Wasted opportunities…f***ing, Lopez….
Six – Squandered: It’s on Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol to pick up the slack on offence. The two of them need to total something close to 30 points for the Raptors to have a chance, and tonight they combined for 10. Milwaukee is hanging back and clogging the paint, so it’s imperative for Gasol and Ibaka to capitalize. Gasol, in particular, was misfiring on the easiest of shots in the second half, and that’s despite the Raptors trying to make life easier for him by mixing in a few rolls to the basket for easier looks.
From the Raptors’ perspective, none of this emotional gamesmanship existed, at least outwardly. They had little choice but to hit the reset button the morning after Game 7 and refocus on the immense challenge the Bucks present. There is always the possibility of a letdown game or an emotional hangover, but here the lack of rest, at least for 36 minutes, offered the reprieve of rhythm. Milwaukee, meanwhile, was getting caught flat-footed as a favourite after a little too much time off. Contradictory though it might seem to give an edge to a more weary road team, Game 1 may have been Toronto’s best chance to come away with one even before they saw how it began playing out.
“It really doesn’t matter. You know what I’m saying?” Nick Nurse said. “If it’s a buzzer-beater and you lose, or if it’s a 30-point blowout and you lose, that game’s over. We saw that in that last series. We went up and blow them out in the first game and it was going to be a cruise, but we know better than that. These teams are too good. Both teams are good. I thought the Philly series was going to be a long one, and a good chance this one will be too.”
Entering the series, the Raptors remained confident despite their underdog status. What was clear, though, was that they also knew what Milwaukee posed and how well they’d have to play to pull off the modest upset. Milwaukee’s defence bets on surviving an opponent’s high-variance nights and dominating their low-variance ones; you simply can’t squander the former. Similarly, you probably can’t fail to win minutes where Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton sit. You can’t have your bench be obliterated again, as it was for the bulk of the second round. The things you can’t do in trying to beat Milwaukee are numerous.
For 36 minutes, the Raptors had avoided most of that, or at least survived thanks to what they did well. The fourth was different entirely. It started, as too many poor stretches in this postseason have, with three reserves on the floor to start the quarter, resulting in a quick 8-0 gift of a run that put the Bucks in the driver’s seat. It’s tough enough to score on Milwaukee’s defence before the fourth quarter and hard enough to win in Milwaukee before they steal the lead back and have Fiserv Forum shaking.
“Yeah, we just don’t quit as a unit.,” Brook Lopez said. “We keep hounding, keep hounding, keep hounding and grinding, and then we finally got there. There’s no quit in our team. I don’t think it’s really in our DNA at all, in any of our guys.”
As the game wore on the open looks went unused again and again. Time and time again the Raptors would get the ball into the paint, pitch it out to an open teammate on the perimeter, swing it quickly to an even more open one and then miss. The Raptors made six threes in the first quarter, four in the second and two in the third. But their percentages were falling.
In the fourth they fell off a cliff.
The exception was Kyle Lowry who scored 14 of his 2019 post-season high 30 in the final period including a three that tied the score 98-98 with 4:02 left. The Raptors didn’t score another field goal. The rest of the Raptors scored just three points in the pivotal period, all on free throws.
“Pretty frustrating,” said Lowry. “The fourth quarter killed us, they out-played us in that fourth quarter, they got a little more aggressive, they made some big shots, some big plays. It sucks when you lose like that, but we had a chance and we’ve got to learn from it.”
Late in a close game the script might have called for Leonard to bring the Raptors home, but he couldn’t do it, no one could. Leonard scored just two of his 31 points in crunch time as he was 10-of-23 from the floor. As a group, the Raptors shot 0-of-15 from the floor in the fourth while Lowry was 5-of-7. A Danny Green turnover cost Leonard one look and allowed Milwaukee to score going the other way. Brook Lopez’s fourth triple put the Bucks up four with 1:55 to play and the Raptors couldn’t score again until the game was out of reach.
“A couple of key turnovers; missed, missed some easy lay-ups, some wide open threes,” said Leonard. “And we didn’t play too well on defence … and offensive rebounds. That pretty much sums it up.”
