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Toronto Raptors host Milwaukee Bucks in Game 3 of Eastern Conference Finals

Watch Bucks @ Raptors Game 3 live on Sky Sports Arena in the early hours of Monday morning (12am)

Monday 20 May 2019 17:24, UK

Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks and Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors defend their positions during Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2019 NBA Playoffs on May 15, 2019 at the Fiserv Forum Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Image: The Toronto Raptors trail the Milwaukee Bucks 2-0 in the Easter Conference Finals

The Toronto Raptors will look to hit back on their home court in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals when they host the Milwaukee Bucks in the early hours on Monday morning.

Playoff Picture: How things stand

Playoff Picture: How things stand

How are the Conference Finals unfolding?

The Toronto Raptors have their backs to the wall after two very different defeats in Milwaukee to begin the Eastern Conference Finals.

A late surge from the Bucks saw them snatch a tight Game 1 before a completely dominant Game 2 display, spearheaded by 30 points from Giannis Antetokounmpo, sealed a 2-0 lead.

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Kawhi Leonard has scored 31 points in each game for the Raptors, but aside from Kyle Lowry's stellar 30-point performance in Game 1, there has been next to no support.

Giannis Antetokounmpo soars for a huge dunk against the Toronto Raptors in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Image: Giannis Antetokounmpo soars for a huge dunk against the Toronto Raptors in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

With Leonard's future set to be decided when his contract expires at the end of the season, his Raptors team-mates are running out of time to prove they can help him achieve his championship ambitions in Toronto.

For the Bucks, if they continue on the destructive path they've trodden through the Eastern Conference bracket thus far, belief will grow that they can push the Golden State Warriors all the way in what is now appearing to be a likely Finals matchup.

Crucial to those hopes is the continued improvement of Malcolm Brogdon's conditioning following his return from injury. The skilled guard's cool temperament will be invaluable to the Bucks when the Raptors inevitably apply some.

More on this story

Key Battle: Eric Bledsoe vs Kyle Lowry

Point guards Kyle Lowry and Eric Bledsoe could play a decisive role in the remainder of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Image: Point guards Kyle Lowry and Eric Bledsoe could play a decisive role in the remainder of the Eastern Conference Finals.

While it may not be the series' marquee match-up, the battle between these two dynamic point guards could prove to be decisive.

Such is the brilliance of superstars Antetokounmpo and Leonard, you can almost be sure they will deliver elite output on a nightly basis. The same cannot be said for Eric Bledsoe and Kyle Lowry, who have both experienced their fair share of postseason problems.

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Lowry showed what he was capable of in Game 1 with 30 points on 10-15 shooting from the field, but regressed to the form he showed for much of the previous round against the Philadelphia 76ers as he scored 15 points on 4-13 shooting in Game 2.

Bledsoe hasn't got going in either game, shooting a combined 6-22, but while in the past he may have been disheartened, the fact his team are 2-0 up should see him enter Game 3 with the freedom to attack.

Both have the potential to turn in All-Star calibre performances on any given night - one now might be the difference between victory and defeat,

Last time out

Giannis Antetokounmpo attacks in Milwaukee's Game 2 victory over the Toronto Raptors 2:39
Highlights from Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals series between the Toronto Raptors and the Milwaukee Bucks.

Numbers game

29 - That is how many more rebounds the Bucks have claimed than the Raptors over the opening two games. The figure is not just down to the Raptors missing more shots either, with the Bucks also having grabbed 12 more offensive boards.

Even if the Raptors choose to go small, which they did for large parts of Game 2, there is no excuse for such an enormous discrepancy. They must rebound as a team to ensure the Bucks aren't gifted extra opportunities to score.

One to watch: (Bucks) Nikola Mirotic

Nikola Mirotic has yet to find his best form for the Milwaukee Bucks during the playoffs
Image: Nikola Mirotic has yet to find his best form for the Milwaukee Bucks during the playoffs

The Bucks' February acquisition of Mirotic, who was only a rental in the sense his contract expires at the end of the season, was a sign that they believed they could go all the way in the postseason.

Perhaps partly due to the injuries that have interrupted his brief time with the team, Mirotic has yet to find his best form. However, he has played in every playoff game, and the streaky shooter is surely due a three-point explosion sooner rather than later.

He has shot just 3-13 from beyond the arc in the opening two games, but it would take a lot more misses than that to put the trigger-happy Mirotic off firing away from range.

One to watch: (Raptors) Marc Gasol

Marc Gasol has struggled to make an impact on the offensive end for the Toronto Raptors during the playoffs.
Image: Marc Gasol has struggled to make an impact on the offensive end for the Toronto Raptors during the playoffs.

Another player looking for an offensive explosion will be Mirotic's Spain teammate Marc Gasol. The experienced center's best contribution of the playoffs so far was consoling Joel Embiid after the Raptors Game 7 win over the Sixers.

While Gasol proved in that moment that he is a great person, he now must show that he remains a great player, with his current total of just 8 points in the series on a horrific 3-20 from the floor suggesting otherwise.

The Raptors must persist with going to Gasol because without some sort of contribution from him, they are quite simply not going to have enough to beat the Bucks.

If Gasol fails to deliver again, Nick Nurse will be forced to give more of his minutes to Serge Ibaka, who has thus far proven a more potent offensive threat in the playoffs.

Watch Bucks @ Raptors Game 3 live on Sky Sports Arena in the early hours of Monday morning (12am).

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