Bucks Move onto Finals, Prove Too Much for Raptors to Handle
The buck stops here.
After overcoming the under-manned Brooklyn Nets and a formidable Boston Celtics squad, the Toronto Raptors run into a hungry Milwaukee Bucks team with its sights set on avenging for last year’s Eastern Conference Finals collapse.
Cue the rematch!
Throughout the season, the Bucks separated themselves in the East as a true juggernaut on both ends of the court. With a record of 53-12 heading into the hiatus, the Bucks rank first in the league in both pace and defensive rating, while coming in at 7th in offensive rating – all while averaging the most points per game mind you.
Despite losing Malcolm Brogdon in free agency, the Bucks were able to plug the holes with their depth, length, and athleticism. Young players of the calibre of Donte DiVincenzo and Pat Connaughton stepped into larger rolls and have not disappointed, while team veterans such as Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, and Brook Lopez have continued to elevate their level of play on both ends of the floor. Moreover, the sheer dominance of the reigning Most Valuable Player of the Year, Giannis Antetokounmpo can hide just about any other visible liability.
Liability being the key word in that last sentence.
While not often visible, even the best teams in the NBA have certain liabilities that opposing coaches, scouting and analytics departments must discover and expose. It is exactly what the Toronto Raptors were able to do last year after falling down 2-0 and even still, they were incredibly lucky to come away from Game 3 with a crucial victory.
The key this time around quite truthfully is the exact same as it was last year – play extremely physically on Antetokounmpo, allow him to settle for jump shots, bring in help defenders when necessary, and always have either Serge Ibaka or Marc Gasol as a secondary defender if Antetokounmpo is driving toward the rim. The Raptors will not only need to force the ball out of Antetokounmpo’s hands, but force Milwaukee to beat them from the perimeter.
Although a volume shooting team from long range (38.6 three-point attempts per game, no. 4 in the NBA), the Bucks rank in the middle of the pack in completion percentage at 35.6-percent. Meanwhile, the Raptors lead the league in three-point defense, keeping perimeter shooters at a lowly 33.7-percent per game. Simultaneously, the Raptors are sixth in the league in three-point percentage and will need to remain consistent from long range going up against a team that clogs up the paint and uses its length to prevent any sort of offensive fluidity inside the arc.
All things considered, the two teams have already met twice during the regular season with the Bucks winning both contests. The first appeared to be a lop-sided affair for the majority of the night before Kyle Lowry nearly pulled off what would have been an incredible comeback on the road and yet another gut punch to a team that has failed to beat the Raptors in the playoffs in each of their last two postseason matchups during the Antetokounmpo era. The second matchup looked to be all Raptors throughout the until the Bucks went on a fierce run to end the second quarter and did not look back in the second half.
Both teams have endured stretches of dominance in their lone two matchups this season. Furthermore, the Raptors have presented some tough matchups for Antetokounmpo with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Pascal Siakam, Ibaka, and OG Anunoby with Gasol, of course, providing a steady presence at the basket.
Nevertheless, the Raptors will struggle creating their own offence at times without the superstar level play of Kawhi Leonard. The Bucks will be hungry and relentless, while also entering the series with home court advantage. They are a well-coached team that throws a ton at their opponents on both ends of the court and this time, it may turn out to be just too much for the reigning NBA champions to overcome.
Bucks move onto the NBA Finals to take on the Los Angeles Lakers after eliminating the Raptors in six games.