It might not be on par with Game 1 against Cleveland last year, with the parade of missed tips before the buzzer that would have prevented an overtime and, ultimately, a sweep. Still, this was clearly a missed opportunity, as so many things broke right for the Raptors. Kyle Lowry hit seven 3-pointers after struggling all year against the Bucks and historically against some of their guard defenders. Meanwhile, the Bucks hit on just a quarter of their 44 3-pointers, with Giannis Antetokounmpo having a tame evening, for him at least.
Beyond missed shots, it was hard to diagnose the issue. Marc Gasol turned down some shots, but he still took 11. The bench had a horrible run in the second half, but that is nothing new. There were signs that fatigue was an issue, which would not be a surprise given how the rotation shrunk against Philadelphia. In Game 1, the Bucks reserves played 78 minutes to the Raptors’ 40. That is the reality of how these two teams are built, though, and there is a day in between each game in this series. The Raptors aren’t suddenly going to win a game by going to Malcolm Miller. They need their starters to all contribute solid offence.
Whatever the cause, there are certainly some moments that the Raptors are going to wish they had back. With 2:25 left, Danny Green turned the ball over on a play where the referees appeared to miss a foul. Nonetheless, it never would have happened if Kawhi Leonard reestablished position after Khris Middleton fronted him in the post. Brook Lopez scored going the other way, and the Raptors never led again.
We can, and should, focus on the shots Marc Gasol missed, and the Raptors have to hope they start to fall. But after a series in which the Raptors continually spoke of controlling what they can control, his inability to secure defensive rebounds was more of an issue.
“Pretty frustrating,” said Lowry, who scored 30 points. “The fourth quarter killed us, 32-17. They outplayed us in that fourth quarter. They got a little bit more aggressive. They made some big shots, made some big plays. It sucks when you lose like that. But we had a chance, and we’ve got to learn from it and make an adjustment. Stay even-keeled, never too high, never too low. Just look at the film and get better.”
How many times has this team sung that song? Count the losses, mostly. Internally, Toronto believed that the offence would actually do better against Milwaukee’s top-ranked D than it did against Philadelphia, because the 76ers size was simply devastating. It was noted that Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell had played well against the Bucks in the past, and the Raptors hoped they would be playable again.
Well, not in three-reserve lineups, they weren’t: Along with a quiet Serge Ibaka, those three bled points to start the fourth, which was a theme against Philadelphia. And though the Bucks aren’t as bruising as the Sixers, or as big, they are a challenge. Poor Siakam got away from Joel Embiid only to run into Antetokounmpo, who is one of the few humans on earth who can make the Cameroonian look like a mini-me. Kawhi had to take tougher shots than he might like, and was 5-for-15 after halftime. Gasol was left open, again. He is a good shooter. He is not shooting well.
“I mean, I think for some guys, you could even actually use those exact words: You had a clean slate,” said Nurse before the game. “This series presents a new team, a new set of opportunities, right, a new set of issues, whatever it is. And man, I hope we make some more of those shots. I’ve been saying that for a while, though.”
It all fell apart against a Milwaukee team that had been sitting around for a week after waxing Boston. This series was a collision of interlocking pieces, and if you looked at them individually you could see similarities. Two-way superstars? Giannis and Kawhi. Long, limb-y scoring forwards? Middleton and Siakam. Fireplug point guards? Eric Bledsoe and Lowry. Lopez and Gasol at centre, Nik Mirotic and Ibaka as helpful power forwards, and Green and Brogdon as sharpshooting guards.
And as much as they are underdogs, the Raptors won two fewer games than Milwaukee this season while mixing and matching and experimenting, while the Bucks were the college student who had everything in order more or less all year long. You could also argue the Bucks hadn’t really played anybody yet, since Detroit’s best player was on one leg, and Boston was so sick of Kyrie Irving that all Milwaukee had to do was locate the self-destruct button, and gently urge the Celtics to push it.
This was a game Toronto should have stolen, or just won. And the Raptors put them on a hook, and let them off.
