Eastern Conference Finals: Game 1 (Bucks lead 1-0)
2. Toronto Raptors (100) – 1. Milwaukee Bucks (108)
The Bucks looked rusty for most of Game 1. After nearly a week of rest, their vaunted offense took some time before it got rolling. Milwaukee just wasn’t used to a grind-it-out game. Throughout these Playoffs, the Bucks have been flying up and down the court, winning by blowing their opponents out of the water.
The Raptors in contrast were used to grinding it out. Against the Magic and Sixers, they leaned on a familiar formula. When nothing else was clicking, they would get the ball to Kawhi Leonard and let their superstar go to work. In Game 1, Leonard did just that, he scored 29 points in the first three quarters of the game and led the Raptors to a six-point lead heading into the final period.
The Bucks needed a hero. It’s just that no one expected Brook Lopez to actually put on the cape.
In the first two rounds of the Playoffs, Lopez averaged 8.3 points on 38% shooting. He didn’t need to do much since the rest of the team was playing so well. Against the Raptors today, the Bucks needed Lopez to do more than just his role.
Lopez came alive in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 of his 29 points to push the Milwaukee past Toronto. He also pitched in four blocks and 11 rebounds, showing how far he was willing to go beyond the floor-spacing role that he took on for most of the season.
Lopez’s finishing kick to the game was what gave the Bucks separation for good.
Down by one with a little over two minutes left in the game, Khris Middleton got the steal and started a two-on-one break. Running alongside Middleton was Lopez. He got the pass and crammed home a dunk on Kyle Lowry to give Milwaukee the lead back. After a defensive stop, Antetokounmpo ran the floor and got into the lane. He kicked out to a wide-open Lopez who promptly drilled home the three to give the Bucks a four-point lead. In the next Raptors possession, he got the block on Leonard to seal the win.
This was the kind of win that will only boost the Bucks moving forward. They ended the game on a 10-0 run. The Raptors were in control for most of the game until the Bucks just ran away with momentum in the end. Milwaukee didn’t even need a dominant game from Antetokounmpo (24-14-6, still pretty good).
The Playoffs are awesome. Not only do superstars get the chance to make a name for themselves, but role players can step up in front of a national audience. Lopez put on a show with everyone watching.
Well… almost everyone.
— Robin Lopez (@rolopez42) May 16, 2019
Photo from Getty Images