The day has come people!
The day where #WeTheNorth faces off with #FearTheDeer in game 1 of round 1 in the 2017 NBA Playoffs. With the way the standings shook out, the 3rd seed Toronto Raptors will face the 6th seed Milwaukee Bucks. The Raptors finished their regular season 51-31 (making it their second consecutive season with 50+ wins) and the Bucks finished 42-40. The Raptors won the season series 3-1 against the Bucks and since they're the higher seed, they will have home court advantage for this series. They averaged 105.75 points, 50 rebounds and shot 47.22% from the field against the Bucks. The youth of the Bucks team could be both a blessing and a curse as they face the deeper and more experienced Raptors. The Post Up explains 5 factors that may influence this series:
1. The Greek Freak – This is a factor that can really cause damage for the Raptors if they don't find a solution fast. With the length and versatility of Giannis Antetokounmpo, he will be a player that the Raptors may struggle with. This is a guy who leads his team in all categories which means that everything runs through Giannis. Against the Raptors, Giannis averaged 24 points, shot 58.8% from the field, 1.5 steals and 2.25 blocks. In all honesty, I don’t know if there is a perfect match-up against Giannis but with the depth of the Raptors and the willingness of Coach Casey to experiment, there are various options that can be exercised. PJ Tucker and Serge Ibaka will be the main guys that Coach will put on him. I don’t anticipate complete shutdowns but these guys will really challenge Giannis. Off the bench you can expect someone like Patrick Patterson or even Norman Powell to try and slow him down. Like I said, everything runs through Giannis so if the Raptors can figure him out early in this series, they increase their odds in moving on.
2. Go Big or Go Home – One of the x-factors for this series will be the bigs for each team, or lack thereof. The Raptors have the luxury of Jonas Valanciunas who can be used to completely dominate this series. The Bucks are currently ranked 27th in defensive rebounds and the Raptors rank in the top 10 for offensive rebounds. This means that the Raptors can exploit and really capitalize on the Bucks' weakness. When looking at the centres on either team, the Bucks lack a solid big man as they leave this position to Greg Monroe, John Henson or Spencer Hawes. If our bigs can establish their role early and find the holes in this young group of guys, the Bucks will be left like a deer in the headlights (see what I did there?) when JV or Jakob “second chance” Poeltl comes barreling down the court.
3. Strong until the end – The Raptors are number one in come backs when they’re down 10+ points as they’ve collected 20 wins during these situations. Though I don’t anticipate such drastic point differentials, the Raptors have to remember to play strong until the end. They are currently ranked 2nd in 4th quarter offense and 4th in 4th quarter defense. Regardless of how the games go, they have to remember to not let up and instead, play right through the last seconds of the game. We’ve seen the struggles of the Raptors when it comes to their consistency. There were games where they would start off strong but eventually lose steam or they start slow, dig themselves a hole and exert unnecessary effort to try and climb out. If they want to succeed in this series and have a deep post-season run, they need to find their groove early on and stick to it through all 48 minutes.
4. Young vs. old – These two teams are the epitome of young vs. old in both numbers and experience. The bucks are made up of young guys like Giannis Antetokounmpo (22), Thon Maker (20), Khris Middleton (25) Terrence Jones (25) and Malcolm Brogdon (24) – all of which are good, solid, up-and-comers but combined only have 12 post-season trips (6 from both Giannis and Middleton). Meanwhile, Serge Ibaka alone has 89 post-season appearances with 6 of those coming from the 2012 NBA Finals. In an article from Sportnet, they made note that the Raptors starters have 234 post-season appearances combined. If I had to pick one team that has knowledge of what it takes to make it in the playoffs, the Raptors win this category by a land-slide.
5. Raptor Killers – There a couple names in this Bucks roster that stand out to me – Matthew Dellavedova, Mirza Teletovic and Jason Kidd. All these guys have met the Raptors in the post-season at one point or another. Mirza Teletovic and Jason Kidd were both part of the 2013-2014 Brooklyn Nets who won the first round series in 7 games over the Raptors. Hearing Teletovic's name announced in any game against the Raptors will forever haunt me no matter what team he is on. Jason Kidd was the coach of that 2013-2014 Brooklyn team and I will always think of him as the coach who is willing to do anything for the advantage. Remember the time he “accidentally” spilled a drink on the court during a game against the L.A. Lakers in 2013? Though he said it was accidental, the NBA fined him $50,000. The fact that a coach has tricks like that up his sleeve just doesn’t sit right with me. Lastly, Matthew Dellavedova, the rugby player in the NBA, is someone who is not afraid to play dirty which is concerning to me. Though Delly only averages 7.5 points and 5.75 assists against the Raptors as a Buck, he has the experience from a championship caliber team which he gained during his time with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
All things considered, I believe the Raptors can make it past the Bucks to get to the second round but it won’t come easy. If the Raptors find their rhythm early and are able to keep up with the quickness of this young team, I have the Raptors winning the series in 5. What do you think?