From the perspective of the Milwaukee Bucks, the playoffs mirrored the regular season. They established themselves as the favorites, and aside from a few moments here and there, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the resurgent Bucks have dominated while waiting for a worthy challenger.
After dispatching the Boston Celtics in five games, one of the teams many believed to be in that group of contenders, the Raptors and the 76ers needed two more games to come up with an answer. Kawhi Leonard’s clutch buzzer-beater won Game 7 in Toronto, setting up a clash of two teams led by a virtuoso superstar to battle for Eastern supremacy.
Game 1 tips Wednesday in Milwaukee, with the Bucks coming off a week’s rest and getting Malcolm Brogdon back from injury. Meanwhile, the Raptors will head to Wisconsin off a grueling seven game series, having battled inconsistency late in the season and at times the playoffs. Neither team, as currently constructed, possesses significant experience navigating these waters, which means each have significant questions to answer.
Will this series follow the script of the regular season, with the Bucks simply outlasting the best the East has to offer? Or will the Raptors find a way to win games at the Fiserv Forum, something few teams have done this season, and steal a trip to the NBA Finals?
Giannis Bully Ball
The Greek Freak’s prowess scoring this season rivals the work of prime Shaq. That’s how dominant he’s been. His total scoring stats in the postseason mirror the regular season, with 27.4 points per game in the playoffs compared to 27.7 ppg during the year. But he’s doing less of it in the paint.
Antetokounmpo created a ridiculous 63.1% of his scoring in the paint in the regular season, which has dropped down to 55.1% in the playoffs. He’s taking one full three-pointer more a game this postseason and attempting 2.5 more free throws, which has helped balance out the fewer attempts at the rim because he’s not only got to the line more often, but made them at a higher clip — 67% in the regular season to a shade under 73% in the postseason.
The only team with a better field goal percentage defense in the playoffs than the Raptors is the Bucks, and they finished the regular season fifth in the NBA in that area. They built the proverbial wall against the Bucks in their regular season meetings, forcing other Bucks to beat them. In three games, Giannis had games of 19, 21, and 43 and oddly, the lone loss came in the 43-point effort.