The second round of the NBA’s Eastern Conference playoffs were pretty polar. The Bucks dismantled the Celtics in five games (three of their five wins were decisive), whereas the Raptors had a dazzling last-second win over the 76ers in a full seven games. Although the Raptors had to beat the Sixers by winning that critical seventh game, they showed in most of the series why they were the second seed in the East. In the case of Milwaukee, they didn’t look too vulnerable against Boston as many predicted. The Bucks dropped a home game but laid waste to the Celtics in three of the next four. Will the Bucks trip up against Toronto and let the Raptors go to their first Championship ever or will they continue their steamroll to the Finals? Time to break down what could be a conference championship for the ages.
#1 Milwaukee Bucks v. #2 Toronto Raptors
The Bucks have a lot in their arsenal ranging from colossus Giannis Antetokounmpo and helpers Eric Bledsoe and Brook Lopez to bench depth in Ersan Ilyasova, Nikola Mirotic, Pau Gasol and Sterling Brown. The Bucks can do a lot of damage in a lot of ways: three-point shooting, power offense and heavy defense to name a few. Something that may help the Bucks could be the amount of rest they’ve had (they were the first team to advance to the next round in either Conference) in case this goes a full seven games.
The Raptors have a true star in Kawhi Leonard, as he gave the Raptors a shot of a lifetime to put the Sixers away in Toronto. He’s had plenty of help however with big men Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, as well as Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam and Danny Green (all except Ibaka are starters). Backups Jodie Meeks and Patrick McCaw can help open up the offense and help defensively if needed. Since Toronto went a full seven games against Philadelphia, they haven’t had as much rest and unfortunately for them, will not have home court advantage as the Bucks were the top seed in the East. Something they can feel good about is handling adversity (specifically last round against the 76ers), something Milwaukee has yet to face.
The biggest difference between these two teams is experience, especially for the star players on both teams. Giannis has yet to play this deep in the playoffs, whereas Kawhi was 2014 Finals MVP when he was with the Spurs. The Raptors have been to the Eastern Conference Finals before and are eager to break past this round and get to their first championship appearance. Even if the Bucks win this round, they’re going to take heavy fire from a veteran team that won’t back down.
Prediction: Raptors win series 4-3
Eastern Conference Second Round Predictions: 2-0