Milwaukee Bucks: Series Opening Win Was No Fluke

Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Milwaukee Bucks caused a major upset when they beat the Toronto Raptors in Game 1 of their playoff series, but that doesn’t mean it was a one-off.

After the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Toronto Raptors in Game 1 of the first round playoff match-up between the two teams, Toronto’s fans, writers, and even players and coaches seemed annoyed and frustrated by yet another bewildering start to a playoff series.

For many, a belief seems to have emerged that Game 1 was more about the Raptors’ poor performance than it was about Milwaukee’s stellar play.

Toronto has good reason to believe that it is just in their DNA to start slow. The third seeded Raptors lead the NBA in wins after trailing by 10 or more points over the last two seasons. While Raptors coach Dwane Casey doesn’t understand why his team seems to start slow, he echoes the belief that his team’s identity is to start in that fashion.

"“We’ve done everything and there is no consistent statistic or number or group,” Casey said. “It’s just kind of been our DNA. Slow starts and hard finishes.”"

So the Raptors have all the reasons in the world to be confident about bouncing back. After all, they lost Game 1 of their first-round series last year at home as a two seed. Kyle Lowry struggled in that game as well, however, they eventually found their way and were able to advance. Start slow but finish strong prevailed then, so why will this year be any different?

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Simply put, the Milwaukee Bucks can play better than they did on Saturday too.

While everyone focuses on Lowry’s struggles and the fact that the Raptors only scored 32 points in the second half, Khris Middleton’s shooting woes, and Toronto’s 18 more free throw attempts get lost in the shuffle.

The Bucks did not win this game with an uncharacteristically large scoring output from a reserve player, or by hitting shots they normally do not make. They beat the Raptors in the Air Canada Centre with DeMar DeRozan having a big scoring night and Serge Ibaka playing extremely well by simply playing the style of basketball that has led them to one of the best records in the Eastern Conference since the All-Star break.

For the Bucks, the things that helped them soundly defeat the Raptors in game one of the series are constants.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has proven that he can consistently shoot a high percentage if allowed to get near the rim. Thon Maker won’t stop being a very long human with an abundance of energy any time in the near future. Malcolm Brogdon can make open shots and defend well, and no matter how poorly Khris Middleton shoots, he will still find a way to have a positive impact for the Bucks — Middleton was a +27 in Game 1.

Yet another scary truth for the Raptors is that the Bucks made their most important run of the game after Antetokounmpo went to the bench with his fourth foul. With over four minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Bucks outscored the Raptors 11-5 to close the quarter. They then held the Raptors to 13 points in the fourth quarter — a period in which the Raptors owned the league’s best net rating in the regular season.

Yes, the Raptors will make adjustments. They will attempt to do a better job at keeping Giannis out of transition, they will make more threes, and Lowry will have better shooting nights in the series than he did on Saturday. However, the Bucks will also adjust. Khris Middleton can and will shoot better, the Bucks can get to the free-throw line more often, and as crazy as it may sound, Giannis can have bigger games.

The Milwaukee Bucks are growing up before our very eyes, and while it doesn’t mean they are going to win this series, looking at all of their success and attributing it to Toronto’s playoff struggles would be a mistake. The Bucks are talented. Giannis is for real, and the reason they won Game 1 isn’t more than just the fact that Toronto always starts slowly.

As Game 2 takes place on Tuesday night, nobody will be shocked when Lowry plays much better, bodies get back in front of Giannis in transition, and the Raptors try to get more efficient shots by using Jonas Valanciunas more.

While all of this is likely to happen, don’t be surprised if the Bucks still find a way to steal the headlines after the game. Every young team has a moment where they take that next step, and go from a young team with potential to something more than that.

Next: Milwaukee Bucks: 5 Toronto Raptors’ Adjustments to Look For in Game 2

On Tuesday night, and for the rest of this series, the Bucks have the opportunity to take that next step and teach people just how fun, talented and dangerous they are.