MILWAUKEE, US: Brook Lopez scored 13 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter, Giannis Antetokounmpo added 24 and the Milwaukee Bucks rallied in the final minutes to beat the Toronto Raptors 108-100 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday night.
Lopez had a dunk with 2:20 left to put the Bucks ahead for good, added a 3-pointer on the next Milwaukee possession to push the lead to four and the team that finished the regular season with the NBA’s best record — after trailing for the overwhelming majority of the game — did just enough in the final minutes to grab the series lead.
Malcolm Brogdon scored 15 and Nikola Mirotic had 13 for Milwaukee, which closed the game on a 10-0 run.
Kawhi Leonard scored 31 points and Kyle Lowry added 30 for the Raptors, who led by as many as 13 early and took an 83-76 lead into the final quarter.
Lopez added 11 rebounds for the Bucks, who had three players post double-doubles. Antetokounmpo had 14 rebounds and Khris Middleton finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds for Milwaukee, which is now 9-1 in this postseason.
The Bucks trailed for 37 of the game’s 48 minutes.
Didn’t matter. They stayed just close enough until they could finish with a serious kick. The Raptors missed their last eight shots and were outscored 32-17 in the fourth quarter.
Pascal Siakam scored 15 for Toronto, including a 3-pointer over Antetokounmpo to end the third quarter and give the Raptors a seven-point lead with 12 minutes left.
It unraveled quickly from there.
“Total team effort,” Lopez said.
With the chants of Milwaukee’s motto — “Fear the deer! Fear the deer!” — bouncing throughout the building, the Bucks predictably came out flying.
The flurry was brief.
The Bucks missed seven consecutive shots, the Raptors made four 3-pointers in a span of three minutes, and that all helped become a 16-0 run by Toronto that turned an early 8-3 deficit into a 19-8 edge. The lead got as big as 13 later in the quarter on a fadeaway jumper by Leonard, and the Raptors held the lead the rest of the half.
Milwaukee had a chance to take its first lead since the opening minutes when Antetokounmpo went to the line for a pair of free throws with 8:17 left in the third and the Bucks down by only one. He missed both and the Raptors peeled off the next nine points to rebuild what then was a 10-point lead again.
But Toronto shot 5 for 22 in the fourth, the Bucks finally reclaimed the lead, and the Raptors’ chance to steal home-court went awry.
Raptors: Toronto is now 3-15 in Game 1s. ... The Raptors fell to 8-1 in these playoffs when leading at halftime. ... Lowry’s seven 3-pointers were a season high, a playoff career high and one off his career high. ... Leonard, who made the already-immortal four-bounce-off-the-rim jumper to win Game 7 of the second round against Philadelphia, got a friendly bounce in the third quarter — when a jumper hit the iron three times before falling.
Bucks: Oscar Robertson, part of Milwaukee’s lone NBA title team, was recognized in the first quarter and held the 1971 championship trophy — a large silver bowl atop a wooden base, not the golden Larry O’Brien Trophy of now — for the fans to see. ... Antetokounmpo started super-fast with two baskets, a steal, a rebound and a blocked shot, all in the first 85 seconds. ... Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament was courtside.
With Pau Gasol injured, George Hill is the only Milwaukee player who had appeared in a conference finals game before Wednesday. The Raptors have seven players who had been in at least one previously: Leonard, Danny Green and Serge Ibaka are all in this round for the fifth time, while Lowry, Marc Gasol, Norman Powell and Patrick McCaw have also been in this round before.
Leonard became the 14th player in NBA history to score 400 points in his team’s first 13 games of a postseason run.
Game 2 is Friday in Milwaukee.