LOS ANGELES, United States, May 18 – Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 30 points and grabbed 17 rebounds to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to a convincing 125-103 victory over the Toronto Raptors Friday for a 2-0 lead in the NBA Eastern Conference finals.
The top-seeded Bucks, who rallied to win game one 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 three and four on Sunday and 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, 64-39, 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, and coach Mike Budenholzer said it all started with Antetokounmpo.
“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.”
– MVP finalist –
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 one of the second round against the Boston Celtics.
Antetokounmpo was one of three finalists for the NBA Most Valuable Player award announced on Friday along with Houston’s James Harden and Oklahoma City’s Paul George.
But he said the honor was far form his thoughts — despite the chants of “MVP! MVP!” that fans rained on him in the fourth quarter after he drove for a layup, drew a foul and converted the free throw with 5:51 to play.
“I don’t care about that right now,” said Antetokounmpo, who scored 11 points in the fourth quarter. “I care about going to Toronto and focusing for game three.”
That’s exactly what the Raptors plan to do, too.
“They’ve done what they were supposed to do and protected their home court,” Nurse said. “Now we’ve got to go and do the same.”