The Toronto Raptors squandered another opportunity on Friday night. Heading into Game 2 with a chance to tie their Eastern Conference Finals matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks and head back to Toronto with a fighting chance in the best-of-seven series, the Raptors lost ugly, 125-103.
Once again, the Raptors failed to get production from key contributors, and despite mounting a mini-comeback on a couple of occasions in the second half, the Bucks ran their opponents off the floor with the force and ease that should leave Toronto fans extremely nervous for what’s in store when the series resumes on Sunday.
But until then, as we do following each and every Raptors playoff game, let’s take a look at what the out-of-market media are saying about Toronto:
It’s not the first time this postseason that Milwaukee’s bench players have been heavy contributors. The Bucks owed their Game 3 win at the Boston Celtics in the conference semifinals to a third-quarter run by the bench; Hill outscored Boston’s reserves 21-16 by himself for the game.
But in the conference finals, the disparity between the two teams’ depth has been apparent. Toronto’s starting lineup has struggled to find chemistry, and Kawhi Leonard didn’t get much help in Game 2, as only two other Raptors finished in double figures. It wasn’t much better for Toronto in Game 1, as only three Raptors finished in double figures — and Milwaukee reserve guard Malcolm Brogdon outscored the visiting team’s bench 15-12.
…Toronto’s depth was further stretched on Friday because starting center Marc Gasol, who has been a matchup target for the Bucks, scored only two points in 19 minutes on 1-of-9 shooting from the field. Pascal Siakam, officially a finalist for this season’s Most Improved Player award, fouled out in 26 minutes with eight points and was overpowered by Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Raptors are relying on Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka and Norman Powell to play strong rotation minutes in this series; forward OG Anunoby is still not close to playing because of an emergency appendectomy just before the start of the postseason. VanVleet has struggled significantly, shooting only 28.4 percent from the field in the postseason, and Ibaka is the only reserve averaging more than 20 minutes in the playoffs. Powell had a strong Game 2 (14 points, 6 of 9 field goals), but prior to Friday, Toronto head coach Nick Nurse hadn’t played him more than 20 minutes since the first round against the Orlando Magic.
NBA on TNT — Inside the NBA crew react to Raptors loss
“You can lose big, but you can’t lose big the way they lost today,” Kenny Smith explains, while Shaq and Charles Barkley weigh in on the Raptors’ struggles and lack of scoring from the supporting cast.
…After being nipped by Milwaukee in the closing minutes of Game 1 on Wednesday night, the Raptors sputtered out of the gate in Game 2. They trailed 9-0 after three minutes of action, during which Gasol missed three shots, including a layup attempt swatted away at point-blank range by Bucks center Brook Lopez.
“I played really bad, and that set the tone,” Gasol said.
Gasol finished with two points on 1-for-9 shooting from the field and is 3-for-20 over the first two games of the series. On Friday, he logged 19 minutes — only five in the second half — as Raptors coach Nick Nurse opted to play Serge Ibaka for much of the second half.
“I feel bad for him,” Nurse said.
Loser: Pascal Siakam, the Raptor Wing Who’s Staying for Sure
Siakam hasn’t exactly been the revelation this series that he had been all season. Game 2 was his second questionable scoring night in a row: seven points, 4-for-9 from the field, and 0-for-2 from behind the arc. He didn’t take a single trip to the line, and fouled out with more than five minutes remaining. The timing didn’t matter, really, as Toronto was down 110-92, but it was the cap on an evening when Siakam was aggressive in all the wrong places.
Raptors optimists see Siakam as a consolation prize for whatever happens with Kawhi Leonard in free agency. I called him Leonard Lite; I’d still call him Leonard Lite. Those flashes of brilliance don’t go away with a pair of unfortunate games, especially considering Siakam may be dealing with the lingering effects of a calf injury from the Sixers series. Yet down 0-2 against what’s looking like an all-powerful Bucks team, it’s hard to rally around the fact that Siakam will be back next season. Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum broke out in “Future Clipper” chants directed at Kawhi at one point, which is an NBA Twitter a thing to chant and depressing for Toronto—if it can’t pull off an NBA Finals appearance with Leonard, it certainly won’t be able to without him.