TORONTO: The Toronto Raptors knew they needed to play tougher than they had in losing the first two games to the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals.
They played tough and they played long as well, needing two overtimes to outlast the Bucks 118-112 Sunday night with Kawhi Leonard leading all scorers with 36 points.
The Bucks lead the best-of-seven series 2-1 with Game 4 Tuesday in Toronto.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse said that he was also considering changes to his lineup, although he went with the same starting lineup he had been using.
“I said lineup changes, I didn’t say starting lineup changes,“ Nurse said. “We played a lot of different lineups tonight, and we changed at least three if not four of the matchups to start the game. Some of those changes were pretty good to us, but again I thought we just played a lot tougher, man. We were up guarding, we were physical, we were ready to play.”
Leonard had eight points in the second overtime on 3-for-3 shooting from the field and making both free throws. But Nurse said the difference was his defense.
“His defense was probably the biggest key of the game,“ Nurse said. “He made some huge plays with some steals and ripaways and breakaways.”
The Raptors defense was good enough to hold Giannis Antetokounmpo to 12 points before he fouled out in the second overtime with 4:24 remaining, but he did grab 23 rebounds.
“They were double-teaming him a lot, a lot of bodies on him,“ Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He’s sharing the ball. He’s making the right read, making the pass. But we’ve probably got to shoot it a little bit better, we’ve got to drive a little bit better.”
The Bucks shot 37.3% from the field while the Raptors shot 39.2%.
“Obviously, they changed their matchup,“ Antetokounmpo said. “I tried not to think about it too much. Every time I tried to make a play, I saw that they were showing bodies, they were sending a second guy in there.”
Pascal Siakam added 25 points and 11 rebounds for Toronto and Marc Gasol had 16 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and five blocked shots.
Gasol had blamed his own performance for the Raptors’ poor Game 2. He said his performance made him “feel sick for 48 hours.”
Toronto’s Kyle Lowry had 11 points before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Norman Powell had 19 points off the bench before fouling out late in the fourth.
George Hill had 24 points for Milwaukee. Malcolm Brogdon had 20 points, Brook Lopez added 16, Eric Bledsoe tallied 11, and Nikola Mirotic 10.
“I think all of us have a bigger role to play and more to do,“ Brogdon said.
The Raptors led by as many as 11 points but had only a two-point advantage entering the fourth quarter.
Toronto moved out to an eight-point lead when Leonard made a 3-pointer with 9:05 to play, but Hill’s hook shot tied the game at 88 with 4:11 to play.
Leonard’s 16-footer put Toronto into a 93-91 lead, which grew to three when Siakam made one of two free throws with 1:41 remaining and five when Leonard made two free throws with 1:13 left.
Brogdon’s reverse layup had the Bucks back to within two with 38.7 seconds to go.
After a Bucks miss, Siakam missed two free throws with 7.1 seconds left. Khris Middleton’s layup tied the game with 2.2 seconds left, forcing overtime.
“Those are shots that you practice and think about every day,“ Siakam said of the missed free throws. “At that moment, you’re kind of mad at yourself.”
Siakam’s layup put Toronto ahead by two in the first overtime and Leonard’s jumper made the lead four. Brogdon hit a five-footer with 43.2 seconds to play and Hill tied the game with two free throws with 14.5 seconds left in the first overtime. Leonard missed a shot, forcing the second overtime.
Leonard’s dunk after a steal had Toronto leading by three in the second overtime. Two free throws by Lopez trimmed the lead to one.
Leonard’s steal and dunk again had the Raptors ahead by three with 1:52 left in the second overtime. The Raptors led by four on Leonard’s hook with 32.4 seconds to go.
The Raptors led 30-21 after the first quarter and 58-51 at halftime. - Reuters