.
For the Raptors, well coach Nick Nurse said it best when he said, “Well, we didn’t do much well tonight, obviously.” He’s right, the Raptors got thoroughly outplayed, and frankly, embarrassed. From the start, they came with no energy, and allowed the Bucks to score the first 9 points of the game. They trailed by 14 after the 1st, and a whopping 25 points at halftime. Like I said, they should feel embarrassed by their play.
Kawhi Leonard continued his stellar postseason, with another 31 point game. He was looking around for help from his teammates, and none was coming his way. Kyle Lowry was the next highest scoring Raptor, with 15 points. Lowry however, struggled from the floor as well as staying on the floor. He shot a putrid 4-13, and he picked up his 3rd foul with 1:27 left in the 1st half. Coach Nick Nurse, noticing an opportunity to cut the Raptors lead before the break, left Lowry in. It backfired, as he picked up his 4th foul a minute later and the Bucks lead grew to 25.
It’s officially time to buckle up Toronto, because it is now or never. There is an old saying in the NBA that says a series doesn’t officially start until a team loses at home. Lucky for Toronto, they haven’t played in front of their hometown fans, so it is unfair to count the Raptors out entirely. However, the Bucks have won 6 straight postseason games, and look like they are speeding on a collision course to an NBA Finals matchup vs the Warriors.
Let’s not look too far ahead though. Yes, things look bad in Toronto right now, but like I just said, this one is not over. The Raptors had 58 wins this season for a reason, and they have handled their fair share of adversity throughout the season. They must key in on team rebounding, as for the second straight game, the Bucks dominated on the glass. They won the advantage 53-40 in this one, and it is hurting their chances in a big way.
It’ll be interesting to see adjustments first year coach Nick Nurse makes. Having the home crowd at their backs will help, but he must think of something to slow down Giannis, and get their bench to at least compete with the Bucks bench. If he doesn’t, we can just go ahead and put a bow on this series with the Bucks up 3-0.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t see Game 2 coming. I thought that maybe the Bucks would win, but it would be a nailbiter. I was definitely wrong on that one, and the Bucks made sure I was aware of it.
Toronto is a tough bunch, and they’ve bounced back before. Last round, after the 76ers won Game 3 by 21 to go up 2-1, it looked bleak in Toronto, as it does now. They responded with a solid performance in the next game to rebound and get back in the win column. I expect the same in Game 3. I think Toronto responds and makes this a series. I don’t see a Kawhi Leonard lead team going down 3-0, and I expect the Canada crowd to really help the Raptors out. Expect a relatively close game, with the Raptors holding a steady lead throughout the game. With the line being set at 2.5, I see value in that instead of buying up to the moneyline. This series is not over just yet!