Raptors lose opening playoff game against Milkwaukee 97-83
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) drives past Toronto Raptors centre Jonas Valanciunas (17) during second half NBA playoff basketball action, in Toronto on Saturday, April 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, April 15, 2017 8:06PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, April 15, 2017 8:17PM EDT
TORONTO -- The Toronto Raptors' Game 1 curse lives on.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 28 points and eight rebounds to lift the Milwaukee Bucks to a shocking 97-83 victory over the Raptors in Game 1 of the opening round of the playoffs on Saturday.
DeMar DeRozan -- who'd never scored more than 15 points in post-season openers -- had 27 points to top the Raptors. Serge Ibaka added 19 points and 14 rebounds, while Jonas Valanciunas finished with nine points and nine boards.
But no other Raptor played particularly well on a night when everything that could go wrong did for the Raptors.
Toronto has never won a Game 1 in the opening round. Their lone win in a series opener came in 2002 in the second round against Philadelphia.
The Raptors, who are making their fourth consecutive post-season appearance, had talked about the experience gained in last season's playoff run that saw Toronto take Cleveland to six games in the Eastern Conferene final, but they were schooled by a relatively inexperienced Bucks squad Saturday that started a pair of rookies in Thon Maker and Malcolm Brogdon and is led by the 22-year-old Antetokounmpo, nicknamed the "Greek Freak."
Fear the Deer indeed.
The Raptors, who finished third in the jam-packed Eastern Conference, had won the regular-season series 3-1 against the sixth-seeded Bucks, but Milwaukee went a league-best 14-4 in March to salvage their season and head into the post-season on a roll.
Neither team led by more than 10 points on a back-and-forth night -- the first opener the Raptors have played in the evening since 2002. The Raptors outscored the Bucks 29-16 in the second quarter, but the Bucks fired back in the third to take a 75-70 advantage into the fourth quarter.
The Bucks opened the final frame with a 9-1 run before Ibaka's jumper with 7:49 to play ended an agonizing stretch of nine minutes and 17 seconds without a field goal for Toronto.
Ibaka scored again to pull the Raptors to within 10, injecting some hope into a Raptors crowd that was awash in red and black -- thanks to a pre-game T-shirt giveaway -- and included actor Ethan Hawke and rapper Talib Kweli, who performed at halftime.
That brief offensive output was the Raptors' virtual last gasp, and when Milwaukee's Kris Middleton waltzed in for an easy bucket with 4:19 to play, a few Raptors fans chanted: "Let's go Leafs!"
By the time Raptors coach Dwane Casey put his bench players into the game in the dying minutes, the cranky ACC crowd was barely two-thirds full.
The Bucks shot 45 per cent on the night while holding Toronto to 36 per cent. Milwaukee hit nine of their 23 three-point attempts, while Toronto made good on just five of their 23 attempts.
If the young Bucks, who are making their first post-season appearance in two years, were feeling any playoff jitters, they showed none from the opening tip-off, finishing the first quarter with a 15-7 run to take a 30-22 lead into the second.
Antetokounmpo's layup to open the second quarter gave the Bucks a 10-point lead, but the Raptors hit back and a driving finger roll by DeRozan had Toronto up by three points. The Raptors ended the half with a 10-3 run to take a 51-46 advantage into the break.
Game 2 is Tuesday in Toronto.