Toronto (66-28 SU, +0.8 units) at Milwaukee (68-23 SU, +23.4 units)
Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. (TNT)
Free NBA Pick: Bucks ML
Best Line Offered: GT Bets
As only the NBA can deliver, the two best teams this season in the Eastern Conference will do battle.
No.2 seed Toronto is here due to some good fortune, as Kawhi Leonard’s game-winning shot, touched nearly every angle of the 360 degrees of the rim before falling thru the net to stun Philadelphia. Leonard is doing it all for Toronto in the playoffs, averaging 31.8 PPG, shooting 53.9 percent (40.8% on three’s), grabbing 8.5 rebounds a game and doling out four assists, all of which are above regular season norms.
Top-seeded Milwaukee has Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Greek Freak. His size and big man speed are extraordinary and as he has grown into his body, he’s become unstoppable in the paint and his work ethic and desire are matched by few in the sport.
However, as important as these two superstars are, neither would be here or in a position to advance to The Finals without help. Our focus for the series opener is the money line, or pick the SU winner and here are the latest NBA odds:
Toronto +220 – Milwaukee -260
How The Raptors Engineer Upset
Toronto is 15 percent more efficient when it comes to scoring with Leonard on the floor than when he is not thru two playoff rounds. Beating Orlando and surviving Philadelphia is one thing, but knocking off the best team in the NBA this season is another.
The Raptors are 29-17 SU on the road, which is the third-best away mark in the NBA, trailing only Milwaukee and Golden State.
This season Toronto lost three of four to the Bucks, both SU and ATS. They did split in Milwaukee, but almost like every team this season, the Raptors did not shoot well against the Bucks. In succession, Toronto made 37.9%, 41.5%, 51.2% and 39.8%. You can figure out which game they won from the numbers.
In order to beat Milwaukee outright, they will need not only Leonard but strong efforts from Pascal Siakam and more consistent play from Kyle Lowry and Danny Green.
On defense, Boston had a plan that worked for one game. Instead of setting up a wall on Antetokounmpo, give help and don’t foul. But most importantly, don’t let the other Milwaukee players have open looks. If Giannis scores 50, so be it, limit everyone else.
How The Bucks Roll
The Milwaukee front office was brilliant in assembling the necessary parts to make this a championship quality team. The Bucks had the front line talent, but against Boston, it was the bench that battered the Celtics, with George Hill, Nikola Mirotic, Pat Connaughton and Ersan Ilyasova, all at various times making significant contributions. Now adding the previous starter Malcolm Brogdon, back from injury, only makes this contingent that much stronger.
There are two undeniable elements that coach Mike Budenholzer has brought to this team. An offensive and defensive system that is an offshoot of Golden State, but with a more inside presence to score in the paint, but still making 3’s. And incredible length on defense, which made them No. 1 in points per possession and No. 1 in field goal percentage allowed.
The other factor Milwaukee has picked up, professional arrogance. They play their game and if a team is not good enough like Detroit or Boston, they just keep pounding away until they relent.
Game 1 East Finals Outcome
Milwaukee might be a little rusty for a quarter or so to get back into the flow. Though Toronto could be emotionally off after a big win, having two days between games should be the refresher.
Both these teams have added new pieces since their last contest on Jan. 31st. For NBA picks, cannot overlook the Bucks are 37-9 SU at home, 8-1 SU versus teams outscoring their opponents by 6+ points and the Raptors are 3-14 SU in the first game of a playoff series. Make it Milwaukee.