Bucks rout Raptors for 2-1 series lead
MILWAUKEE--The Bradley Center was throbbing, filled with raucous basketball fans eager to watch one of the NBA’s up-and-coming teams.
The Milwaukee Bucks fed off the energy that pulsed through the stands, overwhelming the cold-shooting Toronto Raptors from the opening tip.
Khris Middleton scored 20 points in a 104-77 victory Thursday night that gave the Bucks a 2-1 lead in their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series.
Greg Monroe added 16 points and seven rebounds for the sixth-seeded Bucks, who held DeMar DeRozan without a basket and never looked back after leading by 20 points after the first quarter.
If the Bucks take this series, Game 3 might be seen as a turning point in the development of a rebuilding franchise in a town starving for basketball success. Milwaukee hasn’t won a playoff series since going to the conference finals in 2001.
“It was big from the first play,” All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo said about the home-court environment. “It was just fun, fun to play with such great fans … Hopefully they can show some love and be loud in Game 4.”
The teams meet again Saturday in Milwaukee.
Making this blowout even more impressive was that they barely needed Antetokounmpo. He finished with 19 points and eight boards.
With raucous fans wearing black Bucks giveaway T-shirts to match the players’ uniforms, Milwaukee put on a dominating display of basketball worthy of the team’s “Fear the Deer” slogan.
The Raptors looked frazzled after shooting 4 of 18 in the first quarter. Kyle Lowry had 13 points.
“I thought our defense was active, and guys were picking each other up,” coach Jason Kidd said.
DeRozan scored eight points but was 0 of 8 from the field. The Raptors and their playoff-tested backcourt looked nothing like the crew that held off the Bucks in Game 2 in Toronto.
This night belonged to Milwaukee.
“They ambushed us,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “There was no aspect of our game that we executed whatsoever.”