In an epic matchup of global basketball superstars, Brook Lopez led his top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks over Kyle Lowry and the second-seeded Toronto Raptors, 108–100, in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Lowry led the Raptors to an early lead and kept them in front for the first three quarters, but in the fourth quarter, when stars truly shine, Lopez’s relentless offensive aggression overwhelmed Toronto’s defensive game plan, just as we all totally suspected it might.
Lowry had help from noted role players Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam, but the scrappy duo’s inefficiency—46 combined points on 46 combined shots, including 3-of-14 from three—left Lowry to do much of Toronto’s heavy lifting, which is something we definitely all know he can do, given his history of coming up huge offensively in the playoffs. Lowry finished with 30 points on just 15 shots, plus eight rebounds, three of which came on the offensive glass, which is another area of the court that Lowry routinely, uh, hmm. Lowry’s extremely familiar production pushed the Raptors out to a double-digit lead, and for much of the game kept the Bucks out of punching range:
But Lopez, after a 6-of-10 performance in the first half to keep Milwaukee close, came alive in the fourth quarter, inspiring the Bucks back from what was a 13-point deficit. Just has he’s done I’m sure at least once before probably, Lopez dumped in clutch bucket after clutch bucket, punching back every time the Raptors seemed to beat back Milwaukee’s late run. Lowry poured in 21 points on just nine shots in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Lopez’s surge, which featured 17 points, seven rebounds, and four blocks:
Second banana Giannis Antetokounmpo chipped in a 24-point, 14-rebound double-double, but he too struggled with inefficiency—an uncharacteristic 7-of-16 performance, plus five turnovers—and just like counterpart Kawhi Leonard of the Raptors, made just a single bucket in the fourth quarter. But the supplementary scoring wasn’t needed down the stretch of this one, and won’t be in this series as long as Lopez continues earning the nickname we’ve all given him, which is “the Greek Freak,” and which probably references his nationality or heritage somehow?
The Bucks will look to maintain home-court advantage Friday night, in Game 2. Leonard and Antetokounmpo are not likely to recede into the background down the stretch of a tight game again in this series, nor are Lowry and Lopez, for all their blinding brilliance, likely to soar into the foreground so emphatically. This was a weird but tremendously fun game, and it portends a weird and thrilling and evenly matched series.