The Toronto Raptors seemed to pull out all the stops for this game one, yet the Milwaukee Bucks fought through a cold shooting evening from 3-point land to snag a win, 108-100. Milwaukee came out freezing cold from beyond the arc in the first quarter, trailing 34-23. The Bucks righted the ship somewhat in the second, finding their way to a little more consistency but still heading into halftime down 59-51. Pascal Siakam nailed a buzzer-beating triple at the end of three to give Toronto an 83-76 advantage. The Milwaukee Bucks finally saw their 3-pointers start to fall in the fourth quarter, with Brook Lopez carrying the team to victory with a herculean effort.
Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with a prominent 24 points, 14 rebounds, six assists, two steals and three blocks, but never seemed like he got totally in rhythm against a Raptors defense that was content to pack the paint as he drove inside. It felt akin to the first Boston game in that regard, and it’ll be curious to see if he can “figure things out” going forward in this series to dominate on the level he did in the latter four games against the Celtics.
Brook Lopez was massive, breaking out of his slump in a huge way with 29 points and 11 rebounds including damage from inside and out. Khris Middleton played a quiet game, off the mark all evening at only 4-12 but still had 11 points to go along with 11 boards. Eric Bledsoe again looked passive in the first half of the game, but had an energetic transition attack to start the third and finished with nine points. Brogdon’s return brought a huge 15 points off the bench.
Kawhi Leonard looked like he had to effort for all his points, but he still managed to secure 31 points and nine boards with fine defensive work (10-26 shooting) by Brogdon and Middleton. Kyle Lowry broke out of his playoff and Bucks slump with a giant 30-point performance that kept Toronto in it and ahead most of the night. Pascal Siakam struggled to 6-20 shooting for 15 points.
Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon
Three of the five Bucks starters for the majority of the regular season will likely receive votes for the NBA’s two All-Defensive teams. Middleton and Brogdon are the two who won’t receive that consideration.
In the biggest game of the Bucks season to this point, those other two guys combined for a stellar 42-minute, 13-second performance against Raptors All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard. Unfortunately, it didn’t totally feel that way through three quarters.
Through three quarters, Leonard had posted 29 points and two assists. It had taken him 23 shots, but he had still found a way to score.
In the final period, Leonard posted just two points on two free throws, while shooting 0-for-5 from the field.
“We talked about just the individual pride it takes with whoever has that assignment,” Budenholzer said of covering Leonard. “For the majority of the night, it was Khris and Malcolm. To be able to kind of tag-team him, and then in the fourth quarter hopefully between him seeing those two different guys all night and the activity around those two guys, we’ll take that fourth quarter.”
Before the series, Bucks coaches and players emphasized how they knew Leonard is the caliber of player who is not stopped but rather is just slowed down. To effectively slow him down, they knew they had to limit his easy baskets and make him work for everything they could.
For the most part, they succeeded in their efforts, giving him just one dunk off of an offensive rebound, another dunk on a fast break and a layup on a backdoor cut through the first three quarters. The rest of the shots certainly weren’t all tough shots, but he had to work hard to free himself for the looks. It took a toll on him by the end of the game.
“I mean, it could be, but it’s no excuses,” Leonard responded when asked if tired legs could have contributed to his two-point, three-shot fourth quarter. “We’re all out on the floor. Like I said, we had open looks that we could have made. We started off the game well. We just didn’t finish it up too great.”
To make Leonard work as hard as possible for touches, Middleton and Brogdon did their best to deny Leonard the basketball and keep him from even touching it in the first place.
Middleton was the player who logged the most time on Leonard. The Bucks all-star was asked if the work he put in during the first three quarters finally paid off in the fourth.
“Just trying to stay with him,” Middleton said. “Just try to make it tough. You know he’s going to try to get to his spot. Shoot. Split two or three guys.
“But he’s still going to try to get his shots up. That’s what his team wants him to do.”
Leonard had nine points in the first quarter, and the Bucks slowly worked to contain him.
“Can’t guard him with one guy,” Middleton said. “You see what happened in the first quarter, he’s playing one-on-one basketball. He’s too good.”
Brogdon, playing his second game since returning from a plantar fascia tear in his right foot, was also matched up with Leonard for a lot of the 27 minutes that the Bucks guard played.
