So I think it’s safe to say that the Raptors organization did not read The Post Up’s round 1 preview as they lost 97-83 to the Milwaukee Bucks from what looked like a second half melt down.
The young Bucks team was able to tame the Raptors by keeping them to just 36% shooting from the field and 72.7% from the line. The Bucks were also able to capitalize on the mistakes of the Raptors who had 11 turnovers resulting in 19 points for the Bucks. And as much as we Raptor fans want to believe that all referees are against us, the difference in free-throws attempted says otherwise. The Bucks were 12 for 15 from the line compared to the Raptors who were 24 for 33. The Raptors had more than double the free-throws suggesting the calls were actually in our favour (for once).
To address some of the key factors that was explained in the previous post, it is clear that no one, aside from a handful of elites, can actually guard Giannis Atentokounmpo. He finished the night with 28 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists while shooting 72% from the field. How do you stop a 6’11” guy who can essentially play all positions? That’s right, you can’t. Though the offence of the Bucks live and die by Giannis, the rest of the team was able to find ways to get their offense going without him, especially late in the second half. All guys who played 20+ minutes finished with double figures for points scored which goes to show just how effective their ball movement was. Honorary mention goes to Malcolm Brogdon who contributed 16 points in 34 minutes. We cannot forget to mention Khris Middleton, who also played well and unselfish basketball, dishing out 9 assists and was +27.
While all of this great ball movement was happening for the Bucks, the Raptors seemed to have gone missing. Kyle Lowry only had 4 points and shot 2/11. DeMar DeRozan led the team with 27 points but considering he shot 7 for 21, you can say that DeMar went missing as well. On the other hand, Serge Ibaka seemed unphased by the first round nerves as he finished with a double-double; 19 points and 14 rebounds. Our bench was also MIA as they combined for a grand total of 19 points off the bench.
A lot of people did not anticipate the Raptors to drop game 1 against this young group of guys. Coach Casey and the guys all agree that the Bucks did not do anything surprising but the things they were expected to do, thus they did really well. The Bucks really took advantage of their length especially in the second half as they shut down the Raptors offense. The Raptors were outscored 51-32 in the second half and had only 13 points in the 4th quarter (we’re ranked 4th in this category remember?). This was the Raptors second worse shooting night and on top of that, their 83-point effort was the lowest scoring home game of the season. I get that everything needs to happen at least once, but really? Tonight had to be one of their worst games?
So what is it going to take for them to win Tuesday night and well, the rest of the series? For one thing, they need to make their shots. Like Coach Casey said, their bad offense fed into their bad defense. This is a team that shot 47.2% against the Bucks during their 4 meetings in the season. Even just a couple of their guys like Lowry, DeRozan, Patterson and Carroll find their rhythm, they’re less likely to dig themselves into a hole. Another thing to focus on would be their transition defense. It’s not a surprise that the Bucks thrive off fast-break points, they're young and given their quickness, turnovers are like candy for them. Therefore, the Raptors need to be able to find their men on those transitions and take away those opportunities. The Raptors also need to clean up around the boards. They finished with just 8 offensive rebounds and with the length of this Bucks team, blocked shots will come but the guys need to be there for the drop-offs. Lastly, speaking of length, the Raptors cannot afford to play small against this team! You can’t have Jonas Valanciunas playing only 24 minutes without the straight substitution. Jakob Poeltl and Lucas Nogueira played a combined 3 minutes which suggests that Casey chose to play small. Despite 14 points from Greg Monroe and 4 points from Thon Maker, this is a position that the Raptors need to exploit.
At the end of game 1, the Raptors are now 0-9 when it comes to game 1 home games of the first round. Considering this is how they started last season and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, I wouldn’t panic...just yet. Something I always try to tell myself during the post-season of any sport is that it’s the first one to 4 wins, not the first one to win.