The Milwaukee Bucks became the first team in the NBA to reach 5o wins and solidified their hold on the Eastern Conference with a 108-97 win over the Toronto Raptors.
Milwaukee benefitted from a well rounded scoring effort, with four of five starters posting at least 15 points. Behind 22 points from Khris Middleton and a 19-point, 19-rebound double-double from Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks exorcized their Eastern Conference Finals demons.
The Raptors lost the first two games of the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals to Milwaukee. But led by Kawhi Leonard, Toronto rallied to win the next four games. Antetokounmpo said he rememberers the feeling of that disappointment all too well.
“You always remember the last time you played here, the feelings you had,” Antetokounmpo, who also dished out eight assists, said. “It was definitely on my mind.”
— FOX Sports Wisconsin (@fswisconsin) February 26, 2020
Milwaukee also benefitted from on off night’s by Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry. The two combined for 4-27 shooting performance and just 2-17 from three. Raptors head coach Nick Nurse chalked the dry spell up to being just one of those nights.
“Tonight it just didn’t go in,” he said. “Serga had like 21 straight great games. You’re going to have that one once in a while and tonight wasn’t his night.”
Ibaka finished with just five points, while Lowry knocked down 5-6 free throws to reach double figures.
Despite the struggles from two of their more consistent players, the Raptors still gave the Bucks all they could handle in the first half. OG Anunoby posterized Antetokounmpo to give Toronto their-game high 12 point lead in the second quarter.
OG Anunoby throws it down over Giannis with authority!! pic.twitter.com/vjKaR0JMwu
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) February 26, 2020
But Milwaukee weathered the storm and regained control heading into halftime.
“Obviously the end of the second quarter was really big for us,” Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We were not having a very good half.”
Brook Lopez and Eric Bledsoe knocked down shots out of the gate to edge the Bucks in front. After trading blows, the Bucks began to building a lead up to 13 points.
Going into the fourth quarter the Bucks seemed to have the game well in hand, up 84-71; but Toronto began to show signs of life. Terrance Davis scored five straight points as part of a 7-0 run for the Raptors that brought the game back within six points before the All-Star Middleton nailed a step-back jumper.
Toronto would come within five once more minutes later, but the majority of the quarter was spent at a margin of about ten points.
Milwaukee moves to 2-0 on the season against their closest competitor in the conference standings. At 50-8, Milwaukee possesses an eight-game stranglehold on the top seed in the east. The loss drops Toronto to 42-16 — a game and a half above the Celtics for the second spot.
Toronto gets two more cracks at the Bucks later this season, with a home-and-home set at the beginning of April.