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Eastern Conference Finals

Eastern Conference Finals

Here's the craziest thing about the Milwaukee Bucks - they're not that different from the 2014-2015 Golden State Warriors. Think about it ...

 

  • Likely MVP Candidate? Check
  • A previous coach, who was a respected point guard but (at best) unimpressive head coach.
  • A new coach, who implements an offensive scheme based on ball movement and three-point shooting who will (spoiler alert)
  • Lead the team to the NBA Finals in his first year.

Granted, I'm jumping ahead a bit but I'm pretty confident in that last point.

 

The Raptors are a very good team but I think the Bucks are actually better, across the board. Let's say - for sake of argument - that Kawhi and Giannis cancel each other out (although I do think The Greek Freak is a little bit better than The Claw ...), Middelton and Bledsoe have both been more consistent than Siakam and Lowry. I think Lopez's three-point shooting may play Gasol off the floor and, if so, moving Ibaka back into the starting lineup will weaken an already-weak bench.

 

The last series saw the Raptors fall apart when Kawhi went to the bench. When Giannis went to the bench, the Bucks were actually more effective. I don't expect that to be the case (the Raptors aren't the Celtics) but I would still feel more comfortable playing Milwaukee's bench than Toronto's.

 

The one way Toronto can hurt Milwaukee is on the 3-point line. The Bucks have been content to let teams shoot the 3 all year, preferring to fill the paint for rebounds and transitions. Their bet has been that their opponents just can't make enough 3's to outweigh their transitional effectiveness. Toronto could make them pay for this - but they will have to do better than the 23% they shot from the 3-point line vs. Philly.

 

I know this makes this sound like I'm just dissing Toronto but, I swear, I really do like their team. I just think Milwaukee is having one of those 'years of destiny' - much like the 2014-2015 Warriors.

 

Milwaukee Bucks in 5.

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Message 1 of 8

Re: Eastern Conference Finals

Toronto is going to REALLY regret this loss. They couldn’t afford to lose a game where they shot decently from the 3 (for a half, at least) and got an AMAZING game from Kyle Lowry (which don’t come around that often, nowadays).

 

But, eventually ... those threes stopped falling ... Brook Lopez severely outplayed Marc Gasol & Ibaka at center ... and the discrepancy in bench talent let Giannis take regular breaks while Kawhi looked absolutely exhausted by the fourth quarter.

 

Toronto put up a heck of a fight, but Milwaukee is just too good.

Message 2 of 8

Re: Eastern Conference Finals

Oh, Toronto. It’s never a good sign when a team is only a 3 or 4 minutes into the second quarter and they’re already thinking, “Maybe Jodie Meeks can give us something.”

Message 3 of 8

Re: Eastern Conference Finals

This is why I thought the Raptors were REALLY going to regret losing that first game.

 

It was just as unlikely that the Bucks were going to play as bad (for them) again as it was that the Raptors were going to play as good as they did in Game 1. And you could see this buttkicking coming.

 

The good news is they did find some things to build on at home. Powell should get more playing time and I would bet Ibaka is the starting center in Game 3.

 

Factor in the crowd and the chance that the Raptors’ “others” will play better at home and I’d bet the Raptors take one of the next two.

Message 4 of 8

Re: Eastern Conference Finals

First off, what a game!

 

Secondly, welcome to the Eastern Conference Finals, Pascal Siakam!

 

It was great to see Siakam and Gasol have good showings, it was encouraging to see Powell continue his strong play off the bench and - of course - 52 gutsy minutes by an injured Kawhi. Having said that, Toronto still did everything they possibly could to give this game away and I’m certainly not convinced that my prediction (Bucks in 5) was wrong.

 

We’ll see if Toronto can make me regret that, Tuesday night.

Message 5 of 8

Re: Eastern Conference Finals

I have to admit, I didnt think Toronto still had this in them. I don’t know if they can keep this up for another half of basketball, but this first half has been impressive.

 

What I think is most surprising is that this is really the first time Milwaukee has faced pressure and this also might be the first time I’ve seen their confidence shook.

 

Even if they pull this game out, that doesn’t bode well if their going to face GSW. The Warriors are going to put much more pressure on them than the Raptors. 

Message 6 of 8

Re: Eastern Conference Finals

Well, that was unexpected.

 

I was certain that Milwaukee - who had lost 2 games in a row only once all year - would bounce back from a subpar performance to take the fight to Toronto. I also thought that, after a tough double overtime win, Toronto wouldn’t have anything left in the tank. And I couldn’t have been more wrong.

 

Toronto played with an intense effort, from Kawhi all the way to the last person off the bench. The Bucks, meanwhile, seemed nervous & shook for nearly the entire game.

 

The Raptors are still going to have to win one in Milwaukee to convince me that they can make it to the Finals, but they’ve certainly made it a series.

Message 7 of 8

Re: Eastern Conference Finals

I’ve really liked the Bucks all season and I def think Giannis has been the MVP (and the race wasn’t close) but tonight you saw the difference between a superstar and a team that have been here before and superstar and a team that’s new to this stage.

 

Toronto did a great job keeping it close for 3 quarters and, in the fourth, they were calmer, with crisper passes, more precise rotations, more dedication on defense and a smarter shot selection.

 

The Bucks, meanwhile, looked scared for the second game in a row. Which ... is fine. I (and others) were just looking for a little more from the Bucks than they were ready, yet, to provide. The Bucks and Giannis have had a heck of a year and this is the kind of experience that they can learn from and build upon, next year.

 

And, yes. I know that - technically - it’s only 3-2. Technically, the Bucks can still win this thing.

But, based on how they’ve looked, these past two games, I don’t think the Bucks believe that anymore.

And neither do I.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P.S., Drake still stinks.

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