MILWAUKEE — DeMar DeRozan reverted back to his playmaking form. The Toronto Raptors reasserted themselves on defense.
They’re headed back to Canada after winning a bruiser of a first-round playoff game on Saturday over the Milwaukee Bucks.
DeRozan scored 33 points, and Kyle Lowry had 14 of his 18 points in the second half of Toronto’s 87-76 victory to tie the Eastern Conference series at two games apiece.
The Raptors turned up their intensity before a hostile road crowd after getting embarrassed in a 27-point loss to Milwaukee in Game 3. They forced 21 turnovers.
“I’ve always said we play better with our backs against the wall,” coach Dwane Casey said. “It’s a tough way to live, but I love our team’s resilience and personality.”
Toronto reclaimed home-court advantage in the best-of-seven series. Game 5 is Monday at the Air Canada Centre.
Tony Snell led Milwaukee with 19 points, including five 3-pointers, both playoff career highs.
His 3 with 3:14 left got the Bucks within seven. Lowry answered with a bucket before setting up another basket with a drive-and-dish to center Jonas Valanciunas for a layup in traffic.
While Toronto’s star guards produced in the clutch, the defense threw up roadblocks after the Bucks ran roughshod all over the court on Thursday night.
Milwaukee shot 37 percent overall in Game 4, but 31 percent (13 of 42) in the second half.
“Our tempo was extremely slow,” coach Jason Kidd said. “Give (Toronto) credit, they slowed us down.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo was held to 14 points on 6 of 19 shooting while also committing seven turnovers. Toronto’s P.J. Tucker helped contain the Bucks’ All-Star with physical play in the post in the fourth quarter.
“We were just trying to send as many bodies to him as we possibly could,” Casey said.
The Raptors’ Norman Powell started in place of Valanciunas, a switch that Toronto announced about 15 minutes before tipoff. Casey promised to make changes following the Game 3 blowout. The 6-foot-4 Powell offered more quickness to counter the athletic Bucks.
Powell finished with 12 points. He also helped contain Bucks shooter Khris Middleton, who had 11 rebounds but finished 4 of 13 from the field for 10 points.
“What I normally do is be aggressive, be physical and make it difficult ... on the defensive end,” Powell said.
Antetokounmpo got off to a choppy start after missing five of his first six shots. He also had four of the team’s 13 first-half turnovers after the Bucks had averaged 10 turnovers a game in the playoffs against Toronto. The 6-foot-11 forward did add to his collection of highlight-reel plays with a dunk in transition after sidestepping around DeRozan with about 5:30 left in the second quarter.
The resurgent DeRozan was 12 of 22 from the field after missing all eight of his attempts in Game 3.
Bouncing back from adversity isn’t new for Toronto. But after a forgettable Game 3, DeRozan said the team stayed patient and remained confident.
“Being patient and being mature with the process, and (trying) to keep him calm,” DeRozan said, nodding to his left in the direction of Lowry. “It was still a challenge, but we figured it out.”
He came out aggressive with strong drives to the bucket, going 8 of 14 for 21 points in the first half alone.
The game was tied at halftime before Toronto slowly edged away, building a 10-point lead with 4 minutes left on Powell’s 3-pointer.
Milwaukee went 0 of 9 from the field during a stretch between late in the third quarter and early in the fourth but still managed to stay within two possessions of Toronto for much of the second half. The Raptors were only slightly better with the ball, but their defense set the tone.
“Our tempo ... in that second half came to a halt,” Kidd said.
Trading shoves in the paint and hand-checks on the perimeter, the Bucks matched the Raptors’ rise in defensive intensity. But they misfired more with the ball, with Antetokounmpo seemingly playing too aggressive at times. The Bucks had 13 first-half turnovers.
Center Greg Monroe did his best to keep Milwaukee in the game with 10 points and four rebounds in the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t come out energized,” Monroe said. “We tried to picking it up in the second half, but it was too late.”