TORONTO (AP) – Putting Norm Powell in the starting lineup has changed the playoff fortunes of the Toronto Raptors.
Powell scored a career playoff-high 25 points, Kyle Lowry had 16 points and 10 assists and the Raptors beat the Milwaukee Bucks 118-93 in Game 5 of their first-round series on Monday night.
Raptors coach Dwane Casey said Powell has been “a spark plug.”
“In this series, he’s been the X-factor,” Casey said.
Serge Ibaka scored 19 points and DeMar DeRozan had 18 for the Raptors, who can advance to face defending champion Cleveland in the second round with a victory in Game 6 at Milwaukee on Thursday night.
“We’ve got to treat it like Game 7, period,” DeRozan said. “We can’t be happy with these last two games. We’ve just got to treat this next game like it’s Game 7.”
Many in the sellout crowd of 20,251 rose to their feet and chanted ‘Raps in six’ in the final minute of the game.
“If we want to continue to play, if we want to push it to a Game 7, we’ve got to win at home,” Bucks rookie point guard Malcolm Brogdon said. “If we don’t come out and give the energy that we need to then we’ll lose and we’ll be done.”
Pressed into action after Milwaukee routed Toronto 104-77 in Game 3, Powell delivered a much-needed jolt of energy and athleticism as Toronto ground out a victory in Game 4.
On Monday, Powell added scoring punch to his playoff resume. He connected on all four of his 3-point attempts and brought the crowd to its feet with a baseline dunk over Antetokounmpo and Thon Maker in the fourth quarter.
“Powell has come in with a lot of energy on both sides of the ball and they’re feeding off of that,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said.
“He’s playing extremely hard and he’s knocking down shots. When you look at the stat sheet, he’s picked them up here the last couple of games just with his energy and his spirit.”
Brogdon said Powell has given Toronto more versatility.
“They move the ball better with him in the game,” Brogdon said. “They can spread the floor better, everybody can attack, everybody can make plays.”
Toronto lost Game 6 on the road at Indiana in the first round and at Miami in the second round last year, rebounding to win Game 7 at home each time. They were eliminated in six games in the Eastern Conference Final against the Cavs, losing at home in the clincher.
DeMarre Carroll scored 12 points as all five Raptors starters reached double figures. Cory Joseph had 10 points off the bench for Toronto.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with a career playoff-high 30 points while Brogdon scored 19 points and Greg Monroe had 11.
Ibaka and Powell each scored nine points in the first and the Raptors used a 17-0 run to open a 31-20 lead after the opening quarter. Milwaukee committed five turnovers in the first, leading to 10 points for Toronto.
“Our defense kind of got hit again in the first quarter,” Kidd said. “We knew they were going to come after us, we had to expect that, and we just couldn’t respond.”
Monroe and Jonas Valanciunas were called for double technicals after a minor shoving match under the Milwaukee basket in the third. After Valanciunas took exception to a hard foul from Khris Middleton, Monroe pushed his own teammate out of the way so he could shove Valanciunas.
Bucks: Middleton started despite suffering from an illness. He scored eight points … Milwaukee missed five of seven free-throw attempts in the first half. They finished 15 for 26 … The Bucks didn’t have any second-chance points. … Antetokounmpo had nine rebounds.
Raptors: The Raptors finished with 28 assists, one shy of their season-high. … Toronto scored 30 or more in two quarters after doing so just once in the previous four games. … The Raptors went 24 for 26 at the free-throw line. DeRozan and Valanciunas each had one miss.
NOT BACKING DOWN
Lowry started despite not being able to participate in shootaround because of a stiff back. He remained standing during timeouts and lay down on the court when he came out of the game. “He’s a tough kid,” Casey said. “You’re going to have to take an arm and a leg off him before you keep him from playing.”
Toronto’s Carroll said a “heated film session” following the Game 3 blowout loss helped the Raptors regain their focus. “A lot of times when you get in a heated film session it can go bad or it can go good,” Carroll said. “I feel like we came together, we saw the problem and we’re just trying to build from this.”
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