Brogdon’s ability to stick with Leonard on drives was impressive considering Brogdon missed 21 games.
“He’s a tough guard,” Brogdon said. “Very versatile, can do it all on offense. (He’s) pretty patient, so on defense you have to be patient and not reach and not foul.
“We tried to make it as tough as possible. I thought Khris did an excellent job on him.”
Just three days ago, Leonard hit an instant-classic shot at the buzzer as the Raptors beat the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 7 of their second-round series. Leonard played 43 minutes in that game, putting up 39 shots and scoring 41 points.
Perhaps Leonard just ran out of steam in the fourth quarter against the Bucks in Game 1.
“I mean, it could be, but it’s no excuses,” Leonard said. “We’re all out on the floor. We had open looks that we could have made.
“We started off the game well. We just didn’t finish it up too great.”
The chess match continues in Game 2 on Friday.
Milwaukee controlled the paint throughout the game, winning points in the paint (44-26), second-chance points (24-13) and fast-break points (25-15), while also turning Toronto’s 12 turnovers into 20 points. Meanwhile, the Raptors not named Leonard or Lowry finished a combined 14-for-51 from the floor.
“It’s gonna be an interesting series,” said Siakam, who finished 6-for-20 from the field for 15 points, “and we know we had a chance to win tonight. We felt like we could’ve gotten this game, but obviously, we didn’t. And credit to them, they came back and took the game from us.
“But it’s a long series, and we’ve got to bounce back and be better next game if we want to get out of here with a win.”
Perhaps some fatigue set in from Toronto’s survival from a grueling seven-game series with the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, a series the Raptors won thanks to Leonard’s incredible buzzer-beater Sunday evening. The Bucks, on the other hand, finished off the Boston Celtics in five games and had a week to rest and prepare at home for this game, and Milwaukee certainly looked like the fresher team down the stretch.
From Toronto’s standpoint, though, the why of how this game played out the way it did ultimately was irrelevant. A chance to take control of this series right off the bat had been wasted. Now, the Raptors have no choice but to try to find a way to put themselves in a similar position when these teams meet again here Friday night in Game 2 of this best-of-seven affair.
“Each one of these games is critical,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “I thought we played tough tonight, a tough brand of basketball, for the most part.
“We gave ourselves a chance to win a game on the road in the Eastern Conference finals. It didn’t turn out, and we put in a lot of work, but you’re going to file that one away and put in more work the next time.”
“We gotta get some rest here tonight, focus in on our film, figure out some adjustments, build up some confidence,” Nurse added. “But then again, once it gets ready to go up for Game 2, we have to be tough.”
We recap a hard-nosed win for the Milwaukee Bucks over the Toronto Raptors in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals—one that featured a solid performance from Giannis and an outstanding one from his supporting cast (2:08).
If this game had gone in the Raptors favour, it was the kind of tape you’d keep on your bookshelf to remind you of the Lowry years. He was confident with his jumper, but was also razor sharp on defence, understanding his rotations, and jumping passing lanes with regularity. He also had a bevy of outstanding passes in transition, ones that were only intermittently finished by his teammates.
Indeed, a lack of support was once again the story for the Raptors, in a post-season where it’s been a struggle to get more than three players contributing in each game. Kawhi Leonard scored his fair share, leading the team with 31, but needed 26 shots to get there and committed three turnovers. Pascal Siakam had 15, but was similarly inefficient going 6-for-20.
The rest of the team? Nobody else had more than six points. Danny Green was 1-for-5 with three turnovers, while the bench combination of Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, and Serge Ibaka finished 5-for-16 after a promising first half stretch. Marc Gasol was mostly played out of the game in the second half thanks to the frantic pace, hitting on 2-of-11 in the game and getting beat on the glass by Brook Lopez; the big man led Milwaukee with 29 points, making four timely threes. The Bucks certainly looked fresher as a whole in the fourth quarter, as the Raptors rode their starters for the final eight minutes while Milwaukee took and held on to the lead.
