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Eastern Conference Finals Preview and Prediction

Milwaukee breezed through their series with the Celtics. The Raptors needed a miraculous shot by Kawhi Leonard to win Game 7 against Philadelphia.

Game one will provide an interesting answer to the question. Did the Bucks get too much rest? Will Toronto be both physically and emotionally spent?

Either way, the NBA has to love this series and it presents a match up of two legitimate superstars. The Bucks MVP candidate, Giannas Antetokounmpo, is a match up problem for any and every team. Kawhi Leonard is a Finals MVP who carried the Raptors to this stage.

Keys for Milwaukee

  • Will Antetokounmpo be able to score efficiently against Toronto’s excellent team defense? Just like Boston, Toronto doesn’t have a true rim protector. If Antetokounmpo can beat his defender on the first step, it will stress the Raptors defense out. This could lead to big nights for the Greek Freak.
  • If Khris Middleton draws the Kawhi Leonard assignment, he’ll need to find a way to tend to his defensive responsibility without it taking too much away from his offense. That’s easier said than done. As the world found out in Game 7 of the Raptors-Sixers, Leonard is willing to do whatever it takes to win.
  • The Bucks three point shooting will need to be on point if the Raptors decide to double team. The Bucks are the top remaining team in 3FG FREQ.

Keys for Toronto

  • Everything begins and ends with Kawhi Leonard. He was a thorn in the side of the Sixers and he will need to do that same against Milwaukee. In the Philadelphia series, his OFFRTG was 111.6 in wins and 102.5 in losses.
  • All eyes will be on Kyle Lowry especially in losses. Lowry seems to take the blunt of the blame whenever the Raptors lose in the playoffs. Frequently, we judge Lowry by his offensive numbers in wins and losses but his defensive splits are just as bad. In wins his rating DEFRTG is 91.3, in losses it’s 119.4. Is bad offense causing bad defense or is bad defense causing bad offense? Whatever answer it is, the Raptors need to figure out in this series.
  • Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka need to come up big in the series. Ibaka was the only player who took the bulls by the horn in Game 7. Siakam seemed to hide from the moment. He won’t be afforded that luxury in the series. Siakam will need to be a credible second scorer if the Raptors want to defeat the Bucks.

Prediction

Milwaukee in seven.

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