The Toronto Raptors feel they let Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals get away, while the host Milwaukee Bucks believe they can improve Friday night in Game 2 after shaking off their rust.
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The Raptors led most of the way Wednesday in the opener of the best-of-seven series, but the better-rested Bucks won 108-100 by outscoring Toronto 32-17 in the fourth quarter -- 10-0 in the final 3:31.
"It sucks when you lose like that," said guard Kyle Lowry, who had 30 points and was the only Raptor to make a field goal in the final 12 minutes. "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 the film and get better."
Lowry was 5-for-7 and scored 14 points in the fourth quarter, while teammate Kawhi Leonard was 0-for-3 and was held to two points on free throws in the fourth to finish with 31 points.
The Bucks had not played since eliminating the Boston Celtics in Game 5 on May 8.
"Any coach that goes into a game without playing a game for six days is very worried how are you going to play," Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "It's just how are you going to play, how are you going to execute. ... It's impossible to replicate in practice, and you're also incredibly conscientious of staying healthy during those six days. I think we're just all glad to have played, and certainly to get the win. I'm sure they'll be better (Friday)."
The Raptors had won Game 7 Sunday against the Philadelphia 76ers on Leonard's dramatic, series-clinching buzzer-beater.
Could coming off such an emotional experience after a difficult series have been a factor in Game 1?
"I mean, it could be, but it's no excuses," Leonard said. "We're all out on the floor. Like I said, we had open looks that we could have made. We started off the game well. We just didn't finish it up too great."
Both teams see ways they can improve for Game 2. The Bucks shot 39.8 per cent (37-for-93) from the field, and only 25 per cent (11-for-44) from 3-point territory. The Raptors shot 37 per cent (34-for-92) overall and 35.7 per cent (15-for-42) from behind the arc.
"It's just we're learning that each one of these games is critical," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. "I thought we played tough, a tough brand of basketball for the most part. We gave ourselves a chance to win on the road in an Eastern Conference final that didn't turn out, and we put in a lot of work. But you've got to file that one away and put in more work next time. That's really where it starts."
Bucks center Brook Lopez, who had 29 points and 11 rebounds, said winning a tight Game 1 should benefit his team after it had breezed through the first two playoff rounds.
"It goes to show we can close games out in multiple ways in different fashions," Lopez said. "All throughout the season and in the playoffs, different guys have been stepping up. Different guys have been having big nights. It was definitely good to see us win in a different way. I think going forward, we'd be all right, though, if they weren't all like that."