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Bucks lead East finals 2-0, and now series shifts to Toronto

Sat May 18 4:38pm ET
By TIM REYNOLDS
AP Basketball Writer

Players: Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Brook Lopez, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Khris Middleton, Kawhi Leonard, Norman Powell, Giannis Antetokounmpo

Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry have more than held their own against Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton so far in these Eastern Conference finals.

Other than some pretty boxscores, the Toronto Raptors have nothing to show for those efforts.

The supporting cast hasn't supported much for Toronto, and with what is almost certainly a must-win Game 3 of the East title series looming on Sunday night at home, Raptors coach Nick Nurse is weighing lineup tweaks. Nurse suggested Saturday that Serge Ibaka may start at center over struggling Marc Gasol, and Norman Powell may get minutes that would figure to come at Danny Green's expense.

''We've got to be better, man,'' Nurse said Saturday. ''We've got to be more physical, we've got to hustle more and we've got to work harder.''

He may as well have punctuated that by adding ''or else.''

In this playoff format that was put into play in 1984, teams that win the first two games at home of a best-of-seven series have ultimately prevailed 94% of the time. And that's the luxury Milwaukee has right now, leading the series 2-0 after rallying to win the opener and then controlling Game 2 start to finish.

''We can't rest,'' Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. ''We can't relax. We can't assume anything.''

So the odds are stacked against the Raptors. Nurse was told the lack of success teams have when down 0-2 in a series, and insisted he doesn't care.

''I don't really give a crap about that,'' he said. ''I just want our team to come play their (butt) off tomorrow night and get one game and it changes the series.''

Leonard and Lowry are outscoring Antetokounmpo and Middleton 107-77 - which would figure to have been a boon to Toronto's chances.

It hasn't worked that way.

Add up everyone else's scoring in the series, and it's Bucks 156, Raptors 96. Rebounding has been one-sided in both games, with Milwaukee controlling things on the backboards. Bench scoring has tilted heavily toward Milwaukee as well.

''We're just trying to be us,'' Bucks center Brook Lopez said. ''We're not playing any differently, regular season or postseason. We're just trying to go out there and play Bucks basketball. It starts with our defense. Getting stops. Getting out. Playing in transition. Playing with pace. Sharing the ball and being aggressive and attacking the basket.''

The Raptors don't have to look at the history books to know this series isn't over.

All they need to do is recall the 2012 Western Conference finals. Leonard and Green were with top-seeded San Antonio, and Ibaka was with second-seeded Oklahoma City. The Spurs won Games 1 and 2 at home - then lost the next four, and the Thunder went to the NBA Finals.

''We have another chance to bounce back on Sunday,'' Gasol said. ''That's all that matters right now. That's all that matters.''

Here's some of what to know before Game 3:

QUICK WIT: Leonard, who isn't the most talkative guy in the league to put it mildly, had a simple answer when asked where the Raptors go from here after the Game 2 loss. ''I'm going to Toronto for Game 3,'' Leonard said.

WE (BARELY) THE NORTH: The series now shifts to Toronto, where the Raptors' motto is ''We The North.'' It is, but barely in this case. Toronto is about 430 miles east of Milwaukee by air, and is only slightly north. And it should be noted that Toronto isn't even the northernmost city that will be playing host to conference final games this weekend - Portland holds that distinction.

GREEK FREAKS: Census figures show that at least a quarter-million Greeks live in Canada, and roughly half of those live in Ontario. Antetokounmpo isn't expecting an overly warm welcome, but has seen a few Greek flags in the crowd on his past trips to Toronto. Antetokounmpo said he'd be touched if they were there Sunday, but isn't thinking about it too much. ''I'm going to try not to focus as much in the people and the Greeks and the population in Toronto,'' Antetokounmpo said. ''Just focusing on Game 3 and what we've got to do.''

