The Toronto Raptors, the number 3 seed in the East, are hoping to carry on the momentum the franchise is in and go on another long playoff run like last season, beginning with game 1 in their first round series with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Expectations: Seeing the Cavaliers stumble in the second half of the season, the Raptors, winning more than 50 games for a second year in a row, are secretly wishing they can actually reach the NBA finals for the first time in their franchise history. The Bucks have much more humble aspirations despite the presence of Giannis Antetokounmpo. Just winning a playoff series, something they haven’t done since 2001, would be nice.
Stars: There’s only one name on the Bucks that fits the bill (Jabari Parker is injured, so we didn’t include him). Antetokounmpo, who finished the season with 22.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.9 blocks. He’s only getting better, and the Bucks need him to get better right now. For the Raptors, DeMar DeRozan is their best scorer with a career high 27.3 points per game this season. However, Kyle Lowry (22.4 points, 7 assists per game) might be even more important.
Hired help: The Raptors have the better support crew, with a big man duo of Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas expected to be very difficult to handle. They go about nine-man deep in rotation, with P.J. Tucker not adding a lot of points, but helping make the Raptors a lot tougher defensively. The Bucks find scoring baskets a lot more difficult than the Raptors, but Khris Middleton, Greg Monroe and likely rookie of the year Malcolm Brogdon are the ones who’ll have to help out Antetokounmpo carve out his playoff legacy with the Bucks.
Prediction: The Raptors’ offense usually freezes in the playoffs, but they’re good enough to see-off the one-man team the Bucks have become this season. It probably won’t be pretty, but Toronto should be up 1-0 at the end of game 1.