The Milwaukee Bucks will open up the 2017 NBA playoffs on Saturday afternoon against the Toronto Raptors, looking to win the team’s first playoff series since 2001. The Bucks have made six playoff appearances since then, winning a whopping nine playoff games in the past 16 seasons.
Las Vegas does not like the Bucks to win the NBA Championship, which is probably the right call. Milwaukee is at 250-1 to win the title right now, ahead of only the Portland Trail Blazers at 300-1 to take home the Larry O’Brien Trophy. In fact, the Bucks are only 50-1 to win the Eastern Conference.
Those dreams of playing deep into June are probably far-fetched. This team is still young, and not at 100% (boy would it be nice to have Jabari Parker healthy) , so let’s not get ahead of ourselves quite yet. In fact, I don’t really expect Milwaukee to win this series, but I think they have as good a shot as any recent years to advance.
Why? Certainly not because of their track record against the Raptors this season. The Bucks are 1-3 against Toronto, giving up an average of 105.8 points per game. The win did come in Milwaukee’s incredibly hot March, a 101-94 home win against the Raptors on March 4th, but the way that Toronto had its way with the Bucks in the second and third matchups, particularily, has me concerned.
Perennial all-star Kyle Lowry is back from a wrist injury that sidelined him for 18 games, and can trade off with DeMar DeRozen as to who needs to be “the guy” on any given night. They also have above-average contributors in Serge Ibaka, PJ Tucker and Jonas Valanciunas that present a size problem for the Bucks. The four games have been four different looks from the Raptors – a 26-point night by DeRozen and a 19-point night by Lowry in the November loss, a big 30-point night by DeRozen coupled by 25 points off the bench by Terrance Ross in the December loss, and a 32-point night by Lowry in the January loss, in which DeRozen didn’t even play.
But…it should be entertaining.
This is another good one. https://t.co/J67vTSPOuj
— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) April 13, 2017
Giannis has averaged 24.8 points against Toronto this season, and will likely need to be even better than that in this series. He needs to be THE BEST player in the series, hands down, for the Bucks to win. Even then, the Raptors are definitely deeper in the premier scoring options department. However, now is a good time for some gratuitous Giannis stats. Per Sekou Smith at NBA.com:
The 22-year-old Antetokounmpo finished the regular season ranked in the top 20 in the league in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks, becoming the first player to do it for an entire seasons. Only two, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Kevin Garnett, have finished in the top 25 in all those categories for an entire season. As deep and versatile as the Raptors are, they don’t have anyone that matches up well against the most dynamic player in the league not named (LeBron) James.