The two best teams during the NBA’s regular season will face off in the East Conference Finals with Giannis “Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo the #1 Milwaukee Bucks (60-22) hosting superhero Kawhi Leonard and the #2 Toronto Raptors (58-24).
The Bucks secured the best record in the NBA with 60 wins for head coach Mike Budenholzer in is first season with the Bucks. We got to see a preview of the East Finals when the Raptors and Bucks faced four times during the regular season with the Bucks winning three out of four. However, the first game did not have either Kawhi or the Greek Freak.
KAWHI VS. GREEK FREAK
Giannis Antetokounmpo 27.4 ppg, 11.3 rebounds, 52.6 FG
Kawhi Leonard 31.8 ppg, 8.5 rebounds, 53.9 FG
Leonard was the NBA’s seventh best scorer this season. He finished his first full season with the Raptors, but he has plenty of playoff experience while learning from one of the NBA greatest coaches, Gregg Popovich.
The Greek Freak averaged 27.7 points in the regular season, or good for third best in the NBA. He makes fantasy nerds drool because he’s ranked #3 in PER with 30.95.
Four Bounce Leonard
Canada usually does not have much to root for this time of the year. A Canadian team had not won the Stanley Cup in over two decades. Even though three teams from North of the Border came into the postseason for a shot at the Stanley Cup, history was against them because a team from Canada had not won the Cup since 1993.
Who would have thought that the Toronto Raptors would be Canada’s best shot at a world championship this year? The Raptors are among the final four. Sure, they have to face a well-rested team with the best record in the NBA, but the Raptors have been battled tested and ready to roll after an uplifting victory in Game 7 of the Eastern Semifinals.
Kawhi Leonard succeeded where Vince Carter could not. Carter missed a shot to win Game 7 for the Raptors in the 2001 Eastern Semifinals. The Raptors faced Allen Iverson’s Philly Sixers squad and came within an inch of advancing. The Sixers were trounced by Shaq and Kobe and the Lakers in the NBA Finals.
The modern day Raptors edged out the Sixers supersquad in a back-and-forth seven-game series. Leonard hit a fadeaway shot at the end of Game 7 that has already become a part of NBA playoffs lore. Leonard got off a jumper over the outstretched fingertips of Joel Embiid. The two both watched the ball bounce off the rim multiple times as time slowed down for everyone inside the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. The entire nation held it’s collective breath as the fate of the game and franchise fell into the hands of the basketball gods. Gravity favored the side of the Toronto Raptors. Leonard’s ball finally dropped into the basketball to secure the victory and series.
Even if Leonard never plays for the Raptors again after the playoffs are over, he will still go down as a great Canadian sports hero.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) May 13, 2019
Greek Freak’s Time to Shine
It is time for the Greek Freak to do some damage in front of a wide audience. He’s been waiting in the lurch the last few years while LeBron James dominated the Eastern landscape.
Once upon a time a skinny kid named Lew Alcindor out of UCLA made the Bucks legitimate contenders. Now it’s Giannis Antetokounmpo’s time to lead Milwaukee to the Promised Land.
Antetokounmpo looked unstoppable in Game 4 after he dropped 41 points against the Detroit Pistons in the opening round. Against the Celtics in Game 4, the Freak scored 39 points.
The Bucks are happy that point guard Malcolm Brogdon is back after missing nearly two months with a plantar fascia tear in his right foot. Brogdon came off the bench in Game 7 against the Raptors. Veteran Eric Bledsode has done a stellar job filling in with 16 points and 4.3 assists per game. It’s still unknown if Bledsode will continue to start in the Eastern Finals, or if he’ll come off the bench.
While, all the focus is on the Greek Freak/Kawhi match up, it’s the secondary scorers that will be a huge factor. Khris Middleton averaged 19.1 points for the Bucks in nine playoff games. His counterpart of the Raptors, Pascal Siakam, averaged 20.8 points per game this postseason.
What Do the Bookies Think?
The Bucks are 8-1 in the postseason. The Freak and company swept the Pistons in the first round. They won four straight games and knocked out the Boston Celtics in five games after sleepwalking through Game 1.
The high-octane Bucks scored 118 points per game in the regular season, which was top in the NBA. The Bucks averaged 117 points per game in the postseason. Neither the Pistons, nor the Celtics could slow them down in nine games.
Coming into Game 1, the Greek Freak and the Bucks are a six-point favorite at home. The over/under total has been fluctuating between 217 and 218. The Bucks will have over a week of full rest before taking the court on Wednesday.
According to the South Point Casino and Sports Book in Las Vegas, the Bucks are the new favorites at -175 on the money line to win the NBA championship. The Toronto Raptors are 7/1 odds to win the NBA crown.