HOOP HANGOUT • NBA PLAYOFFS • GAMEDAY POST • May 21st 2019

Lowry has 25, Raptors rout Bucks 120-102 to even East finals

Associated Press

TORONTO — With a weary Kawhi Leonard fighting through fatigue, the Toronto Raptors found enough energy to pull away from the Milwaukee Bucks.

Kyle Lowry led the way.

Lowry scored 25 points, Leonard had 19 and the Raptors beat the Milwaukee Bucks 120-102 on Tuesday night to even the Eastern Conference finals at two games apiece.

“This was one of the nights that we knew Kawhi was a little bit limited and we had to come out and be aggressive for him,” Lowry said.

Leonard played 52 minutes in a double-overtime win in Game 3 on Sunday despite dealing with leg soreness. He limped away from the basket following a third-quarter dunk in Game 4, but still toughed it out for 34 minutes.

“I feel good,” Leonard insisted. “I’m going to keep going and keep fighting. We have a chance to make history.”

Raptors coach Nick Nurse said he’s not worried about Leonard’s health.

“He’s certainly tired, like a lot of guys in this series are,” Nurse said. “He looks OK to me. There was one time I was trying to give him an extended rest and he didn’t really want it so he must be OK.”

Serge Ibaka had 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Raptors, who improved to 7-2 at home this postseason. Reserve Norm Powell scored 18 points, and Marc Gasol had 17 points and a team-high seven assists.

“The first two games, they really brought the intensity to us,” Powell said. “They really came out and were more physical, more active. We wanted to change that narrative coming home.”

“We need to take this challenge of playing in a hostile environment,” Nurse said. “We’re going into a tough, loud place to play. Let’s see if those guys can bring that same pop and focus and determination on the road.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 25 points and 10 rebounds for the top-seeded Bucks. Khris Middleton scored 30 points, but no one else had more than 11.

Milwaukee lost its second straight following a six-game winning streak. It dropped consecutive games just once during the regular season, at Utah on March 2 and at Phoenix on March 4.

“This is probably the first night defensively where I don’t feel like we were close to where you need to be,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We got punched. They played really well.”

Toronto’s Fred VanVleet, who missed 16 of 20 shot attempts through the first three games of the series, went 5 for 6 from the field in Game 4. He made each of his three 3-point tries and finished with 13 points.

“He needed one of those games,” Lowry said. “He played well and made some great plays tonight.”

Ahead 94-81 to start the fourth, the Raptors extended their lead with a 10-3 spurt, including seven points from VanVleet. Powell’s fast-break layup with 8:35 left put Toronto up 104-84.

“We’ve got to guard better,” Middleton said. “Everybody on their team, I feel like they got pretty much whatever they wanted. Everything was easy.”

Antetokounmpo shot 5 for 8 in the opening frame, matching the number of made baskets he had during Game 3. However, the Bucks star went 4 for 9 the rest of the way.

Leonard and Pascal Siakam, who both played more than 50 minutes Sunday, looked sluggish in the opening half. Leonard missed the only shot he took in the second, while Siakam played fewer than three minutes in the second after picking up his third foul. Siakam had two points at halftime.

Leonard came up limping after dunking against Antetokounmpo early in the third, but remained in the game. Moments later, Siakam completed a three-point play that put Toronto up 73-60 with 8:43 left.

“We just came out in the third quarter flat,” Antetokounmpo said.

Ilyasova missed a 3 with 3:50 remaining in the third that could have cut the deficit to four points. Powell replied with a 3 and, following miss by Malcolm Brogdon, Leonard drained a jumper to push Toronto’s lead to 86-74.

TIP-INS

Bucks: Middleton missed his first attempt of the game, and then made the next eight in row. He finished 11 for 15. … Antetokounmpo air-balled his first free-throw attempt in the first quarter. … Brogdon shot 0 for 5 in the first half and missed seven straight before connecting late in the third. He finished 2 for 11.

Raptors: Lowry scored 12 of Toronto’s first 17 points. He finished 10 for 10 at the line. … The Raptors are 4-0 on Tuesdays in these playoffs. … Toronto outscored Milwaukee 28-6 on bench points in the first half. The Raptors finished with a 48-23 advantage in bench scoring. … Siakam scored seven points, his lowest total in these playoffs. … Leonard had four of Toronto’s nine steals.

The home team has won all four games in the series so far. Game 5 is Thursday night in Milwaukee.

Warriors first to 5 Finals in row since 1966 Celtics

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Golden State Warriors have earned their fifth straight trip to the NBA Finals after beating the Portland Trail Blazers 119-117 in overtime of Game 4 of the Western Conference finals on Monday night.