Early on, though, the Raptors were making statements. Solid defence from the outset forced Giannis Antetokounmpo to score the first six points for Milwaukee. The Greek Freak would finish with 24 points on 7-for-16 shooting, as Toronto’s defence did a really good job of collapsing and making life difficult. After an 8-3 start, though, Milwaukee allowed Toronto’s shooting to give them the lead. Gasol and Green both hit threes to stretch a run to 16-0, as the Raptors would head into the second quarter up 34-23.
Some good bench minutes followed, as both of Norman Powell’s threes in the game kept the Raptors lead at 12. The Bucks started to play with more energy on the glass, though, as the game picked up pace and the home team cut the lead to five. The Raptors starters returned, with both teams looking intermittently solid and sloppy at the frenetic pace the Bucks favour. Two late Kawhi buckets and some free throws calmed things down, as the Raptors went into halftime up 59-51.
In the third, Eric Bledsoe scored seven straight to start the quarter to get the Bucks back in it, but Lowry really started to impose himself after that. A steal and score helped extend the lead back to ten, while 14 points from Kawhi in the quarter kept the Bucks at bay while everyone else on Toronto faded.
The beginning of the fourth was an omen of things to come, as Powell missed a layup, VanVleet missed a jumper, and Powell missed a three — Milwaukee scoring the other way to take their first lead since the opening minutes at 84-83. A Lowry three briefly gave the Raptors the lead back, but a 7-0 run put Milwaukee ahead for good. Besides one free throw from Pascal Siakam, only Lowry and Leonard scored for the Raptors in the fourth, with Gasol and Green missing three critical wide open shots in the final three minutes.
So, it feels like an opportunity lost for Toronto, as they’ll have, at most, three more chances to get a win in Milwaukee. Beyond the lack of support, the fact the Bucks shot just 11-for-44 from distance feels like a bit of an outlier — thought it might also be a sign of Milwaukee getting used to the Eastern Conference Final stage.
Led by Brook Lopez and Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee stormed back in the fourth quarter to take down the Raps in Game 1. NBA on TSN analysts Jack Armstrong and Leo Rautins join Rod Black to discuss what went wrong for Toronto in the disappointing defeat.
Whether it was Brook Lopez or Nikola Mirotic, the Bucks seemed to find their collective shooting strokes in that final frame, outscoring Toronto 32-17 to get a 108-100 win in Game 1 of the series.
Lopez wound up with a Bucks-best 29 points in the game after some serious struggles in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Coming into the series, Lopez was shooting from distance an-uncharacteristic-for-him 28%. He spent a lot of extra time in the gym following shootaround Wednesday morning. With each and every miss he could be heard from the other side of the gym, cursing each unsuccessful three.
By game time there were still issues with the shot but, not to be denied, Lopez reverted to the inside force he has been in years past and finished with 24 points to give Milwaukee a huge boost.
Lopez was just 4-for-11 from distance but 8-for-10 inside the arc to lead the Bucks to the victory.
Giannis Antetokounmpo put up some pretty solid numbers across the board with 24 points, 14 rebounds and six assists but was not the dominant force he has been for the Bucks throughout these playoffs.
Bottom line, the Bucks did not play their best game and they still won. That has to be troubling for the Raptors.
Brook Lopez — not Giannis — leads Bucks to Game 1 win
Whenever you think of the Bucks winning a game, you assume that it’s Giannis Antetokounmpo who leads them to victory. Except that was not the case in Milwaukee’s 108-100 win in Game 1 of the conference finals.
The true MVP of this game was none other than Brook Lopez, the former NBA All-Star center who had supposedly peaked years ago with the Brooklyn Nets. While Lopez had always been an offensive force during his career, all his points were scored down low. The veteran center has now reached a second act of his career where he’s become a solid 3-point shooter, and in this game he was the difference.
The 31-year-old scored 29 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the Bucks in scoring. Most importantly, Lopez is the one who keyed the Bucks’ 8-0 run at the beginning of the fourth quarter which allowed them to take their first lead since early in the first quarter — and eventually take control of Game 1.
Not only was he a beast beyond the arc, he dominated on the glass.
