Bucks down Raptors in opener of Eastern Conference playoff series
Apr 16 2017 by Kelly Saunders
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 28 points and eight rebounds to lift the Milwaukee Bucks to a shocking 97-83 victory over the Raptors in Game 1 of the opening round of the playoffs on Saturday. The last timeToronto won the first game of any series was in 2001, against the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round.
Toronto couldn't comfortably get into its half-court sets.
It's a classic debate of whether it's better to attack an opponent's weakness versus playing to your own team's strengths, which, for Toronto, is obviously having having Lowry and DeRozan control the possessions. I'm happy with the energy and the effort.
With 42 wins, the Bucks finished above.500 for the first time since 2009-10.
The Raptors have put themselves into a hole, and the Bucks look unsafe, particularly with Giannis Antetokounmpo proving himself to be the best player on either team. "We know they're going to be more desperate".
It was an exciting, tightly contested first half.
After clinching a playoff berth on last week with a win over the 76ers, Antetokounmpo said, "We aren't going to be fun to play in the playoffs, because we have nothing to lose".
The Raptors were relieved to learn this week that the National Basketball Association didn't, for a fourth straight year, give them the earliest start time. It's too soon to say whether they have their act together, but for three quarters they looked more like a team capable of reaching its third straight Finals.
On the eve of a new playoff odyssey, Ujiri called Antetokounmpo "family" and said a young man who already is the NBA's most improved player has an even higher ceiling. That depth is a big reason why the Raptors play with such phenomenal consistency. No more fretting over Kyle Lowry's return date or whether or not the rest of the team can avoid the injury bug. But if the Raptors don't make open shots-especially Lowry and DeRozan-it won't matter who is on the floor.
It was a fitting result, one of those truisms of teams falling way short when shots aren't dropping, not enough players are stepping up, not enough stops being made. Trailing early shouldn't put any added pressure on the third seed, though, as they've have made a habit of withstanding the first punch and coming back.
Maybe the Bucks were the team just waiting until the playoffs to flip the switch defensively. They take a four game winning streak into the playoffs. This team is not the 2014 San Antonio Spurs when it comes to ball and player movement. It's the fourth season in a row the Raptors have surrendered the opening game of the postseason. He could be a major asset to Dwane Casey with his ability to guard multiple positions, something that will be at a premium against the Bucks.
The Blazers lost all four regular-season meetings but went 17-6 down the stretch. Two years ago in the playoffs, he wasn't almost the player he is today, as they lost in six games in the first round.
"It's big for us, but now we have to focus on Game 2", Antetokounmpo said.
He's also not one for help defense in any capacity.
Their regular-season issues followed the Cavaliers into the playoffs. But the DNA isn't going to change overnight.
"We feel good about ourselves", Antetokounmpo said. "I have seen what they have done against good teams in this league and what they are capable of doing". Now, if they have two bodies on them, yes. They play hard from tip off to final horn and if you allow them will physically dominate you in a game. "If we don't, we shouldn't even go out there and lace up our shoes".
Maybe it's more about playing better than playing differently.
Lillard and CJ McCollum make up one of the league's best backcourts, one that rivals Curry and Klay Thompson. But better shots will come with better execution, better discipline and better cohesion.
Aside from the midrange maestro, other Raptors such as Jonas Valanciunas, Norman Powell, and DeMarre Carroll also started out the season tearing it up on offense so it was easy to win games since they could count on them and everyone else to score at ease.