Bucks run wild over Raptors to grab series lead
Toronto squad rattled from the start in 'hostile environment'
Kyle Lowry's seething silence said everything.
While DeMar DeRozan answered questions about one of the Raptors' worst losses in franchise history, Toronto's all-star point guard leaned back in the chair beside him, his lips pursed, his eyes narrowed in an angry glare.
The Raptors were thoroughly routed by an upstart Milwaukee Bucks team 104-77 on Thursday night, and in the moments after the ugly loss, Lowry's body language mirrored his team's shock and rage.
"We got our ass bust," Lowry finally said, when asked to sum up the Raptors' woeful performance.
Lowry scored 13 points to top Toronto, while DeRozan went without a field goal in the playoffs for the first time in his career, managing just eight points on 0-for-8 shooting.
Delon Wright had 13 points off the bench, while Jonas Valanciunas had 11 points and seven rebounds.
All the pre-game talk was about matching the Bucks' intensity, but the Raptors did exactly the opposite, digging themselves a first-half hole the size of Wisconsin. Now the Bucks take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven playoff series into Saturday's Game 4 in Milwaukee.
If the Raptors' confidence took a wallop with the loss, Lowry wasn't saying so.
"I still think we can win the series," he said. "It ain't over. It just sucks right now. It's a terrible night right now. It's a terrible feeling the way we just got our ass beat. Terrible feeling. So we'd better pick it up. If not, it's going to be a terrible feeling again. But our confidence has not changed. We'll be fine. We've got to come out there and do what we gotta do Saturday."
Khris Middleton scored 20 points, while Giannis Antetokounmpo added 19 points to lead the Bucks, who are making their first playoff appearance in two seasons.
Introduced to the theme music of "Barney," it was all downhill from that point for Toronto.
Milwaukee's motto is "Fear the Deer," and the hard-charging Bucks, with a young starting lineup that includes two rookies and a 22-year-old star in Antetokounmpo, had the Raptors running scared from the opening tip-off. They looked completely out of sorts, unable to make a shot or a pass — DeRozan uncharacteristically fired a pass to nobody that was caught by a fan.
Asked for answer, coach Dwane Casey said: "There's none."
"It starts with us, myself as a coach as far as having them ready to play in a hostile environment," Casey said. "They ambushed us, and there's no aspect of our game that we executed whatsoever."
The Raptors, who are notoriously slow starters anyway, managed just 12 points in the opening quarter, the second lowest in franchise playoff history. (They managed just nine points versus Detroit in 2002).
"They kicked our ass. They kicked our ass. Period," said P.J. Tucker — he would repeat the phrase four more times before the end of his interview. "They came out and played harder, more aggressive, did everything they wanted to do."
Tucker scoffed when asked about the team's morale.
"It's professional basketball. This is your livelihood," he said. "Nobody should have to go out and hype you up. This is what you do. If you don't have morale to fight in the NBA playoffs, then this ain't the job for you."
DeRozan said the Raptors need to turn their anger into motivation.
"Use everything that happened tonight, that's going to come with the next 24 hours, use it as motivation," he said. "And as competitors, be back ready for Saturday."