After the first half of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, the Toronto Raptors held a 59-51 lead over the Milwaukee Bucks and were looking sharp. Things changed quite a bit after the break as the Bucks overcame an eight-point halftime deficit to defeat the Raptors 108-100 and take a 1-0 series lead.
The Bucks trailed for the majority of the game but they turned on a switch with just under 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. They rode their dominance on the offensive glass — 15 to the Raptors’ eight — and a career-high playoff performance by Brook Lopez (29 points and 11 rebounds) to win their first conference finals game since June 1, 2001.
The Raptors received a 30-point performance from Kyle Lowry on 10-of-15 from the field, but the rest of the team struggled from the field as Toronto converted on just 37.0 percent of their shots. Kawhi Leonard scored 31 points, but did so on just 10-of-26 shooting from the field.
Here are four takeaways from Milwaukee’s impressive Game 1 comeback:
Brook Lopez — not Giannis — leads Bucks to Game 1 win
Whenever you think of the Bucks winning a game, you assume that it’s Giannis Antetokounmpo who leads them to victory. Except that was not the case in Milwaukee’s 108-100 win in Game 1 of the conference finals.
The true MVP of this game was none other than Brook Lopez, the former NBA All-Star center who had supposedly peaked years ago with the Brooklyn Nets. While Lopez had always been an offensive force during his career, all his points were scored down low. The veteran center has now reached a second act of his career where he’s become a solid 3-point shooter, and in this game he was the difference.
The 31-year-old scored 29 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the Bucks in scoring. Most importantly, Lopez is the one who keyed the Bucks’ 8-0 run at the beginning of the fourth quarter which allowed them to take their first lead since early in the first quarter — and eventually take control of Game 1.
Not only was he a beast beyond the arc, he dominated on the glass.
And let us not forget, the Bucks signed Lopez to a one-year deal worth just $3.4 million in free agency after the Los Angeles Lakers chose to let him walk without an offer.
Fast forward less than a year later and Lopez is the reason why the Bucks have won their first conference finals game in 18 years.
Kyle Lowry comes out to play, but his teammates disappear
Yes, you read that right.
Kyle Lowry had one of his best playoff games of his career — and definitely the best of his 2019 postseason. The oft-criticized veteran point guard scored 30 points on a ridiculous efficiency of 10-of-15 from the field and 7-of-9 from beyond the arc while also grabbing eight rebounds.
In the most absurd statistic from this entire Game 1, Lowry carried the Raptors so much in the fourth quarter that no other teammate made a single field goal in the final period.
Lowry had been 1-of-20 on 3-point attempts against the Bucks during the regular season, only to completely explode and take over Game 1 while nearly leading the Raptors to victory.
This won’t make Raptors fans forget all about Lowry’s past postseason struggles, but if Toronto is to come back in this series, they’re going to need Lowry to turn in more clutch performances like this moving forward.
Kawhi disappears late in Game 1, scores two points in fourth
Kawhi’s game-winning shot in Game 7 against the Philadelphia 76ers will live forever. It was the definition of clutch and he’s the reason why the Raptors are even in the Eastern Conference finals.
However, he was the exact opposite of what Lowry was in Game 1. While the effort was there, Leonard struggled drastically, going 10 for 26 from the field just one days after he went 16-of-39 from the field in Game 7 against the Sixers.
Furthermore, he scored just two points in the final quarter, when the Bucks outscored the Raptors 32-17 in the final period to overcome a seven-point deficit. He had scored 29 points during the first three quarters.
Toronto has no chance of winning this series if it receives that kind of production from its star player.
Bucks win despite plenty of Game 1 struggles
Make no mistake about it: Although the Bucks won this game, they were drastically outplayed by the Raptors during the first three quarters of the game.
Milwaukee could not convert on any 3-pointers and literally went 6 of 23 from 3-point range (26.1 percent) during the first half. By the end of the game, the Bucks’ numbers were still poor — 39.8 percent of their field-goal attempts and 25 percent from 3-point range — but managed to win behind an early fourth-quarter blitz and a monster advantage in the offensive rebounding department.
While it’s true that this was one game and that it was at home for Milwaukee, it has to be extremely discouraging for the Raptors to lose a game in which they outplayed the Bucks for the first 36 minutes while receiving a monster performance from Lowry.
We’ll see how quickly the Raptors rebound from this collapse in Game 2 on Friday night, because this one is going to be hard to swallow.