It took 58 minutes of game time, but the Toronto Raptors have their first win of the Eastern Conference Finals, squeaking past the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 3.
More than once, it seemed like the Raptors would let Game 3 slip away. After managing just 38 points in the second half, their lead was whittled down completely and the Bucks pushed them to overtime. Then a second overtime. But in the end, the Raptors survived, thanks to several huge plays at both ends of the floor from Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam.
Siakam and Leonard combined for 61 points, 20 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 steals and 2 blocks, shooting 20-of-43 from the field. They were far from perfect but every time the game was about to slip through their fingers, they came up with a block, a steal, a power dunk or an offensive rebound. That it took this great an effort on Toronto’s part speaks to just how formidable the Bucks are but a win is a win and Toronto has a chance to even things up completely on Tuesday night at home.
Malcolm Brogdon and George Hill were fantastic, again. The Bucks bench backcourt has been outstanding throughout this entire series. With size and skill they are both supremely versatile and they’ve done an excellent job filling in all the cracks, working together in tandem or wrapping around the starters. They combined for 44 points in Game 3, shooting 6-of-12 on 3-pointers, including a huge game-tying corner 3 by Hill with just under three minutes left in the first overtime. Brogdon added a reverse layup over Kawhi Leonard with under 40 seconds left to cut Toronto’s lead back to two and help force overtime in the first place. They were the only Bucks to score in the first overtime period and when Giannis Antetokounmpo fouled out, they looked like Milwaukee’s most under control offensive players. They’re doing it at the defensive end as well and their brilliance has helped cover up for the fact that Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton have been ice cold.
It was nice to see Marc Gasol making positive basketball plays again. The struggles of Gasol and Danny Green were a huge problem for Toronto in Games 1 and 2 and while Green barfed up a 1-of-9 performance in Game 3, Gasol redeemed himself with one of his best games in the playoffs. Other than one of the wildest, what-the-heck-were-you-doing-dude pass attempts we’ve ever seen, Gasol played an efficient and under-control game. He made his presence felt on the interior with 5 blocks and 12 rebounds, and added 7 assists with 4-of-8 shooting on 3-pointers at the other end. The Raptors don’t need Gasol to be a huge difference-maker but they do need him to make open shots and be a positive defensive presence around the basket.
Giannis looked gassed. He fouled out after 44 minutes on the floor, having shot 5-of-16 from the field with 23 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 blocks, but also 8 turnovers. Unlike Game 1 against Boston, he didn’t look to be bottled up by Toronto’s defense, he was just expending so much energy that some of the finer points of his touch and finishing weren’t there. I mean, he was 2-of-7 from the free throw line in a double-overtime game. Game 4 will be here in the blink of an eye and Milwaukee may need to look for some strategic ways to keep him fresher through the game.