Toronto had all the momentum. The shots were falling, the defense was lockdown, and even Kyle Lowry showed up for a big playoff game. Yet, the newly built powerhouse Milwaukee Bucks never let the game slip away and eventually suffocated the Raptors into a slow and crushing death. Professional basketball is a 48 minute game, and the Bucks needed every second to pull out the win, 108-100.
The first three quarters heavily favored Toronto. Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard were clicking and Milwaukee couldn’t hit a three if their lives depended on it. Turnovers were prevalent and whenever the Bucks got within striking distance, the Raptors pulled together a run to effectively end Milwaukee’s hopes.
The Raptors entered the final quarter with a seven point lead and the Bucks were still ice cold from deep, an area they have solidified as a crucial part to the offense all season. However, Kyle Lowry scored 14 of the 17 points for Toronto in the final quarter and the Bucks found their deep stroke to bury the Raptors in the final minutes.
The main storyline on the Milwaukee side was Brook Lopez. After a tough series for him in the second round in which he scored just 27 points on 10-15 from the field in the five games, he found himself a ton of good looks in the post and eventually hit his three attempts. Lopez finished with 29 points and 11 rebound with 4 blocks, a playoff career high in points. There’s no question his three threes in the fourth and especially in his dagger in the final two minutes to make it a four point game.
The box score tells a much different story than what viewers saw in the game. Milwaukee held the advantage in field goal percentage, offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, blocks, assists, you name it. They only were down in three pointers and that largely carried the weight of the deficit the Bucks faced a majority of the game. Once they started to fall in the closing minutes, it made all the difference.
Toronto faces a real issue now. They got a good performance from Kawhi and even Kyle Lowry went off on 7-9 from deep. Still the only other Raptor to score more than six points was Pascal Siakam. That type of production from their secondary players won’t be enough to overcome the depth the Bucks have displayed all postseason. Milwaukee has a starter in Malcolm Brogdon coming off the bench who finished a game high +18 and played ten more minutes than any Toronto bench player along with George Hill.
This game was a huge confidence boost for Milwaukee. They clearly know they are capable, but to win a game in which they trailed by as much as thirteen and three possessions going into the final twelve minutes while shooting extremely poorly proves that if they shot at even an average rate the win would be much easier. Of course, Nick Nurse and Toronto will have their opportunity to adjust for game two as well. Still, it feels like the Bucks are in the driver’s seat and taking a 2-0 lead into Canada would take a lot of pressure off.
Overall, Giannis could play better. Khris Middleton, Nikola Mirotic, and Eric Bledsoe all have been more efficient than they were in game one. Even Pat Connaughton and George Hill didn’t add anything to the scoreboard. There’s a ton to improve on and that jump will be necessary because they can’t expect the Raptors to fold like the Celtics did. Toronto is the real deal, so expect the Bucks to play like it.
Game two will tip at 7:30 p.m. Friday night at Fiserv Forum with the 1-0 series lead.