And let us not forget, the Bucks signed Lopez to a one-year deal worth just $3.4 million in free agency after the Los Angeles Lakers chose to let him walk without an offer.
Fast forward less than a year later and Lopez is the reason why the Bucks have won their first conference finals game in 18 years.
Brook Lopez was the difference ass the veteran Bucks centre poured in 29 points to lead Milwaukee. Toronto will feel cheated that they lost after holding Giannis Antetokoumpo to just 24 points, and wasted a 31-point game from Kawhi Leonard.
“Obviously it was a missed opportunity,” Fred VanVleet said. “We’re not running from that. Just flush it.
“It felt like we had a chance to win. We didn’t execute enough to get it done.”
It was Lowry who kept the Raptors in the game — Toronto only scored 17 points in the fourth quarter and he had 14 of them — as he looked more comfortable shooting than he has so far in the playoffs. He arrived at the arena with a funny-looking blue oven mitt thing on his left hand and said he hadn’t really touched a basketball since Sunday, when he banged his thumb in Game 7 against Philadelphia.
The idle time didn’t seem to bother him.
“They’ve got a whole bunch of guys, kind of athletic guards, and they run a lot of different guys at him. They’re doing a decent job of limiting his touches, so I thought it was good he could get the ball as much as he did,” coach Nick Nurse said of Lowry.
“He stepped into all of them. It’s been a while since he’s had one of those nights where every time he pulled up, you thought he was going to make it. Like every time he let it go tonight, you were like ‘that’s going in’ and that was good to see. We’ve seen that a lot in the regular season. He was great. He was fighting like heck out there.”
The way Lowry operates now and forever is to not sweat the moment too much and to move on quickly to the next. He is hugely demonstrative during games, frantically gesturing when things go poorly, exhorting his teammates when games are going well.
But he’s also got the ability to focus solely on the task at hand, to not let defeats of the past rankle him or recent success go to his head.
It was pointed out to him Wednesday morning that he had plenty of post-season run-ins with these Bucks, with Eric Bledsoe and Malcolm Brogdon and George Hill, and maybe that would have something to do with Wednesday’s result.
“Nothing,” he said. “It’s a different year, different playoffs, different game. It’s a new series.
Lowry was the only Raptor to make a field goal in the 4th. His teammates shot 0/15
— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) May 16, 2019
What the Raptors lacked and the Bucks didn’t was depth. After leading most of the game until early in the fourth quarter, the challenge is different for Lowry going forward. The stage is greater. And while so much has been made of the mega-stars in the series — in the fourth quarter, with the game on the line, Giannis Antetokounmpo couldn’t score and neither, really could Kawhi Leonard. Kawhi ended with 31 points. Brook Lopez led the Bucks in scoring with 29 points.
But what has to be both encouraging and discouraging for the Raptors is how great Lowry played and how they couldn’t hold on to win in the fourth quarter. They didn’t want to waste this kind of brilliance.
In Game 1, Lowry won his battle. In Game 1, the rest of the Raptors couldn’t hit shots, especially in the fourth quarter. The game was right there to be won by the Raptors. At 104-100 in the final minute, Lowry missed a three and Danny Green missed a three and off that rebound Eric Bledsoe went coast to coast for a basket.
That made it 106-100. If one of the threes hits, it’s 104-103 in the final minute. That’s how close this game was. And Lowry won his matchup — as challenging as that’s going to be for the rest of the series. Leonard carried the Raptors through the third quarter but only had two points in the fourth.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out,” said coach Nick Nurse, talking about the battle of the guards. “It’s a concern, not just two guards, they (Bucks) have four guards.” He was including Malcolm Brogdon, who ended up with 15 points and Pat Connaughton as well.
Lowry basically averages the same scoring as Hill most nights. And historically Hill has played awfully well against the Raptors, especially with Indiana a few playoff seasons back. But Hill didn’t score Wednesday night and Lowry didn’t stop scoring. He had 14 fourth-quarter points: Toronto only scored 17 points in the final quarter after scoring 34 in the first, 25 in the second, 24 in the third.
Siakam had one point in the final quarter, Marc Gasol had none.
