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Eastern Conference Finals: Toronto Raptors vs Milwaukee Bucks. Match-by-match analysis and predictions

Milwaukee Bucks
Photo credit via Flickr: Keith Allison
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Update May 26th: Game 6 result: Toronto Raptors 100, Milwaukee Bucks 94 (Toronto wins series, 4-2)

In a must win situation for the Bucks after having lost three straight for the first time this season, they took a 31-18 lead after one. The Raptors cut the deficit to 50-43 at the half. After a nearly even third quarter, the Raptors took control of the game in the final quarter, combining solid offense with suffocating defense. The Raptors outscored the Bucks 29-18 in the fourth to win by six.

Kawhi Leonard paced the Raptors with 27 points, despite hitting just 9-of-22 from the floor. He added 17 rebounds and seven assists. Fred VanVleet was a key component off the bench, hitting 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry chipped in with 18 and 17 points, respectively.

For the Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo had 21 points and 11 rebounds, but hit just 5-of-10 from the free throw line. His poor foul shooting throughout the series was costly. Brook Lopez scored 18 and Khris Middleton scored 14 on 4-of-8 from three-point range.

The Raptors advance to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. They will take on the Golden State Warriors, who have won the past two titles.

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Update May 24nd: Game 6 prediction

After being the underdog nearly all series, the Raptors are a one-point favorite at home in this one with an over/under of 213. The series has been very difficult to predict. Very few thought the Raptors would win three straight after going down 0-2. However, the Bucks appear to be lost as the Raptors increase the defensive intensity. Kawhi is starting to take over as well and the prediction is for the Raptors to close out the series and go for the “under”.

Update May 24nd: Game 5 result: Toronto Raptors 105, Milwaukee Bucks 99 (Toronto leads, 3-2)

The Raptors continued their hot play, despite playing in Milwaukee where the Bucks dominated this season. The game didn’t start in the Raptors favor as the Bucks took a 32-22 lead after one. Up three at the half and at the end of three, the Bucks appeared to be on track for a 3-2 series lead. However, Kawhi Leonard took over and the Bucks looked lost in the fourth. After outscoring the Bucks, 33-24 in the final quarter, the Raptors go back home, leading 3-2.

Leonard scored 35 points to go along with nine assists and seven rebounds. Fred VanVleet hit 7-of-9 from three-point range and finished with 21 points, while Pascal Siakam owned the boards with 13 rebounds. For the Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 24 but was held to six rebounds. Eric Bledsoe added 20 points and Malcolm Brogdon scored 18 with 11 rebounds in the start.

Update May 22nd: Game 5 prediction

Milwaukee returns home and is a big seven-point favorite to take a 3-2 lead in the series. The over/under is at 218 in a series that has averaged 224 points per game. It was tough envisioning the Raptors taking the last two, despite playing at home. It’s even more difficult dropping three straight, the third of which at home where they went 33-8 for the season. The hunch is that the Raptors will continue to play well, but not well enough for the win. Pick the Raptors with the points, but Bucks to win outright and take the “over”.

Update May 22nd: Game 4 result: Toronto Raptors 120, Milwaukee Bucks 102, (series tied, 2-2)

The game was close, as expected, through the first period with the Raptors holding a one-point edge. After outscoring the Bucks by nine in the second, the Raptors took a 65-55 lead at the half. What wasn’t expected by many was the Bucks unable to make a run. In fact, the Raptors increased the lead to 13 after three and won going away by 18 to even the series heading back to Milwaukee for Game 5.

The Raptors used a balanced attack which hasn’t been seen much lately. Kyle Lowry led the team with 25 points, while Kawhi Leonard added a relatively quiet 19. Norman Powell scored 18 off the bench, despite hitting just 6-of-18 from the floor. Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka each added 14. For the Bucks, Khris Middleton scored 30 and Giannis Antetokounmpo added 25, ten rebounds and five assists in the loss.

Update May 20th: Game 4 prediction

Despite cutting the series lead, the Raptors are a 2 ½ point underdog at home with an over/under of 217. Toronto has shown they are capable of winning but need to shut down Antetounmpo and get consistent production on offense from players other than Kawhi Leonard. The momentum shifts if Toronto wins despite heading back to Milwaukee for Game 5. Look for the Raptors to keep it close, but this time the Bucks walk away with a tight win and take the “over”.

Update May 20th: Game 3 result – Toronto Raptors 118, Milwaukee Bucks 113 (2OT) (Bucks lead, 2-1)

With their backs against the wall, the Raptors jumped out to a 30-21 lead after the first quarter. Milwaukee clawed their way back, cutting the deficit to two with a quarter to play. Both teams tightened the defense during the final 12 minutes of regulation, with the Bucks outscoring the Raptors, 21-19 to force overtime. The defense continues to be strong in overtime, with both teams scoring just seven to force a second five-minute session. Finally, the Raptors took over, outscoring the Bucks, 15-10 to win by five.

Kawhi Leonard led all players with 36 points on 11-of-25 from the floor and 12-of-13 from the free throw line. Pascal Siakam added 25 and Norman Powell was huge off the bench, scoring 19 in 30 minutes. The Raptors held Giannis Antetokounmpo to 12 points on 5-of-16 from the floor and 2-of-7 from the free throw line. He also turned the ball over eight times but was a monster on the boards with 23 rebounds. George Hill lead the Bucks with 24 points off the bench and Malcolm Brogdon added 20.

