BUCKS IN SIX? Channeling whatever spirit was left from that Fear The Deer Run, and wearing their similarly titled black with green-trim jerseys, Milwaukee ran over the Toronto Raptors to claim a surprising 1-0 series lead with a 97-83 win. Toronto lost their ninth straight game one in the playoffs, and Milwaukee found its first game one win on the road since 1983.
Giannis Antetokounmpo spent the game looking like the best player on the floor, blasting through Raptors’ defenders for 28 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block. Buoyed by a powerful playoff debut from Greg Monroe (14 points and 15 rebounds) and quiet contributions from Tony Snell (11 points, three assists) and Khris Middleton (10 points, nine assists), Milwaukee pulled off the upset.
DeMar DeRozan slaughtered Milwaukee in the first half, but cooled in the second, finishing with 27 points and eight rebounds on 7-21 shooting. Kyle Lowry struggled mightily, scoring just four points on 2-11 from the field. Serge Ibaka rounded it out with 19 points and 14 rebounds, but looked hobbled after twisting his ankle from landing on Giannis after a jumper.
Milwaukee finished the first half trailing by only five despite DeRozan carving them up like a butter knife, with no one able to control his drives to the rim. Through sheer force of will, Giannis kept the Bucks close. In the second half, they exploded, scoring 14 of their 17 fast break points, and forcing the Raptors to shoot just 20.0% for the half. Milwaukee turned the ball over just five times today, while they scored 19 points off of Toronto’s 11 turnovers. Despite Toronto having a huge advantage at the free throw line (24-33 to 12-15 for Milwaukee), they couldn’t get close in the second half and ended shooting just 36.0% and 21.7% from three. Milwaukee didn’t shoot particularly well, 44.7%, but they outworked Toronto in the paint 18-4 in the second half, and a spectacular Giannis guided them to a similarly spectacular victory.
DeMar DeRozan started the game off with a contested runner in the paint over Thon Maker. Giannis gave Milwaukee their first points with a rapid sprint to the rim and rattling dunk. DeRozan continued to shimmy through Milwaukee defenders to get his shot, but Thon Maker’s early defensive presence proved a necessary foil. A Tony Snell transition three game Milwaukee its first lead at 13-11. Milwaukee moved further ahead with a Brogdon finish, Giannis bullying Carroll for a dunk and Greg Monroe getting to the free throw line, giving the Bucks a seven point lead. Moose continued his first quarter rampage with another offensive board and finish, followed up by a little two-way game as he drew a foul then found Middleton on a backdoor cut to give Milwaukee a 30-22 lead after one.
Giannis’ re-entry led to an immediate transition and-one opportunity, as Terry found Giannis leaking out after a Tucker corner three caromed off the rim. Toronto answered quickly, nailing two wide-open corner threes while Jonas “Choo-Choo” Valanciunas started going to work against Monroe with his hook shot making it 34-33. DeRozan worked Milwaukee’s defense once again upon his return, but Giannis matched him on the other end by taking advantage of Carroll guarding him. After blowing by the overmatched wing, he just bullied Ibaka at the rim for another slam. DeRozan worked through Brogdon for a circus finish, which Brogdon answered with a three, but Toronto led 51-46 at half.
Giannis’ stellar half (15 points, four rebounds, two assists) kept Milwaukee afloat all half, and Malcolm Brogdon (10 points) played wingman while Middleton struggled to just two points. DeMar DeRozan roasted every Bucks’ defender they threw at him for 18 points, and Serge Ibaka capitalized with some advantageous finished in the post to get 14 of his own. Kyle Lowry had to exit the second quarter around halfway through with three fouls, and had only two points on the half.
Milwaukee surged to start the second, with a Thon block and contest leading to Giannis run-outs in transition. The first, a eurostep around Carroll, the second a deep seal against Lowry for a simple finish. Snell finished up the run with an above the break three that tied the game at 53. Another Thon Maker block of DeRozan led to another Giannis and-one in transition, as the Bucks’ freakish frontcourt helped them stake out a four-point lead. Unfortunately, Giannis picked up his fourth personal on a tough over-the-back foul against P.J. Tucker with four minutes left in the third. He headed to the bench, sending MIddleton back in for a small lineup of Brogdon-Delly-Snell-Middleton-Monroe. DeRozan got to the line immediately to give Toronto a 68-64 lead. Somehow, the grit crew waxed Toronto for a 7-0 run though, with a Delly three putting Milwaukee up 71-68, before the gang kept Milwaukee ahead after three, 75-70.
Several tough finishes at the hoop extended Milwaukee’s lead to start the fourth, and Khris Middleton finally nailed a fadeaway turnaround jumper over Cory Joseph - only his second make of the game - to make it an 81-71 advantage for the Bucks. Serge Ibaka broke a string of 11 straight misses for Toronto, but his midrange jumper only put the Raps within 12. Toronto’s crowd found their voice again, but Giannis slashed their vocal cords with an and-one opportunity against Tucker that Ibaka foolishly goaltended. Raptors shots simply wouldn’t fall, even when they had open looks, and strong defensive boards from Milwaukee ensured they didn’t get extra opportunities to gather momentum. Giannis humbled Tucker on the other end with a turnaround jumper in the post to put Milwaukee up 93-76 with just a few minutes left.
Giannis punctuated his performance with a cool pump fake and jumper, then turned a DeRozan layup into dust at the rim. He pumped his fist, prompting an asinine technical foul call from the refs, but Toronto pulled their starters and packed it in. Rashad Vaughn got playoff minutes down the stretch. Milwaukee won 97-83.
