Eastern Conference Finals: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Toronto Raptors
Series odds: Milwaukee Bucks -275 Toronto Raptors +225
Fanduel NBA Playoffs Milwaukee Bucks vs. Toronto Raptors
The Milwaukee Bucks will face the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals. The matchup will feature the two best players in the Eastern Conference in Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks had an easier time in getting past the Boston Celtics in 5 games. After dropping Game 1, the Bucks showed why they were the best team record-wise during the season. Giannis could only be somewhat mitigated in Game 1, before continuing to be aggressive and putting pressure on the Celtics’ interior defense in the following games
The Raptors may be better equipped to guard Giannis. Pascal Siakam has a similar build to Giannis and should draw the defensive assignment against him to start the series. Leonard is also a great defender, but Giannis should be able to back him down in the post with relative ease as he is taller and longer. Leonard will likely be better utilized on the perimeter to guard players like Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton. The key to the Bucks winning this series will be how well they shoot the three ball. Their combination of outside shooting and the interior play of Giannis makes them more difficult to guard.
The Raptors during their 7 game series against the 76ers relied heavily on Kawhi Leonard to create offense for them and a lot of their other players did not have a great series. This was especially evident in Game 7 when Leonard attempted 39 shots and made an epic game winner fading away on the baseline to send the Raptors to the next round. For the series, Leonard averaged 23.43 field goal attempts per game. The Bucks will want to limit his usage as he is mostly a shoot first player that lacks great play making ability for his teammates. Kyle Lowry averaged 11.71 field goal attempts and Pascal Siakam averaged 15.86 field goal attempts. They will need to be more aggressive to take some of the offensive load off Leonard when he is getting double teamed. Giannis is such a switchable defender that he will likely guard both Leonard and Siakam over the course of the series.
Draftking NBA Playoffs Milwaukee Bucks vs. Toronto Raptors
Marc Gasol will need to be more aggressive shooting the ball, as Brook Lopez should not be able to guard him that effectively in the post. The Raptors almost never run a post play for Gasol and most of his attempts come from the three point line. During the 76ers series he was mainly utilized as a defensive specialist to slow down Joel Embiid, which he did a great job of. Embiid really only had one good game during the entire series, a Game 5 116-95 loss, where Embiid had 33 points and 10 rebounds. Brook Lopez does not pose the same offensive threat that Embiid did, so Gasol should be able to have more energy on the offensive end to take advantage of a favorable matchup.
Going into this series, the Raptors didn’t get much production off their bench outside of Serge Ibaka. Nick Nurse really shortened his rotation for Game 7, only using 7 players and only bringing Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka off the bench. The Bucks have superior depth as they got great performances from Pat Connaughton and George Hill off their bench. Malcolm Brogdon also returned from injury to further bolster their depth. Defensively, both teams are elite and this could be a low scoring series.
The Raptors look more like a one man team, with Leonard playing at a high level and assuming most of the offensive responsibility. The Bucks should be able to guard Leonard better than the 76ers did, as they are a more disciplined defensive team. If the Raptors can’t keep Giannis off the free throw line then it will be tough for them to win games. Giannis averaged 13 free throw attempts during the Celtics series, the Raptors will want to keep that number under 10. Siakam could be the X factor for the Raptors as he has a versatile offensive game and will need to provide a secondary scoring option for Leonard. The offensive versatility of the Bucks and their superior depth could end up being the difference in the series. Game 1 is set for Wednesday May 15th at 8:30 PM ET from Fiserv Forum.
Pick: Milwaukee Bucks in 7 games