OFF, WISCONSIN: Including Games 1 and 2 of this series, matchups in Wisconsin are rarely kind to Nurse. He played at Northern Iowa, a conference rival of Green Bay - and his teams went 1-8 in those games, 0-4 at Green Bay's former home court, the being-demolished Brown County Arena. Nurse said it was a nice place, but wasn't upset to hear it's coming down. ''There weren't very many good memories for me,'' he said.

BREAK FROM DRAKE: At least one Milwaukee radio station is taking this series extremely seriously. WXSS-FM is not allowing any songs by Raptors superfan Drake to be played on its station until the East finals are over. ''We're taking a break from you,'' the station wrote in an open letter of sorts to the Toronto native and courtside ticketholder.

Player Notes
Brandon Ingram Jun 18 9:00am ET

The New Orleans Pelicans agreed to a deal which nets them forward Brandon Ingram, guard Lonzo Ball and swingman Josh Hart, as well as three first-round draft picks, while the Los Angeles Lakers nab power forward/center Anthony Davis. One of the picks the Pels receive will be the No. 4 overall selection in the 2019 NBA Draft, too. Ingram (arm) had thoracic outlet decompression surgery on his right arm in March, and the timetable called for a recovery in the neighborhood of June or July. In his final six games of the regular season he rolled up 27.8 points per game while snagging 7.5 boards per contest. If he can manage that type of production in the Crescent City over a much larger span, watch out. The Lakers might regret letting him get away. He is a budding fantasy superstar as long as he can stay healthy.

Josh Hart Jun 18 9:00am ET

The Los Angeles Lakers agreed to trade swingman Josh Hart, forward Brandon Ingram and guard Lonzo Ball, as well as three first-round draft picks, to the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday in exchange for power forward/center Anthony Davis. The Pelicans made quite the haul here. Hart (knee) is coming off of surgery in March for a torn right patellar tendon, and he joins a rather crowded backcourt in NOLA with Ball, Jrue Holiday and E'Twaun Moore on the roster for now. The Pelicans might not be done molding their roster, but as it stands right now, Hart's fantasy outlook might actually be a little worse than it was in L.A.

Lonzo Ball Jun 18 9:00am ET

The Los Angeles Lakers agreed to trade guard Lonzo Ball, forward Brandon Ingram and swingman Josh Hart along with three first-round draft picks to the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday in exchange for superstar power forward/center Anthony Davis. The Pelicans did well to acquire Ball, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft, as well as the No. 4 overall pick in the upcoming draft, and two more first-rounders. The Lakers will likely be glad to be rid of the baggage that is Lonzo's dad, LaVar Ball, but they are still losing a potential superstar in his own right if he develops as many expect. Ball spent a good chunk of the 2018-19 season on the injured list, but when he was healthy he was good for 9.9 points, 5.4 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. He'll be one of the primary scoring options in New Orleans, and therefore his fantasy outlook for the new season is quite bright.

Anthony Davis Jun 18 9:00am ET

The New Orleans Pelicans have agreed to trade power forward/center Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday in exchange for swingman Lonzo Ball, forward Brandon Ingram and guard Josh Hart, as well as three first-round picks, including the No. 4 overall selection in the 2019 NBA Draft, according to sources. Davis gets his wish and will now play in La La Land next to aging, but still potent, superstar LeBron James. Will it be a match made in heaven? We'll see. But Davis might be rejuvenated playing for what he and Laker Nation hope will be a powerhouse for years to come. He remains a first-round fantasy talent regardless of the jersey he is wearing as long as he can stay healthy.

Kawhi Leonard Jun 14 6:10am ET

Toronto Raptors shooting guard/small forward Kawhi Leonard took home the Finals MVP in the 114-110 series-ending win over the Warriors on Thursday. Leonard recorded 22 points and added six rebounds with three assists and two steals with a block in 41 minutes of action. Leonard put up a legendary performance this postseason and hushed up any doubters after a bizarre season last year with the Spurs. The Raptors are hoping to retain their franchise cornerstone for next season, but either way, what we saw this offseason was truly remarkable from the Claw. In the words of Mark Jackson, "Mama, there goes that man!"