Lowry has 30 points on 13 shots! pic.twitter.com/WWg2zBouJz
— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) May 16, 2019
The Raptors’ late-game execution wasn’t great, but wasn’t horrible. The just didn’t make shots. Kawhi Leonard’s two free throws put Toronto ahead 100-98 with 3:31 left in the fourth quarter, but the Raptors never scored again, going 0-for-8 from the field, including misfires on five 3-pointers.
“Pretty frustrating,” Lowry said. “The fourth quarter killed us, 32-17. They outplayed us in that fourth quarter. They got a little bit more aggressive. They made some big shots (and) made some big plays.”
Milwaukee finished the game with a 10-0 run, and Bucks center Brook Lopez, the star of the game with a playoff career-high 29 points, had five of those points.
“It sucks when you lose like that,” Lowry said.
It was a competitive and entertaining game, suggesting a long series. One team wasn’t demonstrably better than the other over 48 minutes. But Toronto is also facing a much better team than the Philadelphia 76ers, who played a more plodding style in the previous round.
The Bucks run a more free-flowing offense, and it may take a game or two for Toronto to adjust. The Raptors also didn’t get Bucks All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo at his best, which should also trouble Toronto.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse’s concerns headed into the series were warranted. He rattled them off in a pregame interview with reporters.
He was worried about the Bucks’ drive-and-kicks for open 3-pointers, their ability to grab offensive rebounds, their transition fastbreak and free throws — all of which hurt Toronto to varying degrees.
Milwaukee wasn’t great from 3-point range (25%), but made them when necessary in the fourth quarter, going 5-for-10.
The Bucks clobbered the Raptors on the glass and outrebounded them 15-8 on the offensive end, leading to 24-13 edge in second-chance points. Milwaukee loves to make teams pay for missed shots and turnovers in transition, and it outscored Toronto 25-15 in fastbreak points. The Bucks also made six more free throws.
“The biggest thing is transition,” Nurse said. “When you blow a layup or you get knocked down or something and the ball is still in play, they come at you in transition.”
That was some 4th quarter by Toronto's No. 2 … 2 points on a follow of his own miss. Just can't trust him when it really matters. Toronto was up 6 going to the 4th. But HE the North went south.
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) May 16, 2019
Toronto Raptors Receive: Anthony Davis
New Orleans Pelicans Receive: OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka, 2021 first-round pick (top-three protection)
When It Happens: On or after draft night if and when Kawhi Leonard (player option) commits to staying in Toronto.
The Raptors are a tantalizing destination for Davis insofar as they’re prepared to enter the running. They might not be.
Kawhi Leonard needs to stick around for them to make this gamble, and his return is far from a given. Few people claim to know what he’s kind of, sort of, and the ones who do aren’t shy about predicting a hookup with the Los Angeles Clippers.
“I still think he’s coming to L.A.,” ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne said on ESPN Los Angeles (via NBA writer Tomer Azarly). “I think the Clippers are in the driver’s seat. I’ve thought that for a long time just because he seems to be a guy who wants his own team.”
Feelings can change. More importantly, bird’s eye views can be wrong. Leonard just hit the biggest shot in Raptors franchise history—and one of the NBA’s clutchest game-winners of all time. Toronto is his team, and he’s four wins from an NBA Finals appearance.
Basketball situations don’t get much better. The Raptors would still promise one of the best winning situations even if they flame out against the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals. Short of teaming up with another superstar on the Clippers, he won’t find a more direct line to a title. And even that might be overstating L.A.’s appeal.
Going after Davis is a sales pitch to Leonard by itself. The Raptors can’t fork over the moon without a guarantee he’ll return, but the two parties can reach a mutual understanding: Get Davis, and Leonard stays put. Or Leonard could re-sign independent of Toronto’s interest in Davis. The Raptors are that good, and team president Masai Ujiri can view a potential Davis trade as a bonus pursuit of Leonard’s commitment.
Not many suitors can beat this package. The Raptors themselves will be hesitant to pull the trigger if they wind up winning the title. Pascal Siakam is a Most Improved Player favorite and a bona fide building block.