MILWAUKEE — Game 3 will go down as the massacre in Milwaukee.
Khris Middleton scored 20 points, while Giannis Antetokounmpo added 19 points to power the Bucks to a 104-77 rout of Toronto on Thursday that saw the Raptors dig themselves a first-half hole the size of Wisconsin.
The Bucks, who are making their first post-season appearance in two years, take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven opening round series into Saturday’s Game 4 in Milwaukee.
Kyle Lowry scored 13 points to top Toronto, while DeMar DeRozan managed just eight points — on 0-for-8 shooting — before the three-time all-stars took a seat for good midway through the fourth quarter.
Delon Wright had 13 points off the bench, while Jonas Valanciunas had 11 points and seven rebounds.
Moments before tipoff, Raptors coach Dwane Casey had talked about the “hostile environment.”
“We’ve been here before in a hostile environment,” Casey said. “You’ve got to make sure you come here and play to your identity. You can’t get rattled and get caught up in the crowd or caught up in the game and do something you normally don’t do. Play within yourself. Meet their intensity.”
The Raptors, who were introduced to the theme song from “Barney,” did the exact opposite.
The Bucks’ motto is “Fear the Deer,” and the hard-charging Bucks, with a young starting lineup that includes two rookies and a 22-year-old star in Antetokounmpo, had the Raptors running scared from the opening tip-off. They looked completely out of sorts, unable to make a shot or a pass — DeRozan uncharacteristically fired a pass to nobody that was caught by a fan.
The Raptors, who are notoriously slow starters anyways, managed just 12 points in the opening quarter, the second lowest in franchise playoff history. (They managed just nine points versus Detroit in 2002).
The massacre stretched into the second, and when Middleton scored on a free throw late in the first half it put the Bucks up by a whopping 32 points. Wright drained a three-pointer two seconds before the break, and the Raptors trudged into the halftime break down 57-30. Their biggest halftime deficit in playoff history was 31 points last year in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Cleveland.
The Raptors had brief stretches of better defence in the third, but it still wasn’t nearly enough and they went into the fourth quarter trailing 78-48.
A pair of Valanciunas free throws with 7:45 to play pulled the Raptors to within 23 points, but there would be no comeback for the team that led the league in comeback victories this season. And Casey emptied his bench with five minutes to play.
The Raptors shot just 33.8 per cent on the night and allowed the Bucks to 52 per cent. The Raptors went just 6-for-22 from three-point range.
The leather-lunged crowd of 18,717 fans at BMO Harris Bradley Center — including quarterback Aaron Rodgers and several Green Bay Packer teammates — sounded louder from the opening tipoff than at any moment during Game 1 or 2 back in Toronto. A few dozen fans made the trip from Toronto for the game.
The Raptors dropped a shocking 97-83 loss to the Bucks in the series opener, but replied with a 106-100 victory in Game 2.
The Bucks shot a sizzling 67 per cent in the first quarter and when Michael Beasley drained a three with 37 seconds left, it gave Milwaukee a 20-point lead. The Raptors couldn’t buy a basket in the opening frame, shooting 4-for-18 and 0-for-6 from three-point range. The Bucks took a 32-12 lead into the second.
The Raptors scored just 18 points in the second quarter, and finished the first half shooting a woeful 23 per cent.
Following Saturday, the series shifts back to Toronto for Game 5 on Monday.