TORONTO (AP) — With a weary Kawhi Leonard fighting through fatigue, the Toronto Raptors found enough energy to pull away from the Milwaukee Bucks.
Kyle Lowry led the way.
Lowry scored 25 points, Leonard had 19 and the Raptors beat the Milwaukee Bucks 120-102 on Tuesday night to even the Eastern Conference finals at two games apiece.
“This was one of the nights that we knew Kawhi was a little bit limited and we had to come out and be aggressive for him,” Lowry said.
Leonard played 52 minutes in a double-overtime win in Game 3 on Sunday despite dealing with leg soreness. He limped away from the basket following a third-quarter dunk in Game 4, but still toughed it out for 34 minutes.
“I feel good,” Leonard insisted. “I’m going to keep going and keep fighting. We have a chance to make history.”
Raptors coach Nick Nurse said he’s not worried about Leonard’s health.
“He’s certainly tired, like a lot of guys in this series are,” Nurse said. “He looks OK to me. There was one time I was trying to give him an extended rest and he didn’t really want it so he must be OK.”
Serge Ibaka had 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Raptors, who improved to 7-2 at home this postseason. Reserve Norm Powell scored 18 points, and Marc Gasol had 17 points and a team-high seven assists.
“The first two games, they really brought the intensity to us,” Powell said. “They really came out and were more physical, more active. We wanted to change that narrative coming home.”
The home team has won all four games in the series so far. Game 5 is Thursday night in Milwaukee.
“We need to take this challenge of playing in a hostile environment,” Nurse said. “We’re going into a tough, loud place to play. Let’s see if those guys can bring that same pop and focus and determination on the road.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 25 points and 10 rebounds for the top-seeded Bucks. Khris Middleton scored 30 points, but no one else had more than 11.
Milwaukee lost its second straight following a six-game winning streak. It dropped consecutive games just once during the regular season, at Utah on March 2 and at Phoenix on March 4.
“This is probably the first night defensively where I don’t feel like we were close to where you need to be,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We got punched. They played really well.”
Toronto’s Fred VanVleet, who missed 16 of 20 shot attempts through the first three games of the series, went 5 for 6 from the field in Game 4. He made each of his three 3-point tries and finished with 13 points.
“He needed one of those games,” Lowry said. “He played well and made some great plays tonight.”
Ahead 94-81 to start the fourth, the Raptors extended their lead with a 10-3 spurt, including seven points from VanVleet. Powell’s fast-break layup with 8:35 left put Toronto up 104-84.
“We’ve got to guard better,” Middleton said. “Everybody on their team, I feel like they got pretty much whatever they wanted. Everything was easy.”
Antetokounmpo shot 5 for 8 in the opening frame, matching the number of made baskets he had during Game 3. However, the Bucks star went 4 for 9 the rest of the way.
Leonard and Pascal Siakam, who both played more than 50 minutes Sunday, looked sluggish in the opening half. Leonard missed the only shot he took in the second, while Siakam played fewer than three minutes in the second after picking up his third foul. Siakam had two points at halftime.
Leonard came up limping after dunking against Antetokounmpo early in the third, but remained in the game. Moments later, Siakam completed a three-point play that put Toronto up 73-60 with 8:43 left.
“We just came out in the third quarter flat,” Antetokounmpo said.
Ilyasova missed a 3 with 3:50 remaining in the third that could have cut the deficit to four points. Powell replied with a 3 and, following miss by Malcolm Brogdon, Leonard drained a jumper to push Toronto’s lead to 86-74.
Bucks: Middleton missed his first attempt of the game, and then made the next eight in row. He finished 11 for 15. … Antetokounmpo air-balled his first free-throw attempt in the first quarter. … Brogdon shot 0 for 5 in the first half and missed seven straight before connecting late in the third. He finished 2 for 11.
Raptors: Lowry scored 12 of Toronto’s first 17 points. He finished 10 for 10 at the line. … The Raptors are 4-0 on Tuesdays in these playoffs. … Toronto outscored Milwaukee 28-6 on bench points in the first half. The Raptors finished with a 48-23 advantage in bench scoring. … Siakam scored seven points, his lowest total in these playoffs. … Leonard had four of Toronto’s nine steals.
VanVleet became a father for the second time Monday with the birth of his first son, Fred Jr.
Even when Leonard isn’t scoring 35, Lowry said the three-time All-Star still helps with spacing.
“The great thing about having him on your team is he still gets all the attention,” Lowry said. “That’s the benefit of having a superstar like him on the team.”
Ibaka answered post-game questions in English, French, and Spanish, and jokingly asked whether anyone wanted to talk to him in Italian or Portuguese.
By IAN HARRISON Associated Press