Kawhi Leonard unable to save Raptors from 108-100 defeat to Bucks
Brook Lopez recorded 29 points, while Giannis Antetokounmpo added 24 points and 14 rebounds as the Milwaukee Bucks overcame the Toronto Raptors 108-100 in Game One of their Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday evening.
Meanwhile, Kawhi Leonard had 31 points, and Kyle Lowry added 30. Lowry was playing with his thumb heavily bandaged after spraining it during Sunday’s clinching win.
The injured star drew acclaim from his coach. Nick Nurse said: “He was great, It’s been awhile since he had one of those nights where every time he pulled up you thought he was going to make it. He was fighting like heck out there.”
Also, Pascal Siakam added 15 points for the Raptors. Toronto had led for the majority of the evening, but ultimately fell short; something that they may later regret.
Game Two of their best-of-seven series is on Friday in Milwaukee. Before the series shifts to Toronto for Games Three and Four.
Backed by their rock-solid defensive effort, the Raptors dominated for most of the evening. They took a 13-point first-quarter lead, and responding well to every Bucks run of points. When Siakam’s three-point shot dropped at the buzzer to end the third, it sent Toronto into a fourth period advantage.
A pair of Nikola Mirotic free throws capped an 8-0 Bucks run to begin the final period. This gave the home team their first lead since early in the first quarter. Meanwhile, Malcolm Brogdon’s fast-break dunk put the Bucks up by five points and ignited the capacity Fiserv Forum crowd of over 17,000. The crowd included Bucks legend Oscar Robinson and Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament.
Meanwhile, a pair of Lowry three-pointers a minute and 19 seconds apart tied the game at 98-98 with 3:31 to play; silencing the home support. However, Lopez responded with a dunk and a three-pointer as the Bucks took a four-point lead into the final two minutes.
Both teams were guilty of turning the ball over far too much, and missed shots. However, Eric Bledsoe’s pair of free throws with 42 seconds to play all but sealed the victory for the Bucks.
One of the big positives on the night for the Raptors was their increased performance levels from beyond the arc. They had been well down on their regular season number during the opening rounds of the playoffs. However, they had ten three-pointers in the first quarter alone. Before, ending with a record of 15-for-42.
While the Bucks waited a week between dispatching Boston in five games in the conference semi-finals, and their matchup last night. The Raptors were back on the court three nights after their thrilling Game Seven victory over Philadelphia.
But, Danny Green echoed the sentiment from Nick Nurse that it could play into their hands. Green told reporters: “No, we had a couple days off, we were good. This is a young team, a professional team. It’s the Eastern Conference finals. We were supposed to come in with energy, regardless of the last series. It’s irrelevant now.”
The winner of this series will have the home-court advantage for the NBA Finals against either the Golden State Warriors or the Portland Trail Blazers. The Raptors would have taken a lot of positives in defeat, and they would be feeling confident that it could be their year.