The Milwaukee Bucks left it until late in Game 1 on Wednesday, but in Game 2 on Friday night, they left no doubt.
May 17, 2019; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) dunks during the first quarter against the Toronto Raptors in game two of the Eastern conference finals of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at Fiserv Forum. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
After showing the rust of a week’s layoff in winning the opener of the Eastern Conference finals, the Bucks took charge of Game 2 early to defeat the visiting Toronto Raptors 125-103 and grab a 2-0 series lead.
The next two games in the best-of-seven set are Sunday and Tuesday in Toronto.
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 30 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and added five assists for the Bucks.
He started the game with two dunks and a blocked shot as Milwaukee scored the first nine points.
The block might have been what impressed his coach the most.
“He plays the game so hard,” Mike Budenholzer said. “He lays it all on the line. It was a great start for us, and I think everybody fed off Giannis. … It was a great way to start a Game 2.”
Antetokounmpo said, “We wanted to protect our home court. (In Toronto), we have to bring the same energy.”
Ersan Ilyasova added 17 points off the bench for the Bucks. Nikola Mirotic had 15 points, Malcolm Brogdon 14, George Hill 13 and Khris Middleton 12.
“We came out and competed from the beginning of the game until the end,” Middleton said. “We had a little rust the first game, and this game we knew we wanted to come out with a full force and a fast pace.”
They did and Toronto did not.
“We were a step too slow on just about everything,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “We didn’t play very well tonight, we played better Wednesday. We were playing uphill for about three quarters. … We just didn’t do a good enough job of setting ourselves up.”
Nurse felt that his players did not do as well containing Antetokounmpo as they did in Game 1.
“Giannis was in on the paint with too much force,” Nurse said.
Kawhi Leonard scored 31 points and had eight rebounds for the Raptors. Kyle Lowry added 15 points, Norman Powell had 14 points, and Serge Ibaka contributed eight points and 10 rebounds.
Toronto center Marc Gasol had two points on 1-for-9 shooting.
“I played really bad, and that set the tone,” Gasol said. “The beginning put us in a real bad spot and we couldn’t get a grip of the game early on, and I take full responsibility for that.”
The Bucks, who never trailed on the night, led by as many as 28 points in the third quarter and entered the fourth with a 17-point advantage.
The Raptors cut the deficit to 15 on Leonard’s layup and free throw with 6:10 to play, but Antetokounmpo quickly answered with his own three-point play.
Toronto’s Pascal Siakam fouled out with 5:17 to go, finishing the game with eight points.
The Bucks led by as many as 18 points in the first quarter and were ahead 35-21 after 12 minutes.
The Raptors pulled within 12 during the second quarter, but the Bucks turned it on again and took a 19-point lead when Ilyasova nailed a 3-pointer with 4:58 remaining in the first half.
The Bucks led 64-39 at halftime, shooting 48.9 percent from the field while the Raptors shot 36.6 percent. For the game, Milwaukee outshot Toronto 46.7 percent to 42.5 percent.
Antetokounmpo opened the third quarter with a layup and a free throw, bumping the lead to 28.
The Raptors had trimmed the margin to 23 with 9:26 left in the third when they encountered foul trouble with Siakam picking up his fifth personal foul.
Fred VanVleet made a 5-footer with 3:52 remaining, and Milwaukee’s lead had dwindled to 13.
The Bucks got the gap back to 19, however, on consecutive layups by Hill late in the third.
Toronto’s Jodie Meeks ended the third quarter with a 3-pointer to cut Milwaukee’s lead to 95-78.