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The Bucks’ role players are so much more than just ‘others’

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Milwaukee’s depth is destroying Toronto.

Toronto Raptors v Milwaukee Bucks - Game One Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Giannis Antetokounmpo finished Game 2 against the Raptors with 30 points, 17 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and a steal. It was another display of utter dominance from the MVP front-runner, who has powered this Bucks team to their deepest playoff run since 2001.

But it wasn’t just The Greek Freak show that paved the way for Milwaukee’s 2-0 Eastern Conference Finals lead over Toronto. Instead, it was a collective performance from players 1 to 15, a showing of Milwaukee’s massive depth that — through two games on the road — has proven too much for Toronto to handle. Depth that few, if any, can match.

While only two players not named Kawhi Leonard scored in double figures for Toronto, five of Antetokounmpo’s teammates stepped up in Game 2. Eric Bledsoe, Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton combined for only 26 points on 9-of-25 shooting. This was a night for the “others,” in Shaquille O’Neal parlance, if there ever was one.

One of those “others” was Ersan Ilyasova, who did his best Dirk Nowitzki impression, hitting turnaround, fading jump shots and spot-up threes for 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Nikola Mirotic, George Hill and Malcolm Brogdon combined for another 44 points on 53.5 percent shooting. Milwaukee’s bench accounted for 54 of the team’s 125 points. They were 10 points shy of matching Toronto’s starters.

The Bucks’ success is a testament to general manager Jon Horst’s additions in the offseason. Horst signed Ilyasova in the off-season, as well as Lopez, who Milwaukee somehow got at a discount over other teams. Horst also traded for both Hill and Mirotic during the regular season.

Milwaukee is so deep that potential rotation players elsewhere like Tony Snell, D.J. Wilson, and Sterling Brown have barely touched the floor in this series. The Bucks have options, and if those pieces aren’t hitting, they have others to go to.

This series now shifts to Toronto, where the Raptors’ role players will need to step up if they want to have any chance at salvaging this series. Leonard scored 31 points in both Games 1 and 2. Those performances weren’t enough, and it’s an indictment on a Raptors’ team trying to retain one of the best players in the league who will become a free agent this summer.

Bench players generally perform better at home, and Toronto is as tough as they come when their reserves and role players are hitting shots. But Milwaukee has been doing this all season. If it’s not Antetokounmpo, it’s Middleton. If it’s not Middleton, it’s Bledsoe. If it’s not Bledsoe, it’s Lopez.

It was neither Middleton, Bledsoe nor Lopez in Game 2, but Milwaukee still came away with the win. That’s a tough pill to swallow if you’re the Raptors.