The 3 vs. 6 matchup out East is between the surging Toronto Raptors and the playoff newbies, the Milwaukee Bucks. We are going to take a quick look at both sides and then make a prediction.
The Raptors finished the year with an absolute surge AND got their star PG Kyle Lowry back from a wrist injury that held him out for most of the 2nd half. While he was gone Demar DeRozan established himself as one of the premier scorers in the NBA, finishing the season with a gaudy 27.3 ppg. With both Lowry and DeRozan the Raptors should hold a very clear backcourt advantage against the lowly Bucks, who run with a rotation of Tony Snell, Delly and Malcolm Brogdon. The Raptors backup PG, Cory Joseph, is probably better than all of those 3. The questions come more with the Raptors wing players. After trading away Terrence Ross for Serge Ibaka, the Raptors main wings are DeMarre Carroll and P.J Tucker, who came by way of a mid-season trade. Carroll and Tucker will have the impossible task of guarding the “Greek Freak” all series, and while both have solid reputations on defense, I don’t particularly like their chances of stopping Giannis. The Raptors should however make a living on the boards, as Ibaka and Jonas Valančiūnas are far superior players to John Hensen and the rest of the Bucks front court. All in all, the Raptors seem to be playing good ball at the right time and a far more talented squad than their competition.
The story of the Bucks season should have been yet another Jabari Parker ACL tear, but behind All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo the tone of Milwaukee’s season was far different. The greek sensation became the first player in NBA history to finish in the top 20 in points, assists, rebounds, blocks and steals. Russell Westbrook may have stolen the spotlight a little bit, but it still bears repeating that Giannis had a truly historic season and impacts the game in all facets like few before him ever have. Outside of Giannis the bucks rely heavily on 3 point shooter Khris Middelton for scoring, and since returning from injury he has been nothing but net, shooting 43% from deep this year. The Bucks also feature a scrappy backcourt of Matthew Delladova and Rookie of the Year candidate Malcom Brogdon. Both these backcourt mates aren’t really going to create their own shot, thats Giannis’ task, but should provide solid defense against the Raptors nightmare backcourt of Lowry-Derozan. The Bucks don’t bring much playoff experience into this series, which is certainly a disadvantage going up against a Raptors team who has gotten very accustom to spring basketball. They will have to rely on their NBA Champion, Delly, to bring that playoff experience. With Jabari Parker this team would certainly make an interesting dark-horse Eastern Conference contender. Without him however that front-line looks a little thin, and Giannis’ back looks a little to strained.
Raptors in 6.
Lowry and DeRozan might have a bit of trouble with the Bucks solid defensive pairing in the backcourt, but their overall talent level is too much, and their too experienced in the playoffs. The Bucks are going to steal a couple behind the Greek Superman, but ultimately fall short. Raptors in 6.