- Thon Maker looked ultra aggressive to start the game. His defensive presence deterred shots at the rim and forced misses, and he managed to steal the ball from Toronto for an offensive board and finish at one point. For being matched up with a mountain like Valanciunas, his ability to hold his own early on was crucial.
- Malcolm Brogdon split a pick and roll coverage in the first quarter and rocketed to the rim for a finish that showed an acceleration I wasn’t sure he’d have in this series against Lowry. If he’s able to provide a more effective off-the-dribble attack to complement Giannis and Khris, that’s huge for the Bucks’ chances in this series.
- Toronto put Demarre Carroll on Giannis in the first quarter, and had Tucker on Middleton. Once Giannis whipped by Carroll for an easy dunk, that changed quickly.
- Tony Snell could not guard DeRozan in the first. He didn’t even have to settle for midrange jumpers, as the Raptors’ guard got to the rim whenever he pleased. Thon provided some decent contests, but neither he nor Monroe provided the sort of defensive presence to scare DeRozan from finishing. Snell’s foot speed couldn’t match the herky-jerky, in-between dribble game of Toronto’s unconventional shooting guard, and he kept Toronto close throughout the first.
- Greg Monroe provided the bench spark Milwaukee needed for the final few minutes of quarter one when Giannis sat. He found space in the paint to create clear passing lanes, roughed up Valanciunas when grabbing an offensive board, and drew a charge against Cory Joseph. He topped it off by throwing a perfect pass in rhythym to Middleton on a backdoor cut for a layup. Those are the minutes when Toronto needs to eat Milwaukee’s lunch, and Monroe stole Toronto’s lunch money instead.
- Lowry + bench units have been incredible for the Raptors all season, and while Monroe may’ve kept the Bucks afloat to end the first, the start of the second was an entirely different story. Penetration brought back the Bucks defense’s worst bugaboo as the Raptors nailed wide-open threes. Jason Terry and Matthew Dellavedova minutes will be the source of much consternation for Bucks’ fans this series, particularly since they usually match up precisely with some of Toronto’s best lineups.
- Matthew Dellavedova shared the floor for the final few minutes of the second quarter with Malcolm Brogdon in place of Tony Snell. Kidd seemed to pull Snell due to his inability to guard DeRozan, but he placed Brogdon on DeRozan, and Lowry was sitting out for the last few minute of the first due to foul trouble. There doesn’t seem to be any reason to keep Delly in for that scenario, considering he doesn’t give you the offensive skill Snell does and Tony’s guarded point guards at different junctures of the season already.
- Khris Middleton was a complete non-factor in the first half. Not only did he go 1-7 from the field, but he didn’t register any steals, nor did he have to deal with guarding DeRozan on the other end. If Kidd is going to let him maintain a weakside role in the defense (which I think is smart), he has to be able to deliver with more on the offensive end.
- Milwaukee registered zero blocks or steals in the first half. That was quickly rectified in the second half when Thon Maker blocked a Kyle Lowry layup. If the Bucks’ guards won’t be able to stop penetration from Lowry or DeRozan, they need someone at the rim who can block shots. Thon showed why in that sequence, and while his inability to guard Valanciunas due to a size difference is obvious, Choo-Choo will probably chow down on any of the Bucks’ centers. I’d rather have someone in there who can at least defend the rim.
- Neither Brogdon nor Maker looked like rookies in this game. Maker’s impactful second half defense jumpstarted Milwaukee’s transition offense and while it seems he’s chained to the first and third quarter minutes, I think he should be getting more consideration.
- I pegged transition buckets as one of the tactics Milwaukee would have to employ in this series if they hoped to win, but I didn’t presume they would do it so aggressively already. Over and over Giannis looked to push, nullifying the halfcourt advantage Toronto’s defenders could have over him and giving the Bucks prime looks without having to toil against Toronto’s stingy defense.
- Middleton wasn’t hitting anything in the second half, but he did a decent job serving as a passing hub during a key 7-0 third quarter run with Giannis off the floor. First, he posted up at the elbow and found Monroe cutting to the basket. Second, he switched the floor after getting doubled, finding Brogdon in the corner who promptly whisked it to Delly for a three. Outside of that run, he pushed after a defensive theft and found Snell who went in for a dunk. He finished the quarter by drawing a shooting foul too. Every bit of it was absolutely necessary, and precisely how he’ll have to play whenever Giannis sits this series.
- Kyle Lowry’s peculiar inability to shoot in first round series continued today, and he went merely 2-11. I didn’t think the Bucks played any sort of particularly grand defense on him all game, but I also wouldn’t count on those sort of woes continuing throughout the series.
- This was an incredible example of Milwaukee’s best player outclassing Toronto’s best player for the day, DeMar DeRozan. Perhaps most telling was Giannis’ continued dominance in the second half while DeRozan faded, this gulf best personified by DeRozan attempting to finish a layup late in the fourth only to have Giannis swallow it whole and send it packing into the stands. What a win for Milwaukee and postseason coming out party for Giannis.
- I’m not sure this changes expectations wildly for the series, particularly considering the shooting struggles of Toronto, but Bucks’ fans should feel quite heartened by the fact their second best player kind of looked like poop and they still managed to blow out a team on the road.
- Game two will take place on Tuesday at 6:00 PM central.