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Jonas Valanciunas of the Raptors drives past two Milwaukee Bucks during Game 3 of the teams’ playoff series in Milwaukee on Thursday. (Morry Gash/AP)
Jonas Valanciunas of the Raptors drives past two Milwaukee Bucks during Game 3 of the teams’ playoff series in Milwaukee on Thursday. (Morry Gash/AP)

NBA Playoffs 2017

Raptors now have reason to fear the deer after ugly beat-down in Milwaukee Add to ...

If you didn’t fear the deer before, you probably do after Thursday’s smack-down in Milwaukee.

The Milwaukee Bucks dominated and perplexed the Toronto Raptors in an ugly 104-77 Game 3 beat-down, handing them one of their worst defeats in franchise postseason history. The surreal evening gave the No. 6-seeded Bucks a 2-1 lead in their first-round playoff series.

Kyle Lowry had 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting, while DeMar DeRozan had eight points – all free throws – as he was held without a field goal on 0-of-8 shooting.

Lowry sat the podium silently steaming for a few minutes in his post-game interview before he finally spoke.

“We got our ass bust,” said Toronto’s All-Star point guard. “We've not go choice, we've got to win. Saturday is a must-win. We ain't got no choice.” 

Fans at Milwaukee’s BMO Harris Bradley Center were dressed in black t-shirts with deer faces on them. It created a herd of beady eyes and snouts, and that herd set the tone loudly right off the top, chanting Fear the deer, fear the deer.

Bucks fans were about to feast on the worst playoff game the Raptors have ever played, and their hollers, taunts and all-out jubilation grew louder with each Milwaukee bucket and Toronto blunder.

There were battles at the rim between Jonas Valanciunas, Thon Maker and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Those two young Bucks were bullying their way into the paint and delivering athletic-looking buckets. There was physical dominance from big Greg Monroe, big jumpers from Khris Middleton, and so many missed Toronto shots. It took three minutes for the Raps to even score a field goal. They would make just four of the 18 shots they would take in the first quarter.

The lasting Raps image of the quarter was Lowry motioning anxiously for timeouts.

The Bucks were unapologetically physical, setting hard screens, trapping hard, making Lowry feel every single drive he tried to make to the hoop. The home team dominated the boards, nailed three-pointers, protected the rim, and snuffed out most of what Toronto tried to do offensively.

The energy ballooned, and everything Milwaukee’s game operations crew did was making its fans louder and happier.

The video board showed Green Bay Packers star quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the crowd, rocking a black deer T-shirt. An adorable team of seniors called the Grand Dancers took the court for a comical performance – another total hit. The Bucks mascot, Bango, was hurled by a slingshot into a herd of inflatable raptors set up like bowling pins. Fans lapped it up.

For those who are Milwaukee sports fans – or just otherwise dislike big-city Toronto for any reason at all – it was an entertaining in-your-face evening of sports. If you’re a Raptors fan, it was terrifying.

A week ago ‘Fear the Deer’ may have seemed like a cute Milwaukee playoff slogan on a couple of warmup shirts. Now it’s a swelling movement in Milwaukee. Fear the Deer is an ominous threat from a No. 6-seeded basketball fiercely determined to end the season for the No. 3-seeded Raptors.

Toronto scored just 12 points in the first quarter, and by halftime, things had unravelled even further for Toronto, and they trailed 57-30. It was the second-lowest scoring first half of basketball the Raps had ever played in the playoffs, behind a 2002 Game 1 loss to the Detroit Pistons on April 21, 2002, in which they scored 29 points and just 63 all game, also a franchise playoff worst.

It was more of the same dominance in the second half, and Toronto’s bench players came in to finish out the surreal evening.

It was the first time DeRozan had ever been held without a field goal in the playoffs. As for the regular season, the last time it happened to DeRozan was Jan. 19, 2015 – against Milwaukee.

Toronto Coach Dwane Casey said there was no logical explanation for how badly his team played.

“It starts with us, myself as a coach as far as having them ready to play in a hostile environment. They ambushed us and there’s no aspect of our game that we executed whatsoever,” said Casey. “We’ll make changes, we made changes going into the second half but whoever goes in has to go in and make a difference and we didn’t.”

The series resumes with Game 4 in Milwaukee on Saturday afternoon, and then Game 5 goes Monday in Toronto.

“I still think we can win the series. It ain't over. It just sucks right now, it's a terrible night right now, it's a terrible feeling the way we just got our ass beat,” said Lowry. “But our confidence has not changed. We'll be fine. We've got to come out there and do what we gotta do Saturday.”

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