MILWAUKEE — After a pair of thrilling games in Toronto, the Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks resume their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series Thursday night at Bradley Center.
Milwaukee took Game 1 in commanding fashion while Toronto recovered by holding off a number of late charges from the Bucks to even things up in Game 2.
Now, the East’s No. 3 team says it’s ready to hit its stride.
“Our energy has gotten up; we’re playing harder. Still there’s small things,” said Toronto’s PJ Tucker, who tallied five points and five rebounds in Game 2. “We haven’t been together in so long, so we’re still figuring each other out, figuring it out how we’re playing together on the defensive end.
“Once we get that figured out, I think we can take it up another couple notches.”
Toronto will again need to find a way to contain Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. After allowing 28 points on 13-of-17 shooting in the series opener, the Raptors made him work harder Tuesday, holding him to 9-of-24 shooting.
“You’re not going to stop a superstar this time of year,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “We want to slow him down. It’s not one guy. It’s a team effort. We want to continue to take his numbers down as much as we can. He’s a great player. He’s making threes. That’s something we’ve got to make sure we understand, and not let someone else have a big night.”
The Bucks are hoping to capitalize on a raucous home-court advantage to pull ahead in the series, but coach Jason Kidd has been urging his young squad to not get too comfortable in front of its home crowd.
“You can’t think about having two games at home,” Kidd said. “You have to stay in the moment. We’re all excited to be home. For us, we had an opportunity in Game 2. We had some good looks at the end, but the ball didn’t fall for us. We’re focused on the first possession of Game 3 and trying to find a way to win.”
Kidd’s rotation changed slightly down the stretch in Game 2 as he left Tony Snell on the bench while using point guards Malcolm Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova in tandem. The move raised some eyebrows, but Kidd insisted that it was just a matter of matchups and rhythm and nothing against Snell, who played only 21 minutes.
“I think Delly and Malcolm play well together,” Kidd said. “Unfortunately, it’s just like the bigs; someone has to sit. Tony hasn’t done anything wrong. Tony’s playing extremely well for us. It was a call I felt comfortable with.
“It could be Malcolm or it could be Delly sitting and Tony in, but it’s about the team. We’ve always said that. It’s not built around one guy. Those guys came in, we got the looks that we wanted, they just didn’t go down for us.”
Toronto won three of the four meetings with the Bucks during the season and split two encounters in Milwaukee.