Game Day Preview: Lowry, Raptors hope to rebound against Bucks in Game 2

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The Toronto Raptors stayed true to tradition and once again lost game 1 of their playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks, 97-83. This may come as a surprise to some but others have gotten used to game 1 losses. I, myself, believe the Raptors lose game 1’s on purpose as part of a strategy to scout their opponents. That or the basketball gods don’t think Raptors fans have suffered enough.

Point the finger at Kyle Lowry all you want but this was a team effort. Field goal percentage was atrocious at 36% and the 3 point shooting needs a drastic improvement after the 22% performance that capped off the loss. Toronto won the battle of the boards 47-43 but there wasn’t much of a silver lining after that.

Back to Lowry, he needs to rebound in a big way. After scoring 4 points, there’s absolutely no way Lowry can have such an abysmal performance. DeMar DeRozan did his thing, scoring 27 points and reeling in 8 boards. Another Raptor that showed great energy was Serge Ibaka, who scored 19 points and pulled down 14 rebounds.

The Raptors must also find a way to contain Giannis Antetokounmpo after the 22 year-old went off for 28 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists on 72% shooting. The Greek Freak had his way and continued his brilliant play throughout the 2016-17 campaign.

The Bucks shot 45% from the field, 39% from deep and assisted each other on 22 out of 38 made field goals. In other words, Milwaukee played the game at their pace and the Raptors never recovered. Here are Cage’s keys to the game:

Ball Movement

The Bucks showed better teammate chemistry than the Raptors. As mentioned before, Milwaukee dished out 22 assists and Toronto ended the game with 15. Better ball movement and efficient execution is crucial for this very critical game 2. If the Raptors don’t pull through for the next game, this could be a quick series and the Raptors organization could be in for an off season full of uncertainty.

Defense

“Offense wins games, but defense wins championships.” It’s only the first round but in order for Toronto to get past the Bucks, they’re going to have to turn the defense up a couple notches. The Raptors only forced 5 turnovers while committing 10 of their own. Look no further than this stat if you’re wondering why Toronto collapsed in the fourth quarter. Rebounding numbers were good, blocks were solid at 4, but forcing only 5 turnovers is completely unacceptable.

Will the real Kyle Lowry please stand up?

For many, the postseason is the real season. It’s when stars become legends and if Lowry wants to become a legend, he cannot have another lackluster performance. He dished out 6 assists but only netted 4 points. The All-Star version of Kyle Lowry would be welcome anytime. More specifically, tonight at 7PM in the Air Canada Centre.

X-Factor: Whoever guards Antetokounmpo

This will most likely be either PJ Tucker or DeMarre Carroll. Regardless of who it is, the Raptors cannot afford to let Antetokounmpo have such an efficient game. While there’s not one specific player who can contain the Greek Freak, the team needs to act as a cohesive unit and ensure that he doesn’t get any easy baskets. This is yet another must-win situation for the Toronto Raptors.

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