MILWAUKEE | The Milwaukee Bucks took Game 1 from the Toronto Raptors with a 108-100 win at Fiserv Forum Wednesday night.
Player of the game: Brook Lopez
What more can you say about Splash Mountain? He was terrific for Milwaukee. Lopez finished with a team-high 29 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks. He was also clutch. In the fourth quarter, Lopez knocked down 5-7 from the field including 3-5 from beyond the arc. He had 13 points in the final frame to help the Bucks pull away late.
“The thing that does stand out is the put-backs and the stuff around the basket, particularly in the first half,” Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We were kind of struggling for scoring and just anything offensively, and he was able to kind of manufacture a couple things. And obviously in the second half, the threes in the spread that he gives us. And then defensively, we’ll look at the tape, but I thought he was there several times in the fourth quarter, making blocks, making big-time contests, rebounding. Certainly, in a big moment, that was a great Brook Lopez tonight.”
“I knew, at some point, Brook was going to come through,” Eric Bledsoe said. “He’s been playing unbelievable defense throughout the whole playoffs. For him to break out an offensive game like this is huge for us.”
Coming into the Eastern Conference Finals, Lopez had only scored in double-figures three times in this year’s playoffs. He hasn’t made much of an impact offensively, until Wednesday night.
Milwaukee continues to prove they can win in so many different ways. Giannis Antetokounmpo is their star, MVP candidate, and leader, but they have multiple players that can step up in big games.
Play of the game: Lopez puts the Raptors away with a dagger
Down by one with less than three minutes to go, Lopez went on his own 5-0 run to put the Bucks up four. This capped off his 13 point fourth quarter and was the final blow Milwaukee needed to put Toronto away.
The good: Malcolm Brogdon
Brogdon played a solid game off the bench. He gave the Bucks a spark when they needed it. George Hill and Pat Connaughton each failed to score but Brogdon was able to pick up the slack. He finished with 15 points (5-9 FG, 3-6 3PT) in just under 27 minutes and had the highest +/- in the game (18).
Budenholzer will have an interesting decision to make whether he wants to insert Brogdon into the starting lineup sometime soon which would move Nikola Mirotic to the bench.
“He was phenomenal,” Budenholzer raved. “Again, the first half, I don’t think we were very good as a group, and Malcolm was one of those guys that kept us afloat. We already talked about Brook kind of keeping us afloat in the first half. And [Brogdon] really did it. I think what he’s doing defensively is impressive, too. His second game back after not playing for a significant period of time, it’s impressive. And we certainly needed him tonight.”
The not so good: Shaking off the rust
It was an ugly start for the Bucks. They’ve had a few starts like this before, especially after a long layoff. We saw it in Game 1 of Round 2 against the Boston Celtics. The Bucks strongly dislike having multiple days off. If it were up to Giannis, they would play every other day. Luckily for Milwaukee, they will play every other day in this series.
The Bucks saw a lot of good looks but couldn’t convert when they had opportunities. They shot just 39.8% from the field and 25% from three-point range. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter when they found success from beyond the arc. They knocked down five of their 11 makes from deep in the last 12 minutes of play. It was an impressive win despite the poor shooting night.
What they said:
Budenholzer on the win…
I think we always talk about our defense. We start with it. I think the way that the guys competed and got after it defensively in the second half and particularly the fourth quarter just stands out to me. The depth, Malcolm coming off the bench and playing the way he did and all the different guys we got contributing. Then obviously a big game from Brook on both ends of the court. We feel like we can get better. To get this win after pretty significant days without playing, I think hopefully we’ll be better between now and Game 2.
Raptors head coach Nick Nurse on whether the team was fatigued down the stretch coming off a seven-game series…
I don’t think so. I thought you could maybe think that or whatever, but I thought we were right there. I thought we answered a bunch of runs, and we were still there at like 100-98. Man, we had a couple great looks. We had a couple bad offensive possessions before that point, but we still clawed it back and we had a couple great looks there down the stretch. We had a couple good defensive possessions that didn’t end up going our way.
In case you missed it:
*The Bucks have now won five consecutive playoff games, which is tied for the second-longest winning streak in postseason franchise history and is the longest since 1974 (6 games).
*Milwaukee held Toronto to just 37% shooting as a team, marking the eighth time the Bucks have held an opponent to under 40% shooting this postseason.
*Lopez led the Bucks with a playoff-career-high 29 points (12-21 FG) and 11 rebounds, tallying his sixth career playoff double-double. This marks his first 20-point game of this year’s playoffs, and just his fourth 20-point game in his playoff career.
*Giannis scored 24 points and hauled in 14 rebounds. This was his fifth 20-point/10-rebound game of the postseason and the 10th of his playoff career. He joins Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Terry Cummings as the only players in franchise history to record 10 or more 20-point/10-rebound games in the playoffs.
*Khris Middleton tallied his third career playoff double-double as he scored 11 points and hauled in 11 boards.
*Kawhi Leonard led the Raptors with 31 points and nine rebounds, marking his eighth game of the playoffs with 30+ points.
*Kyle Lowry finished the night with 30 points, tallying his seventh career playoff game with 30+ points and his first since the 2016 playoffs.
*The Raptors also had Pascal Siakam (15) score in double figures.
The Bucks (1-0) will look to take a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Raptors (0-1) on Friday night at Fiserv Forum. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30pm.