RAP­TORS THUMP BUCKS TO LEVEL NBA EASTERN CON­FER­ENCE FI­NALS AT 2-2

Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - SPORTS -

The Toronto Rap­tors closed ranks around hurt­ing star Kawhi Leonard, turn­ing in a to­tal team ef­fort in a 120-102 vic­tory over the Mil­wau­kee Bucks Tuesday to level the NBA Eastern Con­fer­ence fi­nals. Kyle Lowry led the Rap­tors with 25 points and Toronto’s bench out-scored Mil­wau­kee’s 48-23 as the Rap­tors fol­lowed up their dou­ble-over­time tri­umph in game three with a sec­ond straight home win.

They knot­ted the best-of-seven se­ries at 2-2 with game five in Mil­wau­kee to­day.

The win­ner of the se­ries will take on two-time de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Golden State, who com­pleted a West­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nals sweep of Portland to reach their fifth straight NBA Fi­nals.

Leonard, who down­played sug­ges­tions he was in­jured af­ter the gritty game-three vic­tory, looked hob­bled at times -- winc­ing no­tice­ably af­ter dunk­ing on Bucks star Giannis

An­te­tok­oun­mpo in the third quar­ter.

Leonard grabbed a pass from Span­ish big man Marc Ga­sol and drove for the bas­ket, An­te­tok­oun­mpo’s move to stop him com­ing too late.

Leonard landed hard and held his left leg -- al­though he would play on.

“We un­der­stood Kawhi wasn’t go­ing to be great -- 100 per­cent tonight,” Lowry said, the knowl­edge mean­ing the Rap­tors knew “ev­ery­body has to step up and stay focused on the game plan.” Lowry scored 18 points in the first half as the Rap­tors came back from an early seven-point deficit to lead 32-31 af­ter one quar­ter.

Nor­man Pow­ell added 18 points off the bench. Serge Ibaka and Ga­sol scored 17 apiece, Ibaka also pulling down 13 re­bounds. Fred Vanvleet chipped in 13 points.

Vanvleet, who missed 16 of 20 shot at­tempts in the first three games of the se­ries, con­nected on five of six from the field, drain­ing all three of his three-point at­tempts.

Toronto pushed their lead to as many as 16 points in the third pe­riod and led by 13 go­ing into the fi­nal frame.

Khris Mid­dle­ton led the Bucks with 30 points, six re­bounds and seven as­sists.

Mil­wau­kee’s Most Valu­able Player fi­nal­ist An­te­tok­oun­mpo added 25 points and 10 re­bounds, and Nikola Mirotic scored 11.

But the Bucks lost their sec­ond straight game, some­thing they did just once dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son.

Two home wins gave the Rap­tors some breathing room as they head back to Mil­wau­kee, but Lowry said they’d done noth­ing more than hold serve.

“They did what they did at home and we did what we’re sup­posed to do at home,” he said.

“Our back’s against the wall still,” Lowry added. “We’re go­ing into a hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment. They’re go­ing to be ready to go.

G.an­te­tok­oun­mpo (34) of the Bucks han­dles the ball against K.leonard (2) of the Rap­tors

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