Once again, the Toronto Raptors drop a Game 1 to start a playoff series. With the loss, they are a stunning 0-9 in the first game of Round 1. They now must win Game 2 on Tuesday to avoid digging a major hole before going on the road to Milwaukee.
Here’s a look at what took place at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night:
Why They Lost – The Raptors looked like the inexperienced team in Game 1, while the Bucks played with tremendous composure. Toronto, with the exception of DeMar DeRozan getting to the rim several times, could not generate clean looks. Milwaukee’s length and ball pressure caused major issues, as the Raptors shot 36% overall, a pitiful 22% from the 3pt line and 73% from the charity stripe.
Key Stat Line of the Night – Greg Monroe – 14pts, 15 reb and several charges taken in the paint. He outduelled Jonas Valanciunas in the paint ( 9 pts and 9 boards), and provided a steady veteran presence throughout the night. Thon Maker’s 3 blocks were also key in preventing the Raptors from going on any kind of offensive run.
Who Rose Up – Serge Ibaka; he never looked phased or lost his composure even when the Raptors were struggling. Serge played strong at the rim and was the only Raptor that didn’t look lost on the defensive end.
Who Needs to Step Up – Kyle Lowry; he had as many points as fouls (4). Was outplayed by the rookie Malcolm Brogdon, while shooting 0-6 from downtown, and looked frazzled by the Bucks’ length and athleticism. If he truly is the “heartbeat” of the team, as some people think, this series will be over quick if he can’t be more efficient and aggressive.
The Buck to Stop – Giannis Antetokounmpo; 28pts on 13-18 FG. He was simply unstoppable taking the ball to the rim. The Greek Freak threw down several thunderous dunks and mixed in some AND 1 plays, no matter what Raptor was covering him. Add in 2 steals and a massive block on Demar in the 4th quarter, he showed, by a country mile, he was clearly the best player on the floor.
Key Stretch of the Game – The entire 4th quarter; even though the Raptors were struggling on both offence and defence, they were only down 5 at the end of the 3rd quarter. In the final frame, the Raps were outscored 22-13, and looked completely disorganised on the offensive end. Missing their first 4 free throws helped the game slip away.
Plan for Game 2 – Move that rock! The ball movement was quite stagnant through many offensive sets. Several passes lacked zip and were floated / lobbed to other players. Too many times, a bad 3 pt attempt was jacked up at the end of the shot clock. The team has 72 hours to figure out how to generate better looks and get everybody more involved.
Lowry needs to show he truly is the leader of the team. Shooting 2 of 11 from the floor is simply unacceptable at this time of year. Cory Joseph was also anaemic at the point guard position. In 27 minutes, he only contributed 3 points and had 3 costly turnovers. His minutes would be better served by the more explosive Delon Wright, who only saw the court for 2 measly minutes, when the game was already out of reach. DeMarre Carroll must also find a way to contribute more, with only 5 pts against 4 fouls.
For a team that made the conference finals last year, Toronto has to show they are the team in control. The Bucks look very comfortable right now. With almost nothing to lose in Game 2 (getting at least a split on the road is always seen as a victory), Milwaukee faces no pressure now. The Raptors are already up against the wall. And if this team somehow falls out of the playoffs after just one round, it could be Coach Dwane Casey that pays the price.