Raptors in 6
The time has come to fear the deer, as the Milwaukee Bucks have been the most impressive team in the postseason so far. After obliterating, the Pistons in the first round the Bucks stomped all over the Celtics winning four straight making it bethard betting after losing the opener at home. Giannis Antetokounmpo has continued his MVP play in the postseason, averaging 27.4 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. It is all a part of a basketball renaissance in Milwaukee. The Bucks who are in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in 18 years are looking to get to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1974 as they enjoyed a new beginning this season in the state of the art Fiserv Forum, under first-year coach Mike Budenholzer.
The Toronto Raptors have teased fans of the North for several seasons. Since losing to the Cavaliers and LeBron James in the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals, the Raptors have been among the elite teams in the East, yet bowed three straight years to the King, who abdicated his throne for the glitz of Hollywood. Hoping to get that final piece, the Raptors rolled the dice and sent DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs for disgruntled star Kawhi Leonard. The move paid off, as the Raptors have gotten big games from Leonard throughout the playoffs, including the shot from heaven in Game 7 of their second-round series against the 76ers.
If the Raptors are to complete the upset and beat the Bucks, they will need somebody besides Kawhi Leonard to emerge. Leonard a pending free agent who fans in Toronto hope to keep around beyond this season has shown himself once again to be a big-time player in the playoffs, averaging 31.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. However, Kyle Lowry has now become synonymous with terrible play in the postseason as he has disappeared at several key stretches in the playoffs and is averaging just 12.4 ppg. Fortunately, for Toronto Pascal Siakam has emerged as a second scoring option, averaging 20.8 points per game in the playoffs while pulling down 7.3 rebounds.
It can be argued that Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard can cancel each other out in this series, meaning that what team’s secondary players have the bigger series will win the series. The Bucks have had nice balance aside from the Freak, as Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe have each averaged at least 16 points per game. Middleton has especially been strong at 19.1 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. A big factor for the Bucks could be Malcolm Brogdon who had a strong Game 5 against the Celtics, after missing the first eight games in the postseason.
If the Raptors are going to win, they are going to need to do it with defense. They got the defensive edge, with Leonard and Marc Gasol both being a former NBA Defensive Player of the Year winners. However, the key on defense will be Serge Ibaka. If Ibaka is able to wear Giannis Antetokounmpo down, the Raptors can win. Look for that to be the deciding factor as the Raptors find a way to win again in six.
Warriors in 6
Ho-Hum here we go again, Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, looking like a lock to win a third straight championship, and fourth in five years. The Rockets had their chances but Chris Paul did his annual postseason disappearing act, while Mr. Softee James Harden melted down again. This was even with the Warriors losing Kevin Durant in the middle of Game 5, with the series tied. Durant remains on the sideline as the Warriors get set to take on the Portland Trail Blazers. He could be back in the middle of the series, as the Warriors could be in for a tougher series than anyone imagines.
The Portland Trail Blazers had this pesky way about them, they are severely lacking in the frontcourt still, but Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum both seem to take their game to the next level when the pressure mounts, making all the big shots when they are needed the most. The Blazers chances could have been better if not for a late season injury by Jusuf Nurkic, who had a solid season clogging the paint and getting rebounds. Enes Kanter has played better than expected, but still has his defensive struggles, which will be a big edge to Golden State when it was all said and done.
The Golden State Warriors have been here and done that before five straight seasons, but they do appear to be running on fumes at times. They needed six games to beat the Clippers in the first round and while they dispatched the Rockets in six. That series could have gone either way if James Harden stopped asking for help from the referees or Chris Paul made a big shot or two. Kevin Durant should be back at some point in the series when he does come back if he is anywhere near 100% you can just about turn out the lights for Portland. Until he comes back, it will be up to the splash brothers Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to carry the day like the old times.
One thing that is in the Trail Blazers favor is they are not intimidated by the Warriors and have played them tough over the past few seasons. Damian Lillard has had some big games against the Warriors defense as Draymond Green has had trouble guarding him. One player who could be an x-factor is Seth Curry, who has long been in his brother’s shadow. At times, Seth can be just as deadly behind the three-point line. If he can raise his game to the next level going against Stephen he could make a name for himself.
Look for this series to be close, the Blazers did manage to split four games in the regular season. Don’t be shocked to see the Blazers steal one of the first two games in Oakland. Look for the Warriors to again look vulnerable. However, when Kevin Durant gets back into action, the Warriors will again come out to play and win the series in six games.