It’d be business as usual for the Milwaukee Bucks, as they blew out the Toronto Raptors by a score of 123-105 to take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals.
No slow start was on the schedule for the Bucks. Instead, they rattled off an immediate 9-0 run, ignited by a ferocious Giannis self-alley oop off his miss. Toronto would rebound with a 6-0 run, but Milwaukee bounced right back — and got stronger. At one point, they’d be up by 18, which would throw Fiserv Forum into an absolute frenzy. When the first quarter finally came to an end, the Bucks had built up a 35-21 advantage.
The party would continue to gain traction in the second half. What kind of party are we talking about? A PARTY HOSTED BY THE BENCH MOB, BABY. Toronto had absolutely no answers. The pair of Ersan Ilyasova and Nikola Mirotic would lead the way, each padding their first half stat sheets with 15 points apiece. Going into the locker rooms, Milwaukee held a massive 64-39 lead.
The Bucks would hold that lead to start the third, but Toronto would slowly begin to chip away through the usage of Kawhi Leonard. After having just a small handful of shots in the first half, everything ran through him in the third. They’d eventually chisel the Milwaukee lead down to 13, but then a Brogdon layup followed by two George Hill layups put the ship back on course for the Bucks. Moving into the final quarter of play, Milwaukee reconstructed a 95-78 lead.
And from there, everything would basically be done and dusted. Toronto wouldn’t pose much of a threat, and would eventually wave the white flag. The party would continue within Fiserv Forum, as the realization that the Bucks were two wins away from the Finals began to set in stone.
Giannis Antetokounmpo would finish as the high scorer for the Bucks, concluding his outing with a 30/15/5 performance. Ersan Ilyasova made a major impact with his 17 points and Nikola Mirotic added 15 of his own.
Kawhi Leonard used a strong second half to propel himself to a game-high 31 points. Kyle Lowry was next in line with 15 points.
Hear that thunder in the distance? That’s courtesy of Ersan.
Goodness gracious, what a game for Ersan! In his first game donning the shooting sleeve, he tallied 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting and knocked down a pair of threes. It really is pretty crazy to go back and think of his crazy journey, which, of course started here in Milwaukee with the Bucks in 2005:
May 18, 2019
It’s also pretty nuts to think about how far he’s come in proving his worth. Frank does a great job providing insight on this here:
Since November I’ve been worried Ersan would be unplayable against Toronto if these teams met in the playoffs. Two games in, Ersan has not just been playable — he’s somehow also outplayed Siakam. Big, big kudos to Ersan.— Frank Madden (@fmaddenNBA) May 18, 2019
(Pascal Siakam’s stat line, by the way? 4-of-9 shooting, nine points, one rebound in 26 minutes of action — he’d then foul out)
But getting back to Ersan, he’s really making Jon Horst out to be a smart man after that signing. While there was some clamor towards the dollar amount, he’s definitely shown his worth with his postseason play. I mean, how awesome is it to see him knock down stepback after stepback? He truly has made such a valuable impact on this series, and we’ll be looking for more of that in Game 3 — especially if he slides on the shooting sleeve again.
Malcolm Brogdon continues to show his worth.
It still somewhat boggles my mind at just how consistent Malcolm Brogdon has been since returning to action. While he hasn’t scratched the starting lineup just yet, his impact is beyond noticeable. It honestly seems as if he hasn’t missed a beat. Initially, I was expecting some sluggish activity while he regains his feet and the speed of the game around him. I’m very proud to be wrong. While he hasn’t been perfect, he’s been helping take this team to the next level. Ever time he attempts a three, I automatically assume it’s going to go in. Every time he drives to the hoop, I assume he’ll score on a reverse layup or dish it out to an open man on the perimeter. It’s so awesome to see. Oh, and this was even more awesome to see:
Chuck just donated $45,000 to Malcolm Brogdon's Hoops2O initiative, which helps bring clean water to East Africa. pic.twitter.com/pyqaWUZbp4— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 18, 2019
Well done, Sir Charles.
It sort of seemed like a “quiet” performance from Giannis.
Yes, 30 points is always good and Giannis put on another dominating performance. However, it seems as if there’s still another level he can etch out in this series. Mike Budenholzer was asked what it was like to coach a player where 30 and 17 is a good night, but there’s still more there. His initial answer was simple: “I’m beyond fortunate to have Giannis.” He expanded on that by saying that yes, he’s incredible, but at times you realize he can be better — and it’s so true. With the work ethic that Antetokounmpo brings day in and day out, there’s no limit as to how far he can soar. Thankfully, he hasn’t had to be used much since the Bucks are blowing everyone out. However, you can surely anticipate another big performance from the him in Game 3 up at Scotiabank Arena.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a more electric start to a basketball game than this:
GIANNIS ON BOTH ENDS TO START THE GAME. pic.twitter.com/ubtTWEJzH6— House of Highlights (@HoHighlights) May 18, 2019
- Okay, first the dunk. He killed two stones there: his first rebound of the game, coupled with his first two points of the game. What a way to do it. And then the block. My goodness. Just a man among boys. An absolute animal. I can’t stop watching.
- It was another difficult outing for Marc Gasol. He’d tally just two points on a mighty ugly shot line: 1-of-9 from the floor. Yikes. That trade continues to get worse by the day. Both Nick Nurse and Kyle Lowry expressed optimism that he’ll pick things up in Game 3, but at this point, is it too late?
- The Bench Mob continues to do their thing. They’d have three players register in double-digits (E. Ilyasova, G. Hill, and M. Brogdon) while Norman Powell was the only one to reach that plateau on the Toronto side. That Gasol trade continues to look bad for the Raptors, as they could definitely use the firepower from Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, and CJ Miles in this series. But hey, we’ll gladly take it!
- Giannis did a magnificent job of facilitating the basketball last night. Whenever he was dribbling down the floor, he’d always keep his head on a swivel and be alert of where his teammates were and got them involved, especially if they were situated in the corners. Once that occurs, the ball movement really starts to flow for Milwaukee.
- It was pretty awesome to see Ersan join the podium with Giannis and George Hill postgame. Please feel free to use this smug smile from him for any of your memes:
The Ersan Ilyasova Podium Game.— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) May 18, 2019
“First time?” Giannis jokes to him. pic.twitter.com/haPe8pe71X
There was also some initial confusion as the guys got situated:
The Bucks had trouble getting seated for their postgame presser pic.twitter.com/HBmjBfdEZz— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) May 18, 2019
- Last, I want to finish with what Giannis said following the presser. Suki Hobson really is the heart and soul of this team and her behind-the-scenes work is a major contribution in the success that this team is having:
Giannis closes out the presser with a shoutout to @sukihobson.— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) May 18, 2019
“Strength conditioning coach of the year!” he exclaims.
“Way to give Suki some love,” George Hill says to him walking down the stairs.
- Oh, wait....one more thing. Y’all. We are TWO WINS AWAY from the NBA FINALS. Let’s freaking go.