Kyle Lowry Jun 14 6:00am ET

Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry came out on fire on Thursday recording eight points in the game's first three possessions for his club and finished the night with a huge line to secure the NBA Championship. Lowry finished the night with 26 points and added 10 assists with seven rebounds and three steals across 42 minutes of action. Lowry bounced back after a couple of rough games and hushed any doubters after averaging a solid 16.2 points, 7.2 assists and 4.0 rebounds over the entire series. Lowry is on the books for next season and the 33-year-old will look to continue filling up box scores.

Serge Ibaka Jun 14 5:50am ET

Toronto Raptors power forward/center Serge Ibaka pumped in 15 points to help secure his club's first NBA title on Thursday. Ibaka brought the energy once again off the bench and the veteran averaged 16.7 points on a sizzling 67% shooting over the series' final three games. Marc Gasol struggled offensively in this one going 0-for-5 from the floor for three points but added nine rebounds. Ibaka is locked in for next season with the Raptors and depending on what happens with Marc Gasol, Ibaka again should be mid to late-round player in most formats next season.

Fred VanVleet Jun 14 5:50am ET

Toronto Raptors guard Fred Vanvleet poured in 22 points and provided elite defense throughout the night on Stephen Curry to help secure the Raptors' first NBA Championship. VanVleet stepped things up massively since Game 4 versus the Bucks as he averaged 14.7 points over the last nine games and was a major difference maker in these finals. VanVleet could see an even larger role if the Raptors do not resign Danny Green for next season. Keep an eye on the Raptors this offseason as there are many question marks regarding their roster.

Pascal Siakam Jun 14 5:40am ET

Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam came out firing in Game 6 when he connected on two triples in the game's first four minutes and finished the night with 26 points. Siakam finished the with a double-double as he added 10 rebounds with three assists and a steal with a block in 46 minutes of action. Siakam came into the game missing 12 threes in a row but showed much more confidence on his catch-and-shoot threes in this one. Siakam was a fantasy stud this season and depending what happens with Kawhi Leonard this offseason, we could Siakam as a top-30 player next season.

Stephen Curry Jun 14 5:30am ET

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry provided just 21 points on a rough 6-for-17 shooting in the Game 6 loss to the Raptors in his club's last game at the Oracle on Thursday. Curry came into the game averaging 32.4 points in the series' first five games, but the Raptors did all they could to force the sniper into tough shots. The Raptors went back to the box-and-one defense after the Warriors lost Klay Thompson (knee) for the night. With a lot of questions surrounding the Warriors this offseason, and some players looking to miss large chunks of next season, Curry has been catapulted to a top-3 player in next year's drafts.

Draymond Green Jun 14 5:20am ET

Golden State Warriors power forward/center Draymond Green did all he could on Thursday with his shorthanded club to try and get the win, but it was not enough in the 114-110 loss. Green provided a monster triple-double with 19 rebounds, 11 points and 13 assists with three steals and two blocks. Green struggled on the offensive end for most of this series but this valiant effort will not go unnoticed on this night. If the Warriors lose a superstar or two this offseason, we can easily see Green going back to his top-25 fantasy player status as he regularly filled up box scores with his injury-plagued club this postseason.

DeMarcus Cousins Jun 14 5:20am ET

Golden State Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins provided a solid lift off the bench in Game 6 on Thursday when he scored 12 points and added five rebounds across 19 minutes of action. The Warriors opted to go with Kevon Looney as the team's starter in the middle, but Cousins came out aggressively and provided some buckets in crucial moments. The Warriors even opted to a zone defense on some possessions in order to hide Cousins more on the defensive end. It will be an interesting offseason for Cousins who was coming off one serious injury and then injured his quad this postseason.

Andre Iguodala Jun 14 5:20am ET

Golden State Warriors shooting guard/small forward Andre Iguodala was given the opportunity and he took full advantage of it on Thursday in Game 6 versus the Raptors. Iguodala scored 22 points with two boards and added two assists with a block across 32 minutes of action. Iggy had provided just eight points in the previous two games and he stepped things up after Klay Thompson (knee) left the game for good in the third quarter. He is now 35 and is on the books for next season, but we can expect Iggy to once again have restrictions in hopes on conversing himself for the 2019-20 postseason.

