Two games into the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Finals and the Toronto Raptors have not found a way to slow Milwaukee star Giannis Antentokounmpo or match the ultra-deep Bucks’ bench. A commanding 125-103 win in Game 2 by Milwaukee pushes the Raptors back onto their hook-clawed heels.

If this keeps up, Games 3 and 4 will come and go in defeat. Kawhi Leonard & Co. will find themselves drowning sorrow and regret in bowls of poutine. The Bucks, meanwhile, will prepare for the 2019 NBA Finals.

Kawhi Leonard scored a game-high 31 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the loss. Solid numbers, for sure. But if only two of his teammates are putting up double-digit points (Kyle Lowry and Norman Powell with 15 points and 14 points, respectively), the only outcome is what Toronto faced last night: a long, demoralizing grind.

The Raptors’ scoring can improve, however, if the likes of Lowry and Danny Green (who was held to just eight points in Game 2) get going. But the bigger challenge for the Raptors will be on the defensive end, trying to slow — even a little — Milwaukee’s raging inferno of an offense.

Most teams can live with Giannis closing up shop with 30 points at the end of his shift; he’s a unique player and the Raptors’ efforts to slow his roll to the rim so far have been futile. The team must place its attention elsewhere.

When two other starters are scoring in double figures — Nikola Mirotic (15 points) and Khris Middleton (12 points) — you have a problem. But what makes the problem a crisis is when three bench players also are having their way with Toronto’s offense for a combined 44 points. And that’s just what Ersan Ilyasova (17 points), Malcolm Brogdon (14 points) and George Hill (13 points) did in Game 2.

For the Raptors, it’s back to Toronto — and the drawing board.

In the Western Conference, the finals series between the Golden State Warriors and the Trail Blazers swings to Portland for tonight’s Game 3. Portland let a Game 2 victory slip away after leading by as many as 17 points at Oracle Arena, to drop to 0-2 in the series.

Can the Blazers reignite tonight at Moda Center?

Tipoff is Saturday, May 18, at 9:00 p.m. ET on ESPN.



Source link