After two thrilling Game 7’s on Monday, the 2019 NBA Conference Finals have been decided and will kick off on Wednesday! In the East, the Milwaukee Bucks will face off against the Toronto Raptors in what should be an exciting series.
The Eastern Conference Finals get underway on Thursday, the 16th of May in Milwaukee and we have a full preview and betting tips for the matchup below. Be sure to check out our NBA Tips Page for the Western Conference Finals preview and betting tips as well!
Milwaukee Bucks vs Toronto Raptors
The Raptors held firm in a tight Game 7 against the 76ers to book a place in the Eastern Conference Finals getting underway on Thursday (AEST) from Milwaukee. It will be the first time in the Conference Finals since the 2000-01 season for the Bucks, while the Raptors will be looking to break the string of disappointing playoffs exits bowing out to the Cavaliers in the previous three seasons.
It’s been an absolutely dominant season from the Milwaukee Bucks to date. They finished the season with the best record in the NBA at 60-22 and after sweeping the Detroit Pistons in Round 1 of the playoffs, they went on to beat the Boston Celtics four games to one in the second round. They are led by MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo, who averaged 27.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 5.9 assists if not for some blowouts resulting in limited playing time in the playoffs, would have bumped that up significantly.
The Bucks are 8-1 in the playoffs so far, meaning they got an extended break at the end of their Round 1 over the Pistons and another one after beating the Celtics in five games. They’ll square off against the Raptors on Thursday, not having played since the Thursday before, which will allow hampered players such as Malcolm Brogdon plenty of recovery time. The average margin in Bucks playoffs games this postseason has been 17.8 points, which has resulted in Giannis averaging just 31 minutes per game. The post season has been somewhat of an extended vacation for the MVP so far.
However, Giannis will be faced with the toughest test in his NBA career to date in the Eastern Conference Finals as he goes head to head with the best perimeter defender in the league in Kawhi Leonard and will also be faced with the task of stopping Leonard on the other end. The supporting cast for the Bucks has also been good in the playoffs, and the addition of Brogdon back from injury will add valuable shooting.
The Raptors will come into the Eastern Conference finals on just two days break after the thrilling Game 7 win over the 76ers. It was Kawhi Leonard who stepped up once again in Game 7, compiling 41 points on 16/39 shooting as well as hitting the miraculous game winning shot to send his team to the next round. Serge Ibaka also came up big in Game 7, dropping 17 points and picking up 8 rebounds while Marc Gasol proved valuable on the defensive end against Joel Embiid.
It’s unlikely that we’ll see as much of Gasol in the Conference Finals, however, as there likely won’t be a matchup for him. Opposing starting centre, Brook Lopez, has redefined his game and now lives outside the arc, meaning it’s more likely we’ll see Ibaka start at the five alongside Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam.
A key stat that trends in the Raptors favour is their ability to defend the three point shot. They ranked No.5 in the regular season in opponent 3pt% at just 34.1%. If they can stop the Bucks role players getting quality threes away it will go a long way towards winning this series.
We think this will be a much closer series than the Western Conference Finals with Toronto being able to put up more of a fight against the Bucks than the Celtics did. We’ll likely see less of Marc Gasol but the Raptors should be able to run out some other guys that they were unable to against the 76ers due to matchups. However, the bench should be where the Bucks have a real advantage in this series.
The Bucks had upwards of 11 players who all played impactful minutes against the Celtics including the likes of Pat Cannaughton, Ersan Ilysova, George Hill, Malcolm Brogdon and Tony Snell. Compare that with a starting unit that helped the Bucks achieve the best average scoring margins in league history at +9.5 points per game.
AS good as the Raptors were at times throughout their series against the 76ers, it’s hard to see them staying competitive with the Bucks in a seven game series. The Bucks just have too many guys capable of catching fire from three on any given night and Giannis Antetokounmpo is ultra-reliable at drawing a double team and finding those shooters. As we saw in the series against Boston, it only takes the Bucks three minutes to completely blow a team out of the water and we think Toronto could really struggle to come back from those 10+ point deficits relying solely on the offence of Kawhi Leonard.
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