This is the first time a team has made five straight Finals appearances since the Boston Celtics went 10 straight times, from 1957 to 1966.

“It’s special,” Warriors forward Draymond Green told ESPN. “The first since Boston? Yeah, that’s special. We’ve been through a lot. It just wasn’t all peaches to get here. We’ve had our mountains to climb, but for this group to stick together and do the unthinkable, it’s special. Nonetheless, our goal was never to make five straight Finals, it’s to win. So, our work ain’t done yet.”

The Warriors made it happen Monday night by coming back from a double-digit second-half deficit for the third straight game, this time crawling all the way back from a 17-point hole.

“I hope it doesn’t go unnoticed or underrated,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “You know, five straight Finals hasn’t been done since the ’60s, since Bill Russell‘s Celtics. Hasn’t been done for a reason: It’s really, really difficult.

“I just can’t say enough about the competitive desire about the group of players that we have here and the culture that they have built together. You know, playing together regardless of injury. Being without Kevin [Durant] these last five games has put us in a really tough spot, and our guys stepped up in a big way.”

Once again, it was star guard Stephen Curry who led the Warriors all the way back Monday night. The two-time MVP finished with a triple-double, racking up 37 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.

It was the fifth straight postseason game that Curry scored at least 30 points, the longest such streak of his career. Curry is now just the sixth player in NBA history to score 35 or more points in each of the first four games of a series, joining Elgin BaylorLeBron James(twice), Michael Jordan (twice), Bernard King and Jerry West, according to ESPN Stats & Information data.

“I think as much as we’ve been here, nothing’s really new at this point,” Curry said. “We still don’t take anything for granted. We understand how hard it is to win at this level and we don’t want it to end for as long as we can control it. So, a night like tonight where you’re up 3-0, they go on a crazy run in the second half, a lot of teams would have said, ‘You know what? We’ll just get them [in] Game 5, and go home, and rely on our home crowd.’

“But the trust — knowing that everyone was going to play until the horn sounded at the end of the fourth quarter or tonight [in] overtime allowed us to dig deep and find just a way to win. You could sit here and talk about every single guy that stepped foot on the court tonight that came with that mentality. And we walk off the court with some fancy hats and celebrating our fifth straight Finals, it’s a pretty special moment.”

The Warriors swept the Blazers despite trailing for more minutes in the series (101) than they led (83), according to research from ESPN Stats & Information. Green, the emotional leader of the group, continued his stellar postseason play on Monday, racking up his second straight triple-double with 18 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists, including a huge 3-pointer with 39.6 seconds left in overtime that helped seal the win.

Curry and Green became the first teammates in NBA postseason history to record a triple-double in the same game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Curry and Green made huge plays throughout the series with the Blazers, and they are the main reasons why the Warriors’ streak of dominance continued over the past week.

“They are fun to watch,” Kerr said. “They are kind of made for each other from a basketball standpoint. You know, they have been doing this for a long time, so they have got a real feel for each other.”

The Warriors now have nine days of rest before heading to either the Milwaukee Bucks or Toronto Raptors for Game 1 of the NBA Finals on May 30. The extra time to recover is even more important than usual for Golden State, given that the Warriors are dealing with several lingering injuries as they look to win their third straight NBA championship.

Kevin Durant hasn’t played since injuring his right calf in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Houston Rockets on May 8. The Warriors are optimistic Durant will be able to return for the Finals, but as Kerr has said several times over the past week, the organization has been vague about a potential return date because it is waiting to see how Durant continues to respond to treatment.

Warriors swingman Andre Iguodala missed Monday’s game because of a sore left calf after suffering the injury in Game 3 on Saturday. The Warriors don’t sound concerned the former Finals MVP will have to miss extended time, but they know he could use the extra rest, as well.

Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins, who tore his right quad in Game 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinals against the Los Angeles Clippers on April 15, remains the wild card for the Warriors. After initially being listed as “unlikely” to return this season following his injury, Cousins continues to put in work on the floor, and the Warriors have been pleased by his progress. He still has some hurdles to clear over the next week, but there is hope he also could return for the Finals at some point.

In the meantime, the Warriors want to savor what they have accomplished, knowing there is one more step to climb in order to build upon the legacy they’ve already created. The celebration late Monday night was very businesslike for a team that is no stranger to celebrations that follow NBA Finals.

“It’s an amazing, amazing feeling,” Warriors swingman Klay Thompson said. “And on top of that, do it in a place where I grew up watching my favorite players play, it’s really a dream come true. I’m just trying to soak it all in right now before it’s over, because I got some really special memories in this building.

“I’m just thankful to be in this position, because not a lot of guys get to go to one Finals, let alone five straight, and I really can’t believe it — and I can’t wait to get started again.”

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