Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2) makes a pass around Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) during second half NBA Eastern Conference finals playoff basketball action in Milwaukee on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2) makes a pass around Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) during second half NBA Eastern Conference finals playoff basketball action in Milwaukee on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Bucks stop Raptors 108-100 in series opener

Milwaukee takes 1-0 leads in NBA’s Eastern Conference final

MILWAUKEE — Brook Lopez scored 29 points, while Giannis Antetokounmpo added 24 points and 14 rebounds and the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Toronto Raptors 108-100 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday.

Kawhi Leonard had 31 points, while Kyle Lowry, playing with his left thumb wrapped after spraining it on Sunday, added 30 points and eight rebounds and never stopped hustling, making like a beach volleyball player with a spectacular third-quarter dive to bat in a ball headed out of bounds.

Pascal Siakam had 15 points for the Raptors, who led for most of the first three quarters.

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Friday in Milwaukee, then the series shifts to Toronto for Games 3 and 4.

Backed by their rock-solid defensive effort, the Raptors dominated for most of the night, taking a 13-point first-quarter lead, and responding well to every Bucks run. And when Siakam’s three-point shot dropped at the buzzer to end the third, it sent Toronto into the fourth with an 83-76 advantage.

A pair of Nikola Mirotic free throws capped an 8-0 Bucks run to begin the final frame, giving the home team their first lead since early in the first quarter. Malcolm Brogdon’s fast-break dunk put the Bucks up by five and ignited the capacity Fiserv Forum crowd of 17,345 that included Bucks legend Oscar Robinson and Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament.

A pair of Lowry three-pointers a minute and 19 seconds apart tied the game at 98-98 with 3:31 to play, but Lopez responded with a dunk and three-pointer and the Bucks took a four-point lead into the final 1:55.

Both teams turned the ball over and missed shots and then Eric Bledsoe’s pair of free throws with 42 seconds to play all but sealed the victory for Milwaukee.

One of the big positives on the night: the Raptors, whose three-point shooting has been well down compared to their regular-season numbers — they were 7-for-30 on Sunday — had 10 threes in the first half alone on Wednesday. They shot 15-for-42 from long distance on the night.

While the Bucks waited a week between dispatching Boston in five games in the conference semifinals, the Raptors were back on the court three nights after their thrilling Game 7 victory over Philadelphia.

Rather than lament the lack of rest, Raptors coach Nick Nurse suggested his team could benefit from the momentum.

He was right — at least for the first three quarters. The Raptors had the Bucks on their heels from the tipoff, taking a 13-point lead on a driving layup late in the first quarter. The Raptors made six three-pointers in the opening frame and led 34-23 going into the second.

RELATED: ‘Break from Drake’: Milwaukee radio station bans rapper’s music during Raptors-Bucks series

An Antetokounmpo dunk capped a 7-0 Bucks run that sliced Toronto’s lead to three points late in the second quarter. But the Raptors closed strong to take a 59-51 lead into the break. And when Leonard mauled Antetokounmpo under the basket on the last play of the half — no foul was called — the crowd booed long after both teams had departed for their respective locker-rooms.

The Bucks twice pulled to within four points in the third, but the Raptors were able to extinguish any Milwaukee momentum.

The Raptors were rebuilt with a big goal in mind: their first appearance in the NBA Finals. They finished second with 58 wins behind the league-leading Bucks (60 wins) in the regular season. They’re making their second conference finals appearance in franchise history (2016 was the first). The Bucks are playing in their first conference final in 18 years and are looking to return to the finals for the first time in 45 years.

The Raptors dispatched the Bucks in six games in the opening round in 2017, but Antetokounmpo has improved by leaps and bounds in the two seasons since.

The Bucks swept Dwane Casey’s Detroit Pistons in the opening round, while the Raptors ousted Orlando in five games. Milwaukee won the regular season series 3-1.

The winner of this series will have home-court advantage for the NBA Finals against either the Golden State Warriors or the Portland Trail Blazers.

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

NBA

Just Posted

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner confirms ‘puddle jumping’ in 2020 drowning deaths of three Sooke men

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen pulled into raging river driving through nearby flooding

Nanaimo-raised singer Allison Crowe with director Zack Snyder on the set of ‘Man of Steel’ in 2011. Crowe performs a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in the upcoming director’s cut of ‘Justice League.’ (Photo courtesy Clay Enos)
B.C. musician records song for upcoming ‘Justice League’ film

Allison Crowe’s close connection to director led to rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah

A 50-year-old man was stabbed in an altercation that started with a disagreement about physical distancing. (File photo)
Argument about physical distancing leads to stabbing in Nanaimo

Suspect arrested on Gabriola Island an hour after incident Wednesday, Feb. 24

A battery electric-hybrid ferry, pictured here, is expected to make its way to Vancouver Island in late 2021, says B.C. Ferries. (Submitted photo)
Hybrid ferry for Gabriola-Nanaimo route launches in shipyard in Europe

Two hybrid vessels to replace MV Quinsam by early 2022, says B.C. Ferries

G.P. Vanier in Courtenay has six members of the community who have tested positive; Island Health identified seven staff and 78 students who will be required to self-isolate. Black Press file photo
Eight sick, 108 more isolating in Comox Valley school district due to COVID-19

District says that all who tested positive did not contract COVID-19 within the school sites

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

Captain and Maria, a pair of big and affectionate akbash dogs, must be adopted together because they are so closely bonded. (SPCA image)
Shuswap SPCA seeks forever home for inseparable Akbash dogs

A fundraiser to help medical expenses for Captain and Maria earned over 10 times its goal

The missing camper heard a GSAR helicopter, and ran from his tree well waving his arms. File photo
Man trapped on Manning mountain did nearly everything right to survive: SAR

The winter experienced camper was overwhelmed by snow conditions

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay doctor shares experience contracting COVID-19

Castlegar doctor shares her COVID experience

Ashley Paxman, 29, is in the ICU after being struck by a vehicle along Highway 97 Feb. 18, 2021. She remains in critical condition. (GoFundMe)
Okanagan woman in ICU with broken bones in face after being struck by car

She remains in serious condition following Feb. 18 incident

The BC SPCA is offering many chances for school-aged kids to learn about animal welfare and other animal topics. Pictured here is Keith, a three-month-old kitten seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
From pets to wildlife, BC SPCA offers animal education programs geared to youth

BC SPCA offering virtual spring break camps, workshops and school presentations

Soloman and Zev Nagler enjoy time on the beach at Witty’s Lagoon Regional Park on a summer day. The Capital Regional District is in the process of determining whether to institute parking fees at this and eight other CRD parks. (Black Press Media file photo)
CRD parks committee rejects new Greater Victoria parking fees – again

More arguments against fee hikes, pay parking at nine parks, brought forward by committee members

(Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria students want voting seat on transit commission

The University of Victoria and Camosun College student societies share a non-voting seat

Thrifty Foods. (Black Press file photo)
Thrifty Foods confirms staff member tests positive for COVID-19 in Courtenay

The company currently lists 12 stores within B.C. with confirmed cases

Most Read