Seven wins to go, folks. In a come-from-behind victory, the Milwaukee Bucks knocked off the Toronto Raptors in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, 108-100.
The pregame atmosphere was truly magical — large crowds surrounded the Deer District up to two hours before tip off, and the same intensity was brought into Fiserv Forum for tip-off.
Unfortunately, the Bucks themselves had a bit of a difficult time matching that same energy out on the court. Toronto quickly stormed out to a double-digit lead, thanks in large part to looking more crisp and simply knocking down shots that the Bucks could not hit. A 16-0 run by the Raptors would be the biggest surge of the quarter. They’d be plagued by a 3-of-15 clip from deep, while Toronto connected on 6-of-13 shots from the perimeter. To add salt to the wound, the opening quarter would close with Serge Ibaka knocking down a buzzer-beater jumper to grant the Raptors a 34-23 lead.
The second quarter would be a little friendlier to Milwaukee, as shots began to fall. The Bucks would scratch and claw their way back to slice the deficit to just three points at times, but the Raptors would close out strong and earn a 59-51 halftime lead. The difference? Four more made threes. The Bucks would definitely have their work cut out for them.
The third quarter would begin with a welcomed sight — Eric Bledsoe. After scoring zero points in the first half, he immediately raced out to a small 4-0 run, providing a boost for Milwaukee. The Bucks would trim the Toronto lead to just one, but after Antetokounmpo missed two free throws that would’ve provided a lead, the Raptors broke out two fast break layups and a jumper. And that 3-point shot? It still remained cold for Milwaukee. They’d go 0-for-11 from deep in the period. Yeah, not great at all. Transitioning into the fourth quarter, Toronto maintained an 83-76 lead.
And then, the Bucks run that we were finally waiting for came. They’d roll all the way over and eventually reclaim the lead off of a Mirotic free throw — their first lead of the night. It’d swell as much as five in a brief matter of minutes, but Toronto would always come back knocking. However, things would eventually iron out, and the Bucks would settle into their groove. The clamps would be laid down on the defensive end as well, with Toronto not scoring a single point for the remaining 3:31 of the game, paving the way for a 108-100 Game 1 Milwaukee victory.
Brook Lopez would be the lead man for the Bucks, completing his night with 29 points. Giannis Antetokounmpo contributed with 24 points and Malcolm Brogdon poured in 15 of his own off the bench.
Kawhi Leonard was at the top of the scorer’s sheet for Toronto, concluding his night with a game-high 31 points. Kyle Lowry nearly matched him with 30 of his own.
The Brook Lopez game!
We as Bucks fans have known all season long that the 1 year / $3 million deal that Brook Lopez signed onto was the signing of the year. However, it never really became apparent to the national media. Well, I think it has now. How about a 29 point / 11 rebound game for the big fella? When you say that he was everywhere for the Bucks, it really is an understatement. Some cold shooting in the previous round wasn’t enough to hold him back in Game 1 of this round, as he chucked up a team high 11 threes. Four of those were good for 12 points, and each one had a major impact. At one point with the Bucks down six, he immediately pulled up a few feet behind the perimeter in transition, only to catch nothing but backboard. However, that’s the mentality you want him and the rest of the team to have — let it fly, baby. And when he wasn’t connecting from deep? He was impacting elsewhere. Whether it was grabbing a rebound for another offensive possession or earning a hard-fought tip-in, Brook Lopez was there.
Let it fly.
I mentioned the team’s shooting briefly in the paragraph above, but it needs its own discussion. Ice cold doesn’t even begin to capture just how off the Bucks were from deep. There were spells where Milwaukee couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat (the third quarter for example, where they failed to hit a single three). It was so frustrating because we all knew how good this team was during the regular season with the 3-point shot. It was wild that they went on such a long stretch without knocking one down. However, it was also comforting in the fact that despite such a poor shooting performance, the game was still within Milwaukee’s grasp. All it took was a couple of them to fall, and the lead that Toronto had spent so much time in maintaining began to crumble away. All in all, the Bucks would shoot just 11-of-44 from deep — 25 percent. I can’t even drive home how crazy it is that they shot that bad and still walked out with a win. That’s the one thing that makes this so devastating for the Raptors — there’s no real chance that the Bucks shoot that poorly again.
Kyle Lowry literally could not miss, and it was annoying.
Ugh. Thankfully, this Game 1 will be remembered as the Brook Lopez game, but it was extremely close to becoming the Kyle Lowry game. After earning such a negative reputation in regards to his postseason play, Lowry took the next step and showed up for his team in the biggest light. His final stat line? 30 points on 10-of-15 shooting, which included 7-of-9 from deep. You have to give kudos to him. Some of his shots were contested, but most of them were conjured up with some nice looks. If this is the Kyle Lowry we get the rest of the series, it’ll be an even more exciting time. However, I don’t know about many of you, but I’d be perfectly fine with letting this be a stand-alone sort of performance and have him regress to the previous Kyle Lowry we’re all acquainted with.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- Early on when the Bucks were missing three after three, it really seemed as if there was a bit of hot potato action going on. Nobody really valued taking a shot when they had the chance and passed it to the next guy instead. Giannis briefly brought this up in his postgame presser, saying that this was something Bud brought up in a huddle during the second quarter — don’t be afraid to shoot. Shooting is just what the team would do, and eventually, they made their way back into it because of it.
- After having a second-round series to remember vs. the Celtics, George Hill had a bit of a regression in Game 1 of the ECF, going 0-for-6 from the floor and having an even +0 associated with his name. I wouldn’t think too much of it, as his performance wasn’t absolutely awful. I also don’t expect it to repeat in Game 2. He’s too talented of a bench player to have consecutive games like this and anticipate him making some major contributions again.
- ALL HAIL THE BROOK LOPEZ CLAPPING GIF:
Brook Lopez hard clap. pic.twitter.com/XY6fsG5fEz— Cork Gaines (@CorkGaines) May 16, 2019
- Second chance points for the Bucks were huge, and that’s an understatement. It seems that even when they didn’t even fully get the board, they at least got their fingers on it. Milwaukee would end up with an offensive rebound percentage of 28.3 percent — outside of their 3-point percentage, that may have been the stat of the night. Lots of second opportunities thanks to that number.
- I can’t get over at how awesome it was to see everyone out at the Deer District. I left work and got downtown at around two hours before tip-off, and my usual parking spots were jammed pack. That’s when I knew that Milwaukee was bringing it — and that they did. The Deer District was absolutely packed. The shots on TNT looked incredible as well, and really captured the fandom this city has that’s second to none. Well done to everybody that ventured out there.
- Kawhi Leonard would end up being the game-high scorer with 31 points, but the Bucks did a masterful job of limiting him late in the game. He’d end up failing to score from the field in the fourth quarter, and earn his only two points that period from the free throw line.
- IF ANYBODY WENT TO SEE SHAQ DJ AT LUCID, PLEASE TELL US ALL ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE IN THE COMMENTS (From what I saw from a friend’s Snapchat story, Stephen A. also made an appearance. I need to hear from somebody that was there).