The Eastern Conference finals are upon us, and after a 108-100 win by Milwaukee in Game 1 of the series, the Toronto Raptors are looking to even it up before heading back home. In Game 1, Milwaukee got its scoring advantage from an unlikely source. Brook Lopez led the team in scoring, going 12 of 21, including 4 of 11 from downtown, en route to a 29-point scoring outburst. He also had 11 rebounds, two assists, and four blocks.
For the Raptors, it was all Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry. Leonard had 31 on 10 of 26 shooting (along with nine rebounds), while Lowry had 30 points on 10 of 15 shooting (including 7 of 9 from three).
The two teams will square off again Friday. Will the Bucks take a commanding 2-0 lead or will Toronto even it up? We will learn Friday with a tipoff scheduled for 8:30 pm ET.
In the matchup, the Milwaukee Bucks come in as 6.5-point favorites playing at home. The over/under for this game is set at 216 points.
By The Numbers
It is no shocker that these are the final two teams in the Eastern Conference as they have been the two best throughout the regular season. In the playoffs, though, they have both stepped it up another notch. Going into Friday’s game, they rank first and third in winning percentage in the playoffs. The Bucks are 9-1 (.900), while the Raptors are 8-5 (.615).
In terms of offensive rating (an estimate of points scored per 100 possessions while taking the opponents’ defense into account), of all the teams in the playoffs, the Bucks rank third with a rating of 114.4. The Raptors come in at ninth with an offensive rating of 107.9.
On the defensive side, these have been the top two teams in the NBA in terms of defensive rating (estimate of points given up per 100 possessions). The Bucks rank first with a defensive rating of just 99, while the Raptors come in second with a defensive rating of 101.2.
Raptors Look To Even It Up
If the Raptors are to succeed in this round, they are going to need some support for Kawhi Leonard. In the playoffs, he is averaging 31.8 points on 52.5% shooting, including 39.5% from the three and 88.1% from the free throw line. He is also adding in 8.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.4 steals per game. When the Raptors made the trade to send off DeMar DeRozan in exchange for Leonard last offseason, this is exactly the reason that they made that decision.
Still, he can’t completely do it alone. Kyle Lowry has had a decent postseason. He is averaging 13.8 points on 44.1% shooting along with 5.2 rebounds and 6.7 assists, but the Raptors need him to be able to contribute as he did in Game 1 to topple the Bucks. The other leading scorer for the Raptors this postseason has been Pascal Siakam, who is averaging 20.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 2.5 assists. Unfortunately for Toronto, those are the only ones average double digits (although Marc Gasol, Danny Green and Serge Ibaka are each averaging a bit over eight points per game).
Bucks Looking For Commanding Lead
Giannis Antetokounmpo continues to make himself into a household name these playoffs despite not playing in a huge market. The forward is averaging 27.1 points on 51.7% shooting. He is also averaging 11.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.3 steals per game. If it wasn’t bad enough trying to game plan for him, though, the Bucks are loaded with weapons.
The right-hand man for Giannis this season has been forward Khris Middleton. These playoffs, Middleton is averaging 18.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game.
Still, the Bucks have more. Take Brook Lopez, for instance. He pretty much took over Game 1 and was probably the biggest factor in the Bucks’ win. Despite scoring 29 in that game, he is still only averaging 10.4 points per game. Nikola Mirotic (9.7 points, 4.6 rebounds), George Hill (10.9 points, 3.1 assists), Malcolm Brogdon (12.5 points on 52.9% shooting) and Eric Bledsoe (15.3 points on 45.7% shooting) can also torch you if you leave them open. It is a luxury to have for coach Mike Budenholzer, and it is a luxury that might ride them to the NBA Finals.
Bucks Take Game 2
I really like the Bucks to win this series and, if I am being honest, I think of all the remaining teams, they have the best chance of toppling the Warriors (even if Durant is healthy). With that in mind, I like them to win Game 2 at home.
Still, the NBA playoffs feature the best of the best, and Kawhi Leonard has shown he is one of the best. I have a hard time seeing the Raptors fade in this one, and I think Leonard has another big night. While I don’t think it is enough to win the game, I do think it will be enough to keep them close. Especially with both of their hard-nosed style defenses, I like this one to stay close. With that in mind, I am taking the Raptors and the 6.5 points.