It wasn’t vintage basketball. There were missed shots and foul outs. Kawhi Leonard was 11-for-25. But the Toronto Raptors managed to get a home victory in double overtime against the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday and close their Eastern Conference championship series deficit to two games to one.
Here’s how crunchtime broke down.
The Raptors led in the first quarter by 11 and held a lead throughout the first three periods. But the Bucks clawed back into contention.
With 38 seconds left, Malcolm Brogdon of the Bucks drove to the basket and executed a reverse layup to cut the Raptors’ lead to 96-94.
Point guard Kyle Lowry had fouled out with six minutes to play, so Fred VanVleet was getting important minutes for the Raptors (he finished 1-for-11 from the field). He missed a jumper, and Giannis Antetokounmpo got the rebound, setting up the Bucks with a chance to tie or win.
But with 9.5 seconds left, Khris Middleton missed a rushed, contested 3. Pascal Siakam got the rebound for the Raptors, and was fouled. Toronto looked as if it had the game won.
Siakam is a career 74 percent free throw shooter, but to the dismay of the home fans he managed to miss both shots.
Still down 2, Middleton tried to make amends for the Bucks by driving to the basket. He was blocked by VanVleet, but got his own rebound, scored on the putback and tied the game with 2.2 seconds left.
With 0.3 seconds left on the clock, Siakam managed to get off a 28-foot shot, which missed badly, banking off the glass. A game the Raptors seemed to have won was heading to overtime.
The Raptors started faster and were up by 4 with a minute and a half left. Again, they seemed to have the upper hand.
Off an assist by Antetokounmpo, Brogdon made a 6-foot floater, but the Raptors were still up 2 with 43 seconds left.
Leonard made a curious choice, taking a 29-foot 3-pointer. It would have been a killer had it fallen, but it did not, and the Bucks again had a chance.
George Hill got the rebound and was fouled. He made both shots with 14.5 seconds left, and the score was tied.
It was time for Leonard to try for the kind of heroics that he provided in Game 7 against the 76ers. But he missed a 18-foot fadeaway as time expired. While his miracle shot against the Sixers hit the rim four times before falling through, this one simply hit the back rim and bricked out.
Perhaps the most significant development occurred early, when Antetokounmpo fouled out less than a minute in. It wasn’t a great game for him, scoring-wise: 12 points, his lowest total since January, on 5-for-16 shooting. But he had contributed 23 rebounds, seven assists and four blocks and was a defensive titan as usual.
Still, the Bucks were down only 2 with the ball with 43 seconds left. But Siakam came up with a huge block on a Brook Lopez layup.
Leonard drove in for a layup of his own, made it, and the Raptors were up 4 with 30 seconds to play.
The game was over after Middleton turned it over in the back court, and Siakam atoned for his regulation free-throw misses by making two from the line and putting the Raptors up by 6.
The teams exchanged baskets, and the game was finally over after three hours and five minutes. Final score: 118-112, Raptors.
It was a great win for the Raptors, and celebrity fan Drake enjoyed it, as usual, from his prominent courtside seat. But there were disquieting signs.
The Bucks played badly, yet still nearly won. Beside the off shooting night from Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Eric Bledsoe were each 3-for-16, and Nikola Mirotic was 3-for-11. When an opponent is that off, you expect to win by double digits, and you don’t expect it to take 58 minutes of game time.
Even if the Raptors win Game 4 on Tuesday and tie the series — they are 2½-point underdogs — they will face two of the last three games in Milwaukee, where they lost by 8 and 22 points.
“At the end of the day, it wasn’t our best game,” Antetokounmpo told The Associated Press. “We can get a lot better.”
The Raptors must have an uneasy feeling that Antetokounmpo was right.