SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Jeff Zillgitt breaks down the Eastern Conference finals between the Bucks and Raptors and the matchup of stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard.
MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks served notice on Friday night at Fiserv Forum.
If they are firing on all cylinders, the Bucks will be a very tough team to beat in a playoff series.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 30 points and 17 rebounds and five other players scored in double figures for Milwaukee as the Bucks rolled to an emphatic 125-103 victory over the Toronto Raptors to take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
The Bucks shot a blistering 46.7%, a much better showing than their 39.8% in a 108-100 victory in Game 1.
Antetokounmpo asserted his will right from the start, throwing down two dunks to open the scoring and emphatically swatting a shot from Marc Gasol into the stands.
Antetokounmpo also had a nice assist on a 3-pointer from Nikola Mirotic. The Bucks scored the first nine points of the game, prompting Raptors coach Nick Nurse to call an early timeout.
Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon came off the bench and made all three of his shots in the first quarter, including two 3-pointers.
Milwaukee shot 14-for-25 (56%) in the opening 12 minutes. The Raptors, who trailed by 18 points, cut Milwaukee’s lead to 35-21 at the end of the first quarter.
Ersan Ilyasova took his star turn for the Bucks in the second quarter. He had 12 points, a steal and two rebounds, leading a strong bench effort.
Milwaukee’s reserves had 31 points in the first half, led by Ilyasova’s 15 and Brogdon’s 12. Toronto’s bench had just 11 points in the first half.
Ilyasova provided his typical hustle plays, taking two charges and swiping an inbounds pass for a layup. That ignited some “Er-san! Er-san!” chants from the crowd as well as an “Ersan’s better” refrain when Raptors star Kawhi Leonard was at the free-throw line.
Mirotic added 15 points in the first half as the Bucks blitzed the Raptors, who looked frustrated at their inability to stop the onslaught. Antetokounmpo had 11 points, nine rebounds and three assists.
The Bucks went into the locker room with a 64-39 lead.
Toronto guard Kyle Lowry, who had 30 points on 10-for-15 shooting in Game 1, looked out of sorts on Friday. He was 2-for-6, including missing all three of his 3-point attempts, in the first half. He also collected his fourth foul with 1:03 remaining in the first half.
The Bucks proceeded to get the Raptors’ Pascal Siakam in foul trouble soon after halftime. First, Antetokounmpo had a three-point play on a drive against Siakam on the Bucks’ first possession of the second half. Then Brook Lopez drew Siakam’s fifth foul at the 9:26 mark of the third quarter.
The only player struggling on offense for the Bucks was point guard Eric Bledsoe, who shot 0-for-4 in the first half. He was also scoreless in the first half in Game 1.
Bledsoe finally got on the board in the third quarter when he Euro-stepped around Lowry for a layup that gave the Bucks a 70-44 lead.
The Bucks led by as many as 28 points in the third quarter, but the Raptors whittled it down to 78-63 after a three-point play by Leonard at the 4:40 mark.
But Ilyasova responded with a layup and Lopez added a three-point play.
The Raptors wouldn’t go away, though, and there was some nervous energy in the building when Toronto got within 83-70 and Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer called a timeout with 2:37 left in the third quarter.
Brogdon restored confidence with a layup, then two assists to George Hill off turnovers by the Raptors.
The Bucks went up 95-75, on a mid-range jumper from Bledsoe. But the Raptors’ Jodie Meeks nailed a running 3-pointer just before the third-quarter buzzer.
The Raptors never mounted a serious challenge in the fourth quarter, and both teams emptied their benches with several minutes left.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is part of the USA TODAY Network.