Milwaukee Bucks vs. Toronto Raptors Betting Analysis
By Eric Uribe
The series opens with sixth-seeded Milwaukee (42-40) as substantial underdogs to win the series at +325 odds. The three seed Toronto (51-31) are pegged at -385 to advance.
However, there’s one giant reason why this won’t a gimme series for the Raptors — Giannis Antetokounmpo. The 6-foot-11 small forward is a jack-of-all-trades superstar. Just look at his stat line for the regular season: 22.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.9 blocks. All stats were team-highs, making him only the fifth player in NBA history to pull off the feat. Heck, Antetokounmpo ranked top-20 in the league in the aforementioned categories — an accomplishment no other player in NBA history has ever pulled off.
Containing Antetokounmpo will be key. Expect the Raptors to throw a number of different defenders at the “Greek Freak” with DeMarre Carroll and P.J. Tucker the likely candidates.
The only weakness in Antetokounmpo’s game might be jump-shooting from the perimeter, so expect Toronto to try to turn him into a shooter. But when you’re as long and athletic as Antetokounmpo is, that’s easier said than done.
Milwaukee shooting guard Khris Middleton may be the X-factor in this series. With Jabari Parker injured, Middleton has become the team’s number-two threat. Middleton has been a mixed bag with 14.7 points per game. But when he’s on, the Bucks are a tough team to beat.
Look no further than these two team’s regular season series. The Raptors took three of four games, but in the most recent one, Middleton went off for 24 points en route to a 101-94 victory for Milwaukee.
Middleton has to find a way to keep pace with Toronto’s prolific-scoring backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. The duo might be the best in the Eastern Conference and together average nearly 50 points per game. A wrist injury has kept Lowry in check throughout the season, but he appears to be 100 percent healthy now.
The Raptors appear to be clicking at the right time, too. No team in the Eastern Conference has a better record after the All-Star game than Toronto, and it’s been defense — not scoring — that’s keyed the team’s turnaround.
Since the break, they are allowing 102.3 points per 100 possessions (fourth most stingy in the league) — a big improvement from 106 points beforehand. Trading for Serge Ibaka before the trade deadline has been a big reason for the jump, but his defense-first mentality has trickled down the roster. Antetokounmpo and company will test the Raptor’s improved scheme greatly.
When it comes to playoff basketball, you can’t rule out experience either. The Bucks starters have appeared in just 28 postseason games — paling in comparison to the Raptors 134 contests. Heck, experience was a factor the last time Toronto faced a Jason Kidd-coached team in the playoffs.
Three years ago, Kidd was at the helm of the Brooklyn Nets, a team led by grizzled veterans like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Their experience proved to much for a green Raptors team despite going the full seven games — with the final matchup even coming down to the last possession. Kidd will be on the opposite end this time around leading the wide-eyed Bucks.
Between experience, depth, and talent, Toronto tops Milwaukee in all three. It’s not a matter of if they’ll win, but in how many games.
The Raptors have only won three playoff series in franchise history and all three went into the final deciding game. While we don’t expect the Bucks to take them to seven, six games is a reasonable expectation.
Pick: Toronto (-385)
Series outcome: Six games
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