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Numbers for Game 1: How bad was the opener for the Raptors?

A Raptors’ Game 1 loss to Milwaukee was rough. But is there reason to be concerned?

NBA: Playoffs-Milwaukee Bucks at Toronto Raptors John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Raptors losing another Game 1 at home was pretty bad. Let’s take a look at what went wrong against the Bucks, and which of those things we might expect to continue to be a problem.

The Struggle of Kyle Lowry

Yeah, Lowry was awful in this one. He shot 2-of-11 from the field, missed his single free throw attempt, and was 0-of-6 from distance. That doesn’t include several opportunities to score at the rim that he passed up in favour of making tough passes to the perimeter.

Lowry has struggled with his shooting before, but generally even if his shot is off, his play is still excellent. He defends with intensity, makes plays, rebounds the ball, and ultimately just makes his team around him better.

Well, he had a 118 on-court DRTG (among the worst on the team), had only 6 assists on a night when he wasn’t scoring himself, managed only two rebounds, and was a team-worst -22 on the night. Not good.

Lowry has looked good since coming back, so hopefully this is only a blip. But he looked bad, and he’ll need to find a way to play like he usually does if the Raptors are going to be able to win this series.

Shooting in General

It wasn’t just Lowry though. Take away his attempts, and the Raptors still went 5-of-17 from three, including 2-of-10 in the second half. DeMare DeRozan missed both his attempts, Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker were each 1-of-4, and Patterson was 1-of-3.

And the shooting outside the arc wasn’t the only issue. From two point range the Raptors were 22-of-52, driven by a lot of missed (and blocked) shots from Lowry and DeRozan.

Ultimately the only reason the Raptors scored as much as they did was because of getting to the line. DeRozan managed an incredible 13-of-14 from the line to bring his efficiency up to par in spite of those missed shots, and Jonas Valanciunas got fouled a lot too (7 free throw attempts to his 5 field goal attempts).

Grading the Defense

The defence wasn’t great in this one, especially in certain stretches. But really, while a team defensive rating of 111 is high, it’s not brutal for a single game — just about 5 points above average. On a night when the offense is not there though (an 89 ORTG is brutal, 15-20 points below what the Raptors would typically expect to put up), you need better defence to win.

There were no obvious lineup issues or matchups that killed the Raptors. Greg Monroe was an issue on the boards — the Raptors were supposed to have an edge on the glass, but the teams played to almost identical offensive rebounding rates (19% vs 18.5%). Monroe rebounded about as well regardless of whether he was matched up on Valanciunas or Ibaka (perhaps a black mark for Valanciunas considering what his strengths are). But Monroe was a +12 while Valanciunas sat and only a +3 when paired up against him (with his minutes roughly split in half between being guarded by Valanciunas or Ibaka).

To be clear, the Bucks scoring at slightly above their average rate is not why the Raptors lost this game. The Raptors offense needs to be fixed.

What Did We Say?

You may recall Thursday’s bonus stats post previewing the series, with one key goal outlined within: play big, and don’t let the Bucks get away with playing small (in other words, if you have a big man in the game, Valanciunas specifically, get him the ball and punish the Bucks inside).

In the first quarter, Valanciunas got one shot attempt. The team was a -5 in the time he was on the court. In the second quarter, Valanciunas played only 4 minutes, but in those 4 minutes, he got 3 shots and converted those into 5 points, and surprise, surprise, the team was +5 in those 4 minutes. Valanciunas played 7 minutes in the third quarter, got zero shot attempts (got only two trips to the free throw line in the quarter), and the team was -11 in those minutes.

Meanwhile, in the first and third quarters, the team scored 22 and 19 points, and in the fourth, where Valanciunas barely played, they scored 13. That second quarter and the 29 points the team put up were the only bright spots on the night. Valanciunas didn’t even play that much that quarter, but varying the offensive attack a little made a big difference for the team as a whole.

Most of this game was the Raptors running their usual stuff against a defense seemingly tailored to take exactly that away. Mixing it up a little could really open up the floor for the team going forward.

That said, Valanciunas is no cure-all for this team’s offensive issues in game one. Role players need to hit shots. DeRozan needs to hit more shots, or be more selective with which shots he takes. Lowry definitely needs to hit more shots, and just play more like his usual self in general. The good news is, we’ve seen the team hit shots, and we’ve seen Lowry play much better (even since returning from his injury). So with any luck, this game shouldn’t set a template for the rest of the series.

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