When these two teams faced as the last two unbeaten teams in the NBA just seven games into the season, it was an early sign that it would be a battle for supremacy in the Eastern Conference. Each team is led by a top-five player in the world in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard and surrounded by supporting characters that most wouldn’t consider superstars.
The similarities of the two are quite interesting when you dive deep into it, considering the large majority of their rosters are late picks or guys coming in off the scrap heap.
Here’s the series schedule:
Just a reminder that all times in the picture above are Eastern Time.
The Bucks are looking to reach the Finals for the first time since 1974 and the Raptors are looking to reach the Finals for the first time in franchise history.
If anyone says that the regular season means nothing in the NBA, it certainly matters now. The Raptors sat Kawhi Leonard for 22 games in the regular season (this postseason has validated that decision) and fell a couple wins short of the best record in the NBA, which I’m sure the Raptors wish they had homecourt advantage now. Instead, the road to the NBA Finals runs through Water Street. And what a rough road series this could be.
The Bucks and Raptors ranked 3rd and 6th respectively in terms of points per possession and were 2nd and 3rd respectively in terms of effective field goal percentage this season. Quality looks are key for each team’s strategies, but each also offer intriguing counters. Milwaukee shot threes at the third highest rate in the league, while the Raptors defense allowed the 10th fewest threes in the regular season.
The rebounding rate and transition test for each team will be important as the series plays out.
If George Hill is still sipping from the fountain of youth, it gives the Bucks basically three guards who can attack off the dribble, at least three floor-spacers and a monster capable of controlling the court as point-center. If Bledsoe is having one of his temperamental nights, I could see Budenholzer rolling out Brogdon and Hill in the guard slots too, effectively weaponizing Giannis with four elite spot up shooters.
New matchups dictate vastly different series, but I can’t shake how staunchly I believe in this team. Bucks in six.