Raptors claw back into the reckoning against Bucks

The Toronto Raptors are on the board in the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals.Toronto defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 118-112 in a double-overtime thriller in Sunday's Game 3 at Scotiabank Arena and is now down 2-1 after dropping the first two contests on the road.

Kawhi Leonard (36 points, nine rebounds and five assists) led the way, but he received critical help from supporting-cast members Pascal Siakam (25 points, 11 rebounds and three steals), Norman Powell (19 points) and Marc Gasol (16 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and five blocks).

Even with all that, the Raptors needed two overtimes to win when Siakam missed two free throws in the final 10 seconds of regulation that would have pushed their lead to four. Khris Middleton scored on the other end to tie the game, and Siakam missed a potential game-winning three at the buzzer.

Siakam made up for his crunch-time struggles by drawing Giannis Antetokounmpo's sixth foul in the second overtime, which allowed Toronto to finally escape with the win. 

He also blocked Brook Lopez in the final minute of the game with the Raptors nursing a two-point lead before Leonard pushed the advantage to four on the other end.

Antetokounmpo finished with just 12 points on 5-of-16 shooting, although he grabbed 23 rebounds to go with seven assists and four blocks. George Hill led the Bucks in scoring with 24 points, while Malcolm Brogdon added 20 off the bench.

Inconsistency from Toronto's secondary options has been an issue for much of the playoffs, but Siakam and Gasol challenged that narrative just in time during Sunday's bounce-back win. 

Siakam's performance was particularly important because he has been the team's next-best scorer for extended stretches this season and the one the Raptors turn to whenever Leonard needs a brief respite.

It was a welcome change after he was an ugly 6-of-20 from the field in Game 1 and struggled on his way to eight points in Game 2. His lackluster showing was a primary reason the Raptors wasted Kyle Lowry's 30 points in the series opener.

The first two games were also a continuation of the issues that plagued Toronto in the second round against the Philadelphia 76ers when Leonard shot 39 times in Game 7 and seemed to take an it's-me-or-bust approach with the season hanging in the balance instead of letting his teammates shoulder some of the responsibility.

It would have been easy for Siakam to fold after he missed the free throws and buzzer-beater in regulation, but he remained aggressive and drew the critical sixth foul on Antetokounmpo. 

He also drew an offensive foul on Giannis earlier in the game that put the Bucks star in the precarious position he was in for the second overtime. Leonard was playing with a noticeable limp even though he was still brilliant enough to spearhead the offense in crunch time.

Brogdon will provide better defense against Toronto's starters and superior shooting to capitalize on the openings when the Raptors collapse on Antetokounmpo. It's time to return him to the starting lineup. The series continues with Tuesday's Game 4 in Toronto.


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