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Raptors beat Bucks 120-102 to even series at 2-2

TORONTO — Kyle Lowry had 25 points, a limping Kawhi Leonard had 19, and the Toronto Raptors beat the Milwaukee Bucks 120-102 on Tuesday, tying the Eastern Conference finals series at two wins apiece.

In one of the best all-around victories of this post-season, six Raptors scored in double figures. Norman Powell had 18 points, Serge Ibaka had 17 points and 13 boards, Marc Gasol scored 17 points, and Fred VanVleet chipped in with 13.

Game 5 is Thursday at Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum.

Khris Middleton had 30 points for the Bucks, while Giannis Antetokounmpo had 25 points and 10 rebounds.

Two nights earlier, the Raptors edged Milwaukee 118-112 in double overtime for their first win of the series, but the heavy minutes took their toll on players like Leonard, who played a career-high 52 minutes.

Leonard, who missed all but nine game last season with a serious quadriceps injury, looked like he was running in mud Tuesday, and was noticeably limping after a dunk over Antetokounmpo early in the third quarter.

Lowry, who scored 12 of Toronto’s first 17 points Tuesday, is playing through pain with a sprained left thumb he suffered in Game 7 of the conference semis.

The Bucks, who led the league with 60 wins in the regular season, two more than Toronto, are also known for bouncing back with big games after losses. They’d only lost back-to-back games once this season.

Still, the Raptors withstood a slow start to take a double-digit lead in the second quarter. They stretched it to 16 by the third quarter, and roared into the fourth up 94-81.

VanVleet had seven of the Raptors’ 10-3 run that gave Toronto a 20-point cushion early in the final frame. Antetokounmpo drove to the hoop to slice the lead to 14 with 5:34 to play. But the Raptors locked down on the defensive end, and when Lowry scored with 3:50 to play, they lead by 21, to the delight of a Scotiabank Arena crowd that included Maple Leafs Nazem Kadri and Mitch Marner, Olympic 100-metre champ Donovan Bailey, music producer Timbaland, former NFL star Terrell Owens and NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

Drake was at his animated best, on his feet for most of the night, waving arms in the air to get the crowd going during Antetokounmpo free throws. During a timeout, Drake walked behind coach Nick Nurse and gave his shoulders a squeeze.

Nurse subbed Lowry, Gasol and Leonard out to a standing ovation with three minutes to play.

RELATED: Raptors beat Bucks 118-112 in 2OT thriller

It was a big night for the bench, which has struggled in these playoffs. Toronto’s second unit outscored Milwaukee’s 48-23.

The Raptors lost the series’ first two games in Milwaukee — the first a narrow eight-point defeat in a game they’d led most of the night. They’ve never come back to win a series after falling behind 0-2 in seven tries.

A running dunk by Antetokounmpo gave the Bucks an early seven-point lead, but the Raptors clawed their way back, and when Leonard drained his second free throw with 25 seconds left in the first quarter, they took their first lead of the game and went into the second up 32-31.

Ibaka’s putback dunk capped a 13-0 Raptors run that straddled the first and second quarters and put Toronto up by 10. The Bucks pulled to within four — thanks largely to a 13-point quarter for Middleton — but the Raptors outscored Milwaukee 13-7 to the end of the quarter, and were wildly applauded as they headed to the locker-room at halftime with a 65-55 cushion.

The Golden State Warriors, who swept Portland on Monday night, await the winner of this series. The Warriors will be well-rested with 10 days off until the Finals tip off.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

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