Milwaukee Bucks, NBA Playoffs, Toronto Raptors

Brook Lopez is the Game 1 hero as the Bucks knock off the Raptors

Brook Lopez had his best game of the postseason, helping power the Bucks to a fiery Game 1 win over the Raptors.

This week, Giannis Antetokounmpo talked about the sting of losing Game 1 in the second round to the Celtics and how they could not afford to dig themselves a similar hole against the Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals. Thanks, in large part, to the extra-large contributions of Brook Lopez, the Bucks were able to take Game 1.

Lopez was huge, hitting shots inside and out, but Giannis also put together a characteristically explosive effort with several highlight dunks and blocks. On a night when Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe were struggling to make shots, Malcolm Brogdon’s 15 points on 3-of-6 3-point shooting was also huge for Milwaukee.

Toronto has some positives to build in as they look to Game 2. They won the first quarter by 11 and still led by seven heading into the fourth. But their offense withered down the stretch and they weren’t able to get the stops they needed.

Game 2 will be Friday night in Milwaukee, before the series shifts to Toronto this weekend.

Takeaways

This could have been “The Kyle Lowry Game.” His playoff inconsistency was a recurring storyline during the seven-game series against the 76ers but he came out engaged and focused in this game, putting together one of the best efforts of his postseason career. Lowry finished with 30 points, 8 rebounds and 2 assists on 10-of-15 from the field and 7-of-9 on 3-pointers. He missed a crucial 3-pointer with just over a minute left that could have cut Milwaukee’s lead to one, but he did just about everything else right for Toronto. Unfortunately, his teammates were just 8-of-33 on 3-pointers, and the Bucks made the big plays they needed to get the win. And so, this will be known as…

“THE BROOK LOPEZ GAME.” Lopez has struggled in these playoffs, shooting 29 percent from the field in Milwaukee’s five-game series win over the Celtics but he was everything for the Bucks in Game 1. He finished with 29 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 blocks, shooting 12-of-21 from the field and 4-of-11 on 3-pointers. He was all over the court, clapping like a lunatic and spackling his energy at both ends to fill every hole. His 3-point shooting was the highlight, but having Lopez got 8-of-10 inside the arc is just as important for Milwaukee to be able to force Toronto to keep Marc Gasol on the floor and punish the Raptors for any time they try to put him on Giannis. This is the Lopez who was so important to the Bucks’ incredible regular season, capably defending the paint and stretching opponents well beyond the 3-point line.

Next: The Trail Blazers and Raptors are rewarded for keeping the faith

The Raptors are going to need more. Kawhi Leonard played so well against the 76ers that in the games they lost in that series, it often seemed like they just needed one supporting player to have stepped up and contributed to have reversed the outcome. Kawhi wasn’t as efficient as he has been but he was still fantastic in Game 1. Lowry was terrific in support. And it wasn’t nearly enough. Gasol was unable to make Milwaukee pay for leaving him at the 3-point line, finishing 2-of-7 from behind the arc. Pascal Siakam did some work off the bounce but couldn’t hit from the outside. Danny Green, Serge Ibaka, and Fred VanVleet combined to go 1-of-8 on 3-pointers. Everyone but Kyle Lowry was 0-of-15 on all shots in the fourth quarter. The Bucks are another level up from the 76ers and Toronto needs everyone to raise their games if they’re going to make this a series.

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