Three days after one of the most exciting endings to a game in NBA playoff history, the Toronto Raptors are in Milwaukee Wednesday night for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final.
How did these two teams get here?
The top-seed Bucks steamrolled through the competition to a 60-22 record in the regular season and have followed that up with an impressive run in the playoffs, sweeping Detroit in Round 1 and blowing away Boston in five games.
The second-seeded Raptors finished just two games behind Milwaukee at 58-24, the second-best record in the league, and promptly dumped Orlando in five games before dispatching Philadelphia in a seven-game slug fest.
Which team has the edge?
Milwaukee is certainly the fresher of the two teams after playing three fewer games and not seeing game action since May 8. When Game 1 tips off, we will quickly see if the Bucks are fresh or rusty.
After an emotionally-charged ending to their series with the 76ers on Sunday, are the Raptors going to be mentally ready for the opening game?
You might as well throw out Milwaukee’s 3-1 record against Toronto during the regular season, because both teams have changed since the trade deadline when the Bucks acquired Nikola Mirotic and the Raps picked up Marc Gasol.
The Greek Freak vs. The Claw
This series will likely come down to how two of the best players in the league perform, and if their surrounding cast picks up the slack.
Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging 27.4 points and 11.3 rebounds per game in the playoffs. ‘The Greek Freak’ can be an unstoppable force, but he hasn’t faced a defence like Toronto this post-season.
Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard is averaging 31.8 points and 8.5 rebounds a game in the playoffs. ‘The Claw’ is a battle-tested playoff performer who has an NBA Finals MVP Award on his resume, but can only do so much if teammates Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam are held in check.
Raptors star Kawhi Leonard ready for Milwaukee Bucks challenge in conference finals
And the winner is?
Flip a coin, seriously. These two teams are talented, deep, well coached and hard to knock off their game.
While my heart says the Raptors are going to win this series, my head says the Bucks will prevail — but where’s the fun in that?
WATCH: Raptors set for greatest challenge yet: the “Greek Freak”
I’m sure that I’ll be giving my stress ball a workout all series long, but it will be well worth it when Toronto beats Milwaukee in seven games to reach the franchise’s first NBA Finals.
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