Thanks to a last second game-winner against the 76ers, Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors advanced to The NBA Eastern Conference Finals to play MVP front-runner Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.
This should be a terrific matchup between the two best teams in the conference all season, with both sides featuring a superstar surrounded by very good role players and strong benches. We break down the series odds and give you in-depth trends and notes so you can make the best bets in the NBA playoffs.
TORONTO RAPTORS VS MILWAUKEE BUCKS
Game 1: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, WI - Wednesday, May 15, 8:30 p.m. ET
Game 2: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, WI - Friday, May 17, 8:30 p.m. ET
Game 3: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, ON - Sunday, May 19, 7:00 p.m. ET
Game 4: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, ON - Tuesday, May 21, 8:30 p.m. ET
*Game 5: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, WI - Thursday, May 23, 8:30 p.m. ET
*Game 6: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, ON - Saturday, May 25, 8:30 p.m. ET
*Game 7: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, WI - Monday, May 27, 8:30 p.m. ET
* If necessary
After Milwaukee lost their first game in Round 2 against the Celtics many expected them to collapse against a Boston side that's had their number for the last few seasons. But these Bucks are not the Bucks of the past and proved that with four straight impressive wins to comfortably eliminate the C's. Milwaukee has arguably been the best team in the league all season and now has a healthy Malcolm Brogdon back in the starting lineup for the start of this series.
The Raptors got a gift from the basketball gods with the help from the rim on Kawhi's game winner. Their series against Philadelphia came right down to the wire despite locking down their star center Joel Embiid for most of the series. Leonard had to take over the game late, scoring all of the Raps points during a five-minute stretch. Part of that is because Leonard is such a great player in the clutch, but part of it was also because most of his teammates were not assertive. He will need them all to step up if the Raps want to keep pace with the Bucks.
WINNING THE HEAD TO HEAD
The regular season doesn't always mean much but the Bucks did manage to take three of four games against Toronto with an average score of 112.3-105.8 for Milwaukee. That being said, neither Leonard nor Antetokounmpo played in the first game head-to-head which was a 15-point Milwaukee rout. Take that game out of the mix and the average score ends up being 108.3-104.7 for the Bucks.
COVERING THE SPREAD
The Bucks have been given some pretty big lines as favorites so far in the playoffs but they've had little trouble covering. They are a terrific 8-1 ATS in the playoffs. Their average scoring margin so far in the postseason has been plus-15.8 points per game and an incredible plus-20.5 ppg in their eight wins. Don't shy away from backing them on the spread if you see them winning.
WINNING WITH DEFENSE
The Bucks and Raptors have been playing lights out on the defensive end of the court lately. Milwaukee limited Boston to just 102.7 points per game on 37.1 percent shooting from the floor over the last three games, while the Raps held the Sixers to just 97 ppg over their last three contests.
Both sides have also been ice-cold from deep recently with Toronto shooting 30.2 percent from from three-point range over their previous three games and Milwaukee shooting at a clip of 31.4.
With how well both teams have been defending and their struggles from beyond the arc, the Under is worth a look for the first few games of this series before oddsmakers adjust.
WHO LET THE DOGS OUT?
Perhaps the most note-worthy trend in the head to head is that the underdog is 7-0 ATS in the last seven meetings and 6-0 SU over the last six. The road team is also 7-1 ATS over the previous eight contests.
As good as both teams have played at home, they've also been impressive on the road with Milwaukee 31-14 SU in away games and Toronto 29-17. If you think the underdog will cover in this series it might be worth backing them to win outright on the moneyline.
PLAYER TO WATCH: PASCAL SIAKAM, TORONTO RAPTORS
Like I mentioned earlier, Kawhi is going to need alot of help from his teammates if the Raps want to advance to the finals, and Siakam might be the best candidate to contribute. Siakim had a breakthrough regular season with 16.9 ppg and he's been even more impressive in the playoffs with 20.8 ppg.
Siakam absolutely dominated the Bucks in the regular season putting up 24.3 ppg on 64.5 percent shooting in four games. Keep an eye on the O/U for his points totals and back the Over if it looks too low. For Game 1 it's set at 19.5, a total he's surpassed in six of his last eight games.
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