It’s closing time. The score was 83 – 76 and the Raptors held a 7-point lead entering the fourth quarter. Despite leading the game for almost 38 minutes, this was the beginning of the performative collapse for Toronto.
So, what happened in the final 12-minutes that led a trailing Bucks team to outscore the Raptors 32 to 17?
. . .
Up to this point, neither the Bucks nor Raptors were playing their best team basketball. Fortunately, Brook Lopez and Kyle Lowry stepped up for their respective teams alongside their superstar counterparts. The superstar matchup we all predicted.
Lopez, the now sharpshooting center ditched by Magic Johnson just 11 months ago, had a dominant career-high performance: 29 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 blocks. In the fourth quarter, Lopez scored 13 of his 29 points for the night and lead the team to 5 second-chance points by grabbing 4 defensive rebounds.
Incredibly, Kyle carried Toronto through the game, scoring a playoff career-high 7 made 3’s on only 9 attempts. In the final quarter, Lowry scored 14 of his 30 points and went 5-for-7 beyond the arc, while the rest of the Raptors went 0-15 in the quarter. The unpredictability of the playoffs was on full display. The non-Lopez Bucks players committed five turnovers in the fourth quarter but managed to score an impactful 19 points.
For Milwaukee, Lopez ‘s scoring was not the only thing he provided. He also made a complementary impact to the game that opened up scoring opportunities for others and dominated the glass. Lowry’s fourth-quarter presence was the only thing that kept the Raptors in the ball game, but the Bucks were rolling on all cylinders in the fourth.
Now despite all this, the momentum finally shifted in Toronto’s favour. At the 4:02 mark, Lowry knocks down a 3-point jump shot, and the score is tied at 98-98. Soon after, Bucks Guard Brogdon commits a foul on Kawhi Leonard, which resulted in two successful free throws. The Raptors now hold a 2-point lead, 100-98 at 3:31. This was their chance to make a final run.
Unfortunately, these free throws are the last points scored by the Raptors in this series opener and following this is the crux of the Raptors collapse.
Possession after possession, the Raptors fell short and missed their final 8 field goal attempts.
The Bucks goes on to score 10 points in these final minutes. But the true product of the Raptors horrendous offensive spiral was Milwaukee’s ball protection and defensive action.
On the final possessions between the Raptors and Bucks, Milwaukee regained possession 8 times, twice on offense and 6 times on defense. If that wasn’t enough, the Bucks made 2 blocks and 1 steal. These plays kept the ball in their hand and created possessions where there weren’t.
. . .
In the most determining 12 minutes, whether it was layup from 2 ft out or a 25 ft jump shot. the Raptors did not perform offensively. As a result, the defense broke down and the Bucks collectively took advantage of this declining momentum. This was a road game the Raptors absolutely had to have. It takes a lot to steal a game in the building of a one-seed (unless you’re LeBron in Toronto), and the Raptors had all the makings of an upset win.
But alas, the Bucks take Game 1. Final score: 108-100. At least we have the Kawhi shot.