Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo marked his arrival as a big stage, playoff performer in his second trip to the NBA post-season — now he’s looking for more.
The 22-year-old dubbed the “Greek Freak” will be looking to once again put his stamp on the Bucks’ series against the Toronto Raptors. There Game 2 showdown in Toronto is one of the trio of NBA playoffs games Tuesday night that feature lower seeds that are trying to take 2-0 series leads.
Other games on tap include the East’s top-seeded Celtics trying to bounce back from an emotional night for Isaiah Thomas in a loss to the eighth-seeded Bulls, and a Jazz teams looking to build on their Game 1 win over the Clippers despite Rudy Gobert’s left knee injury in the opening minute.
Bucks coach Jason Kidd said that Antetokounmpo is stepping into his own at the right time.
“He set the tone for everyone offensively and defensively, and just understanding he came out aggressive, he didn’t wait,” Kidd said. “We’re going to need that from him.”
It’s a big step for the young scoring threat. He was just in his second year in league in Bucks’ last playoff appearance in 2014-15. He averaged 12.7 points a game that season.
“He answered whatever call he answered and executed the game plan,” Kidd said. “He didn’t force things, he let the game come to him.”
Some things to know about Tuesday nights trio of matchups:
Bucks at Raptors, Milwaukee leads 1-0. Game 2, 7 p.m., NBATV
NEED TO KNOW: Antetokounmpo’s strong regular-season performance against Toronto carried over into Game 1, when he had 28 points and eight rebounds. The Milwaukee Bucks star averaged 24.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 7.0 assists in four regular-season against the Raptors.
KEEP AN EYE ON: G Malcolm Brogdon will face Raptors G Kyle Lowry, who struggled with his shooting Game 1. A rookie, Brogdon has provided a calming and steady presence at point guard on both end of the floor.
INJURY UPDATE: Serge Ibaka did not practice Monday because of a sprained left ankle, suffered when he stepped on Antetokounmpo’s foot in the third quarter Saturday. But coach Dwane Casey said Ibaka “should be ready to go tomorrow night.”
PRESSURE IS ON: Khris Middleton. The forward had nine assists against Toronto in Game 1 but was held to 10 points on 4-of-15 shooting in 40 minutes. It was the second time that Middleton had played at least 40 minutes since coming back from a hamstring injury on Feb. 8. He’s one of Milwaukee’s best all-around players, but if Middleton can get going from the outside, that should create more spacing on the floor and room for Antetokounmpo to manoeuvr to the rim.
Bulls at Celtics, Chicago leads 1-0. Game 2, 8 p.m., TNT
NEED TO KNOW: Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas is preparing to play Game 2 before flying out Tacoma, Washington to be with his family to finalize funeral arranges for his younger sister. Chyna Thomas, 22, died in a car accident early Saturday, casting doubt on whether Thomas would ultimate play in the opener. He did, scoring a game-high 33 points, to go along with six assists and five rebounds. Bulls guard Dwyane Wade said that Thomas produced like they expected him to in Game 1. But he said he is expecting Jimmy Butler, who had 23 of his 30 points in the second half of Monday’s 106-102 win, to produce as well. Butler also guarded Thomas at times. Wade said before practice Monday the Bulls have to give them a different defensive look with Butler at times, “if you get their offence out a little further, if it takes a little bit more time off the clock, all those things help,” Wade said. “It’s good to be able to have a guy like that to say, ‘get us 30, and then go guard the guy that’s got 30.’”
KEEP AN EYE ON: The rebounding battle. The Bulls dominated the offensive glass 20-12, leading to 23 second-chance points in their Game 1 win. It was as part of a 53-36 overall rebounding edge for the game. Chicago also outrebounded Boston in three of their four regular-season meetings.
INJURY UPDATE: Both teams are injury-free coming out of the opener.
PRESSURE IS ON: The Bulls bench to keep up its production. Second-year forward Bobby Portis’ 19 points in the opener led Bulls’ young reserves, who outscored their Boston counterparts 35-22. Chicago’s second unit had its biggest impact at the start of the second quarter, going on a 10-0 to put the Bulls in front.
Jazz at Clippers, Jazz lead 1-0. Game 2, 10:30 p.m., TNT
NEED TO KNOW: The Jazz gained home-court advantage by winning their first playoff game since 2010 on Joe Johnson’s floater at the buzzer. It was just their third win in 21 games against the Clippers. Utah is in the post-season for the first time in five years.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Whether the Jazz can contain Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan without injured big man Rudy Gobert, who was among the NBA’s leaders in several defensive categories.
INJURY UPDATE: Gobert (hyperextended left knee/bone bruise) isn’t expected to play Game 2 after getting hurt 17 seconds into the series opener. Clippers backup guard Austin Rivers (strained left hamstring) has resumed shooting, but isn’t expected back yet.
PRESSURE IS ON: The Clippers. They’ve never gotten past the second round in franchise history and have lost at least one home game in every playoff series they’ve been in since 2005-06. It was especially costly two years ago, when they blew a 3-1 lead against Houston, lost Game 6 at home and got beat on the road in Game 7.