UPDATE May 18th: Game 3 prediction

In what pretty much boils down to a must-win situation for the Raptors, they are an early three-point favorite with an over/under of 220 1/2. The first game of the series went “under” and the second one “over”. Toronto’s best chance is in a defensive battle, but it doesn’t appear they have an answer to the firepower the Bucks possess. The Raptors won’t get swept in the series, but Milwaukee is on a roll having won 10-of-11 this post season. Bet the over and the Bucks to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the series.

UPDATE May 18th: Game 2 result: Milwaukee Bucks 125, Toronto Raptors 103

Any idea that the Raptors could steal a game in Milwaukee vanished quickly, as the Bucks took a 35-21 lead after the first quarter and 64-39 lead at the half. The Raptors outscored the Bucks in the third, 39-31, but still trailed by 16 heading to the final quarter. Never threatening to take down Milwaukee, the Raptors fell by the score of 125-103. Milwaukee now takes a 2-0 series lead heading to Toronto.

Giannis Antetokounmpo took control of the game, scoring 31 points to go along with 17 rebounds, five assists and two blocked shots. Ersan Ilyasova added 17 points off the bench, Nikola Mirotic had 15 and Malcom Brogdon chipped in with 12 points. For the Raptors, Kawhi Leonard had 31 points on 10-of-18 form the floor and 10-of-10 from the free throw line. Kyle Lowry cooled off from the first game, scoring 15 points on only 4-of-13 from the floor.

UPDATE May 16th: Game 2 prediction

Milwaukee is again a 6 ½ point favorite and the over/under is similar at 216. Milwaukee covered the spread in Game 1 and the game went “under”. Look for much the same in Game 2.  Kyle Lowry likely won’t have the huge game he had in Game 1, but likely will be the case for Brook Lopez. Toronto doesn’t want to go back home, down 2-0. However, they likely blew their chance at a split after squandering a big lead early in Game 1.  Look for the Bucks to take control of the series, win the game and bet the “over” on this one.

UPDATE May 15th: Game one result: Milwaukee Bucks 108, Toronto Raptors 100 (Bucks lead series, 1-0)

The Raptors got off to a hot start, putting the Bucks into a 34-23 hole at home after the first quarter. Milwaukee inched back to within eight at the half, but the Raptors still appeared to have the game in control at that point. Milwaukee pulled to within two at the 9:10 mark in the third on an Eric Bledsoe jumper, and then to within one on a three-point play on the next possession. However, the Raptors maintained and increased the lead back to 83-76 at the end of the third. Kyle Lowry got hot in the fourth quarter scoring 14 points. The Raptors were up by two with 3:31 to play. Milwaukee went on a 10-0 run the rest of the way to take down the Raptors by the score of 108-100.

Kawhi Leonard lead the Raptors with 31 points, however he shot just 10-of-26 from the floor. Kyle Lowry added 30 on 10-of-15 from the floor, including 7-of-9 from three-point range. Pascal Siakam added 15 but hit just 6-of-20 from the floor and Marc Gasol lead Toronto in rebounding with 12.

For the Bucks, Brook Lopez lead the attack with 29 points and 11 rebounds. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 24, with a game high 14 rebounds. Malcolm Brodgon, playing in just his second game this post season due to injury, added 15 in 27 minutes off the bench. Khris Middleton struggled from the floor, scoring just 11 on 4-of-12 shooting, but hauled in 11 rebounds.

Series preview

For the first time in five seasons, the Eastern Conference will be represented in the NBA Finals by a team other than the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were also-rans this season after the departure of LeBron James. The Raptors have never advanced to the NBA Finals in franchise history, while the Bucks haven’t made an appearance since 1974 when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led the team.

The Raptors, who finished 58-24 during the regular season, advanced after taking down the Orlando Magic in the first round and the Philadelphia 76ers in seven games in the conference semi-finals. Milwaukee had the best record in the NBA during the regular season at 60-22. They continued their hot play in the post season, defeating the Pistons in four games and the Celtics in five. In head-to-head play this season, the Bucks have a 3-1 edge, winning by an average of 11 points, while their loss was by seven.

Raptors post season leaders

Toronto has been led this post season by Kawhi Leonard, who is averaging 31.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. His buzzer beater in Game 7 against the 76ers launched the Raptors to the Eastern Conference Finals. Pascal Siakam was a great second scoring option, averaging nearly 21 points and 7.3 rebounds in the playoffs. Kyle Lowry was up and down but is averaging 12.4 points and a team high 7.1 assists. Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol and Danny Green combined to averaged 26 points and Gasol and Green have been competent from beyond the arc, hitting nearly 40 percent.

Bucks post season leaders

Top MVP candidate Giannas Antetokounmpo is pacing the Bucks in the playoffs, averaging 27.4 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. Khris Middleton has been the top three-point shooting threat, connecting on 46.7 percent and averaging 19.1 per game. Eric Bledsoe has chipped in 16.1 per game and George Hill has added 12.1 and hitting 41 percent from beyond the arc. Pat Connaughton has been a surprise contributor, averaging 8.4 points and second on the team with 7.9 rebounds per contest.

Game one prediction

The Raptors are coming off a physical, draining series against the 76ers and now must face the well-rested Bucks in Milwaukee. It’s a tall order for Toronto in this first game. The Bucks are a 6 ½ point favorite with an over/under of 217 ½. Toronto relies heavily on Kawhi Leonard, much like the Bucks rely on Giannis Antetokoumpo. The difference is the Bucks have significantly more depth. Even if the stars neutralize each other, but Bucks playing at home clearly have the edge. After a close game for some time, the Bucks should pull away. Pick the over and the Bucks to win and cover.

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