As you may have read, heard, or observed yourself on Wednesday night, the Toronto Raptors let a valuable opportunity slip away in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Finals series against the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Bucks shot just 25 per cent from deep and attempted fewer three-pointers than their average, plus Giannis Antetokounmpo was quiet down the stretch. The same can be said about Kawhi Leonard, but Kyle Lowry was anything but. He almost single-handedly kept Toronto in the game as the fourth quarter wore on with his best playoff scoring performance of his career — 30 points on 7-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc.
It wasn’t enough and after struggling to manufacture a shot in the closing minutes, and with nobody able to cool a red-hot Brook Lopez, the Raptors find themselves down 1-0 in the best-of-seven-series.
As we do following every Raptors playoff game, let’s check in with the out-of-market media to see what they’re saying following Toronto’s 108-100 loss:
The fourth-quarter film will highlight an ugly picture. Lowry was fantastic, going 5-for-7 from the floor and scoring 14 of his 30 points in the final 12 minutes alone. The rest of the Raptors, though, were awful. Toronto’s other seven players who saw time in the fourth combined to go 0-for-15 from the floor, including 0-for-7 from 3-point range, with the only other points coming on free throws by Kawhi Leonard (two) and Siakam (one).
…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.
Kawhi Leonard presents one of the toughest defensive assignments in the NBA.
The Toronto Raptors’ all-everything forward has length, strength and an uncanny ability to create clean looks at the basket.
Leonard was surgically carving up the Milwaukee Bucks through three quarters on Wednesday night at Fiserv Forum. He entered the fourth quarter with 29 points on 10 for 23 shooting to go along with eight rebounds.
But the Bucks were able to hold Leonard to just two made free throws in the fourth quarter as they stormed back to take a 108-100 victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Bucks guards Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon took on the tough task of slowing down Leonard.
“We talked about just the individual pride it takes with whoever has that assignment,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said.
“To be able to tag-team him, and then in the fourth quarter hopefully — between seeing those two different guys all night and the activity around those two guys — we’ll take that fourth quarter.”
…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.
Skip Bayless continues to make wild statements about Kawhi Leonard, like, in this instance, you “just can’t trust him when it really matters.” Seriously.
The Toronto Raptors squandered an opportunity.
They led for most of the game, Kyle Lowry scored 30 points and made a playoff career-high seven 3-pointers, and through three quarters, the Milwaukee Bucks were abysmal from 3-point range.
The Raptors’ late-game execution wasn’t great, but wasn’t horrible. The [sic] 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.
…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.
…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.
…It’s too early to tell how this loss will impact the series, but there’s a chance the Raptors could look back and think this was the game that determined who reached the NBA Finals.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith reacts to Game 1, including thoughts on the Raptors’ depth and Leonard’s performance: