Here it is, ladies and gentlemen: the highest level of competition the Eastern Conference has to offer. The prize? Four games against the Golden State Warriors and the chance to see them lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the third time in as many years. In reality, this has been some of the best (LeBron-less) basketball the eastern conference has seen in a few years, and the winner of this finals matchup between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Toronto Raptors might just have what it takes to beat the Warriors (Or Portland, after all there’s still games to be played). That may be an overstatement, but maybe not. All that’s left to do now is to find out who will go on to represent the Eastern Conference this time around, and who will go home empty handed.
As stated in every article this playoffs, the Raptors remain one of the youngest franchises in American sports, so there isn’t as much history to go on as other matchups may have had. Nonetheless, there is still some story to be told, as Milwaukee leads the all-time regular season log with 51 wins in 89 games. The Bucks lead comes mostly from dominating the early year Raptors, but Toronto owns the series in the current age, going 16-6 since the 2013 offseason. This year, Milwaukee made an impact on that run with a 3-1 record in their season series, putting up 26 more points than Toronto over the course of their 4 games. Coming off a lopsided regular season like that, it isn’t surprising that these teams have only had one previous playoff series, which Toronto won in 6 games in 2017. The Raptors took down Milwaukee in the first round to advance, getting swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers swiftly after.
What To Watch
The Bucks lost game 1 against the Boston Celtics badly, where their shot selection and distinct lack of coordination and team play let them down, getting blown out at home 112-90. It was seemingly a wake up call for Milwaukee, with them going on to win all of the next 4 games and take the series on home court. They can’t slip in Milwaukee like they did during game 1 with the Celtics. The Raptors are one of the toughest road teams in the NBA at the moment and Milwaukee will have a hard time going in and winning a game whilst away from the Fiserv Forum. They’ll need to tighten up their play in preparation for one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, because losing a game at home might lose them their shot at the finals.
Kawhi Leonard has been incredible for the Raptors this season, and especially these playoffs, but his consistency shows that whilst his success will be crucial to the success of this team, he isn’t going to be the catalyst for the Raptors in winning this series. That honour falls to Kyle Lowry. When Lowry fails, Toronto fails, as shown by his rollercoaster postseason, where he went 0-7 from the field with 0 points in 33 minutes in the first game of the first round, and hasn’t been much better since. He’s currently shooting at 28% from the 3-point line in these playoffs, which is a position they’ll need to capitalize on against a Bucks team that is 30th in 3-pointers allowed in the NBA this season. If Lowry’s shots find home for the first time since the regular season, the Raptors might end up in the NBA finals.
Prediction: Bucks in 6