MILWAUKEE—There were in-rhythm three-pointers that were as smooth as any he’s ever taken, and drives to the rim that were vintage determination.
There was a beach volleyball-like dive to save an errant pass that was going out of bounds, and the hits he took in the paint would have destroyed a lesser man.
It was all that Kyle Lowry could do to will the Raptors to a Game 1 win in the NBA Eastern Conference final, and it still was not enough.
Lowry was brilliant — arguably as good as he’s ever been in a post-season game with the Raptors — but his 30-point, seven-rebound gem couldn’t get the Raptors all the way over the hump against the Milwaukee Bucks.
It what will surely be lamented in the immediate aftermath as a game the Raptors let get away rather than one that the Bucks won, Toronto suffered a 108-100 loss at the Fiserv Forum here Wednesday night.
Lowry made seven three-pointers and added a couple of assists, putting up 14 of his points in the fourth quarter alone.
“Pretty frustrating, “ Lowry said. “The fourth quarter killed us, 32-17. They outplayed us in that fourth quarter, they got a little bit more aggressive. They made some big shots, some big plays.”
The result will not faze Lowry in the least, because the Raptors point guard is not hard-wired to ever get too excited or too crushed or to read too much into one single basketball game.
“It sucks when you lose like that,” Lowry said. “But we had a chance and we’ve got to learn from it and make an adjustment. Stay even-keeled, never too high, never too low. Just look at film and get better.”
Brook Lopez was the difference ass the veteran Bucks centre poured in 29 points to lead Milwaukee. Toronto will feel cheated that they lost after holding Giannis Antetokoumpo to just 24 points, and wasted a 31-point game from Kawhi Leonard.
“Obviously it was a missed opportunity,” Fred VanVleet said. “We’re not running from that. Just flush it.
“It felt like we had a chance to win. We didn’t execute enough to get it done.”
It was Lowry who kept the Raptors in the game — Toronto only scored 17 points in the fourth quarter and he had 14 of them — as he looked more comfortable shooting than he has so far in the playoffs. He arrived at the arena with a funny-looking blue oven mitt thing on his left hand and said he hadn’t really touched a basketball since Sunday, when he banged his thumb in Game 7 against Philadelphia.
The idle time didn’t seem to bother him.
“They’ve got a whole bunch of guys, kind of athletic guards, and they run a lot of different guys at him. They’re doing a decent job of limiting his touches, so I thought it was good he could get the ball as much as he did,” coach Nick Nurse said of Lowry.
“He stepped into all of them. It’s been a while since he’s had one of those nights where every time he pulled up, you thought he was going to make it. Like every time he let it go tonight, you were like ‘that’s going in’ and that was good to see. We’ve seen that a lot in the regular season. He was great. He was fighting like heck out there.”
The way Lowry operates now and forever is to not sweat the moment too much and to move on quickly to the next. He is hugely demonstrative during games, frantically gesturing when things go poorly, exhorting his teammates when games are going well.
But he’s also got the ability to focus solely on the task at hand, to not let defeats of the past rankle him or recent success go to his head.
It was pointed out to him Wednesday morning that he had plenty of post-season run-ins with these Bucks, with Eric Bledsoe and Malcolm Brogdon and George Hill, and maybe that would have something to do with Wednesday’s result.
“Nothing,” he said. “It’s a different year, different playoffs, different game. It’s a new series.
“It’s zero-zero in the series and everything’s different. Every game will be different, everything in the past is gone, everything we’ve done, they’ve done doesn’t matter.”
Just like Game 1 won’t matter when Game 2 rolls around.
“Just do whatever it takes to win the game,” Lowry said after the game. “Individual stuff doesn’t do anything for me. I want to win games.
“Maybe we’ve got to figure out what we can do better to win the next game and close it out and play better.”
Doug Smith is a sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @smithraps
Published at Thu, 16 May 2019 03:35:50 +0000