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Rapid Recap: Bucks 102, Raptors 120

The Eastern Conference Finals are now tied at 2-2.

NBA: Playoffs-Milwaukee Bucks at Toronto Raptors Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Game Four carried enormous implications for the Eastern Conference Finals series between the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks. Toronto emerged victorious and revived their postseason hopes, 120-102.

Things got out of the Bucks’ control early in the first half, and it was clear that the Raptors wanted to re-assert themselves as a contender and maintain control over their home court. With a chance to go up in the series, it’s disappointing that Milwaukee returns home with the Eastern Conference Finals tied at 2-2. However, the Bucks still have three chances to win two games, including two held at Fiserv Forum. Things could be much worse, even if Bucks fans are starting to worry.

Both teams scorched the nets in the first quarter, with shots falling early and often; Milwaukee’s first quarter FG% (54.5%) beat Toronto’s (47.6%), the Raptors hit 6/12 threes (the Bucks only hit 4/10). Giannis Antetokounmpo (25 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks) got himself started early with a Euro-step, a dunk, and another dunk, and Kawhi Leonard (19 points, 7 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 blocks) matched Giannis’ offense with some stout defense and savvy midrange makes...when he wasn’t getting some extra rest due to a mysterious leg injury.

With the first quarter closing at 32-31 in favor of Toronto, the Bucks gave up an extended run that ended up with a ten-point deficit and a Mike Budenholzer timeout to the sounds of a very excited Toronto crowd. Serge Ibaka (17 points, 13 boards) had a particularly strong stretch of rebounds and dunks, with a three-pointer for good measure. Khris Middleton (30 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds) helped steady the Bucks’ offense with a trio of threes, a nifty floater, and a savvy two-shot foul against Pascal Siakam (7 points, 6 dimes, 5 fouls). Nevertheless, the Bucks continued to struggle with the Raptor’s zone defense, while the defense continued to hemorrhage points and halftime saw Toronto carrying a 65-55 lead.

The third quarter largely brought more of the same; as soon as Milwaukee would string together a few nice possessions, someone like Kyle Lowry (25 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds) or Norman Powell (18 points on 18 shots) would hit a shot to rebuild the lead. Then the wheels started to rattle off of the axels as the fourth quarter brought even more poor fortune Milwaukee’s way.

Stat That Stood Out

48-25. Toronto’s much-maligned bench came alive, as the short playoff rotation of Ibaka, Powell, and Fred VanVleet (13 points, 6 assists) provided all of the support that the Raptors had lacked in the first pair of games in this series. Milwaukee’s bench struggled mightily to continue the solid play they had established previously, despite having earned much of the credit for making the Bucks what they are this year.

The Bucks are 2-0 at home. The Raptors are 2-0 at home. Game Five is in Milwaukee on Thursday.