Klay Thompson Jun 14 5:10am ET

Golden State Warriors shooting guard/small forward Klay Thompson was putting forth a heroic effort in Game 6 before injuring his knee. Thompson landed awkwardly on his left knee and started exiting to the locker room before returning to shoot his free throws to leave the door open for a possible return. It was later revealed that he would not return to action after scoring 30 points across 32 minutes. Thompson had a massive series and it was a major blow to his club losing him in the series' most crucial game. It was later revealed that he indeed tore his ACL and we wish him a speedy recovery in hopes of a return at some point next season.

Stephen Curry Jun 11 6:00am ET

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry scored 23 of his 31 points in the opening half to help secure the Game 5 win over the Raptors in Toronto on Monday. Curry connected on 10 of 23 shooting from the floor and added eight boards with seven assists and five makes from three. Curry and backcourt teammate Klay Thompson led the charge after Kevin Durant (Achilles) exited the game and will once again be the lead players in Game 6 with the series on the line. Expect another monster night from Curry on Thursday, making him a must play.

Draymond Green Jun 11 5:50am ET

Golden State Warriors power forward/center Draymond Green once again filled up the stat sheet and just missed out on a triple-double in 41 minutes of action on Monday. Green scored 10 points with 10 rebounds and handed out eight dimes with a steal and a block. The Raptors dared him to shoot from downtown and Green made them pay as he nailed two of four from range. Green lost his cool on a couple of occasions in this emotional game and he picked up his sixth technical foul of the postseason, with one more leading to automatic one-game suspension. Green has been solid this postseason and is always a welcome addition to any lineup in DFS.

Kevin Durant Jun 11 5:50am ET

Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (Achilles) made a heroic return to action on Monday after missing nine postseason games, only to exit the game with an Achilles injury in the second quarter. In the emotional game, Durant came out on fire, scoring 11 points in the opening frame before the injury occurred. The Warriors sadly believe that he has torn his Achilles and the official results will be released on Tuesday after an MRI. If it is indeed a tear, we can expect the superstar to miss most of the 2019-20 campaign. Stay posted on Tuesday for updates and we wish the best for KD and his recovery.

Klay Thompson Jun 11 5:50am ET

Golden State Warriors shooting guard/small forward Klay Thompson nailed seven triples with one coming in crunch time to help secure the one-point win over the Raptors in Game 5. Thompson finished the night with 26 points and added six rebounds with four assists and a steal in 42 minutes of action. Thompson nailed a massive three with 57 seconds left on the clock to snap a 103-103 tie and it would later be the winning basket. Thompson has been an under-the-radar star this series and there are no signs of him slowing down for Game 6.

Kyle Lowry Jun 11 5:30am ET

Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry provided a solid line and made some big plays on Monday, but it was not enough in the 106-105 loss to the Warriors in Game 5. Lowry scored 18 points while handing out six assists with four rebounds and blocked two shots with a single steal in 42 minutes. The Warriors again struggled with guarding the high pick and roll with Lowry being the ball handler and he made them pay as he was able to get two feet in the paint that led to floaters for Lowry or open looks for teammates. Lowry is confident and focused right now and we can expect another big night from the veteran in Game 6.

Kawhi Leonard Jun 11 5:30am ET

Toronto Raptors shooting guard/small forward Kawhi Leonard struggled early on but came up big in the fourth quarter, but it was not enough in the one-point loss to the Warriors. Leonard started the game just 5-for-18 from the floor, but then put up 10 points with a monster block during a two-minute span that got the Raptors the lead. He finished the night with 26 points on 9-for-24 shooting and surprisingly had five turnovers after having zero in Game 4. Leonard is a must play on Thursday as he will be ready to close out this series rather than coming back to Toronto for a Game 7.