Despite trailing for most of the game, the Milwaukee Bucks stormed back in the fourth quarter to defeat the Toronto Raptors in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 24 points and 14 rebounds in the win, but the Bucks got a much-needed scoring punch out of Brook Lopez (29) and Malcolm Brogdon (15). It helped them overcome 31 points from Kawhi Leonard and 30 points from Kyle Lowry to take a 1-0 lead in the series.
Can the Raptors steal a game in Milwaukee before the series shifts to Toronto or will the Bucks continue to take care of business at home?
Here are four things to watch in Game 2...
Game 1 belonged to Lopez, who led the Bucks in scoring with a playoff career-high 29 points on 12-for-21 shooting from the field.
Lopez punished the Raptors from inside and out in the win. Through three quarters, all but one of his baskets came inside the 3-point line. He then found his stroke in the fourth quarter, knocking down three of his five 3-point attempts, including one with just under two minutes to play that served as the dagger.
The Raptors are going to have a tough time in this series if Lopez is able to establish himself as a reliable threat from the perimeter. He did in the regular season by setting a record for 3-pointers made by a centre, but Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals was only the fourth time in these playoffs that Lopez has scored in double figures and the first time he's scored more than 20 points.
With the way the Raptors are defending Antetokounmpo, the shots will be there for the taking. They were able to limit Antetokounmpo to 24 points on 7-for-16 shooting from the field - a quiet night by his standards - but collapsing the paint as aggressively as they did led to a number of kick-outs in which one of his teammates got a wide open shot.
It's what happened on Lopez's dagger, as Antetokounmpo drew Marc Gasol, Pascal Siakam and Leonard into the paint and set him up in his sweet spot for a catch-and-shoot jumper.
Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with six assists, but he could have had a lot more - he had a game-high 18 potential assists, per NBA.com.
"We want him to be aggressive, especially in this series," Antetokounmpo said after the game. "Marc Gasol is trying to be active, trying to help a lot and he's going to be wide open most of the time. And he's going to knock down shots like he did tonight.
"Especially when he's going, we have to find him more and more and more."
The Raptors might ultimately live with someone other than Antetokounmpo carrying the Bucks in scoring, but this team is deep enough for a different player to step up four times in a given series.
Milwaukee's offensive rebounding
Offensive rebounding was one of the keys of the Eastern Conference Semifinals because the Philadelphia 76ers were one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the league this season.
The same can't be said about the Bucks - Milwaukee ranked 26th in offensive rebounding rate during the regular season - and yet they still dominated the offensive glass in Game 1.
The Bucks finished the game with 15 offensive rebounds. Lopez and Antetokounmpo led the way with four offensive rebounds each, followed by Nikola Mirotic, who chipped in with three off the bench.
The three of them combined for more offensive rebounds (11) than the Raptors had as a whole (8) and the Bucks made the most of those opportunities, scoring 24 second-chance points compared to only 13 for Toronto.
It's these sorts of possessions that hurt the Raptors the most in Game 1:
That's about as well as anyone can be expected to defend the Bucks on a given possession. They managed to keep Antetokounmpo out of the paint on two occasions and helped off of the right players to shut down the paint on Khris Middleton's drive.
They then did an excellent job of closing out on Milwaukee's shooters late in the shot clock, only to have Mirotic swoop in for an offensive rebound and easy putback off of Middleton's heave.
The Raptors can't afford to have those kinds of lapses at this point of the season to beat a team as good as the Bucks. On a night when the Bucks shot 39.8 percent from the field and 25.0 percent from the perimeter, second-chance points kept them in the game.
Toronto's 3-point shooting
In his first season as head coach, Mike Budenholzer has turned the Bucks into the best defensive team in the league by keeping opponents out of the paint. According to NBA.com, they gave up the fewest paint points during the regular season and have been even stingier in these playoffs, going from allowing 42.2 per game to 36.4.
The Bucks allowed even fewer in Game 1, limiting the Raptors to 26 paint points on a miserable 13-for-33 shooting (39.4 percent).
It didn't impact the Raptors as much in the first half because they were able to make 10 of their 22 3-point attempts, but they went ice cold from the perimeter in the second half.
|Location||First Half||Second Half|
Kyle Lowry was responsible for all but one of those second-half 3-pointers, too. He went 4-for-5 from the perimeter. Everyone else combined to shoot 1-for-15.
The Raptors are going to have to make 3-pointers consistently to have a chance in this series. The opportunities should be there considering no team gave up more 3-point attempts per game than the Bucks this season.
It would open up the floor for Leonard and Siakam if the likes of Gasol, Danny Green and Fred VanVleet can get themselves going from deep. Similar to how the Raptors defended Antetokounmpo, the Bucks were aggressive in shutting down the paint whenever Leonard or Siakam made a move to the basket in Game 1.
It led to possessions like this, in which Leonard forced a tough shot over four Milwaukee defenders, one being Antetokounmpo, who is perhaps the best help defender in the league:
Leonard needs to trust his teammates in those situations - VanVleet was wide open on the opposite wing - but they also have to earn his trust by shooting more confidently.
After two grind-it-out series, the Raptors picked up the pace in Game 1 against the Bucks.
That can be a tricky game to play against Milwaukee. The Raptors finished behind only two teams in transition scoring this season, one of them being the Bucks.
It played out that way in Game 1, with the Bucks outscoring the Raptors 25-15 in transition.
"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," Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said post-game. "Those were the only real tough offensive possessions we had."
Playing at that high of a pace might have hurt the Raptors down the stretch as well. They shot 6-for-23 from the field in the fourth quarter, with many of their misses coming up short.
With only one day of rest, it'll be interesting to see if the Raptors come out of the gates in Game 2 as they did in Game 1.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.