G2 – Raptors at BucksPredictions | Conference Finals Odds | Playoff Results
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Eastern Conference Finals – Game 2 -- Bucks lead 1-0
No. 2 Toronto at No. 1 Milwaukee (-6.5/216), TNT, 8:35 p.m. ET
May 14 – Bucks (-6.5) 108 vs. Raptors 100 (Over 218)
Jan. 31 – Bucks (+2.5) 105 at Raptors 92 (Under 232)
Jan. 5 – Raptors (+5.5) 123 at Bucks 116 (Over 227)
Dec. 9 – Bucks (+5) 104 at Raptors 99 (Under 229.5)
Oct. 29 – Bucks (+2) 124 vs. Raptors 109 (Over 222.5)
The Raptors have a lot to be encouraged about considering how well they played in Wednesday’s series opener, leading most of the way before a fourth-quarter collapse ruined the night. The Bucks scored the game’s final 10 points to not only win but cover despite trailing for 37 of 48 minutes. As a result, Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals become entirely about resolve.
Both for Toronto and for bettors.
Everyone expecting the Raptors to fold like tents because it’s what they’ve done in the past and what happened in Game 1 is overlooking the fact this is a relatively new group. Kyle Lowry is the biggest name left from the teams associated with all the past failures against LeBron James. If you believed in Toronto prior to seeing it cough up it appeared to have wrapped up for roughly 47 minutes, you probably shouldn’t bail.
What remains to be seen is whether the Raptors are equally as resilient. With a trip home on tap regardless of Friday night’s result, a team that has thrived in front of their fans all season will be favored in each of the next two contests in Canada. That makes Game 2 more of a building block than a must-win. It would be the equivalent of a free-roll had they held on to win the series opener, but Kawhi Leonard couldn’t find a fourth-quarter rhythm and Pascal Siakam continued a rough stretch since being injured early in the series against the 76ers as Milwaukee used a 32-17 edge over the final 12 minutes to rally.
The Bucks are now 9-1 this postseason. The Raptors looked very capable of taking them down as they look to reach the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. Both teams could have played much better but also had x-factors emerge with great games as Lowry finished with 30 points on 10-for-15 shooting and Milwaukee center Brook Lopez put together his best game of these playoffs, leading the way with 29 points on a team-high 21 field goal attempts. Lopez shot 28 percent from the field and averaged just 5.4 points in the series against the Celtics and scored 12.8 points over the course of the Round 1 sweep over the Pistons.
Lopez’s effort came out of nowhere but was clearly part of Mike Budenholzer’s gameplan since he fired up 11 3-pointers despite coming into the conference finals on a 6-for-28 run from beyond the arc over his last six games. He made four and took full advantage of the space Toronto’s defense afforded him, aggressively hunting shots whenever open.
Giannis Antetokounmpo got to the free-throw line 12 times and finished with 24 points and 14 rebounds as the Raptors largely sold out to ensure that he saw multiple bodies whenever he drove towards the rim. Toronto got back defensively and kept Lowry from being punished on switches as Marc Gasol put in strong work and the perimeter guys dropped off Eric Bledsoe to help, daring him to shoot. The Bucks point guard struggled to adjust and finished with just nine points, shooting 3-for-12 from the field while missing all six of his 3-point attempts.
Bledsoe’s inability to get going in the first half put the Bucks in a hole, while Lowry doing the heavy lifting after Leonard slowed down after a big performance through the first three quarters helped make up for Siakam’s struggles. The likely Most Improved Player award winner for this past season has tried to compensate for not having his usual explosiveness following a calf contusion in Game 3 of the conference finals.
Marc Gasol finished just 2-for-11 from the field in Game 1 and has averaged just 6.7 points over the last three games, shooting 29.6 percent. Both the 76ers and Bucks have taken their chances playing off him and daring him to shoot the 3-pointer. He’s on a 3-for-14 run from beyond the arc. Danny Green and Fred VanVleet have also been in prolonged slumps, making it difficult to get behind a Game 2 revival.
VegasInsider.com NBA expert Kevin Rogers points out that it’s also difficult to fade the Bucks due to how ruthless they’ve been in putting teams away, handling business for those who have laid the points with the East’s top seed in this postseason.
“It’s tough to go against Milwaukee simply due to its 9-0 ATS record in its nine playoff victories. The Bucks pulled one out in Game 1 they had no business covering, but did so with a late 10-0 run to improve to 4-1 this season against the Raptors,” said Rogers. “Toronto has struggled on the road since the second round by losing three of the past four away from Scotiabank Arena, putting together a subpar 2-5 ATS record the last seven games overall.
“After a game in which Toronto and Milwaukee each had one 30-plus-point quarter, the expectation is these two Eastern powers will surpass the total of 216, which is nearly three points lower than the Game 1 closing total.”
After watching the ‘under’ cash, oddsmakers sent out an opener of 215 for Game 2 and saw it bet up a point. VegasInsider.com totals experts Chris David understands the adjustment but doesn’t agree with the move.
“Including Wednesday’s outcome, the Raptors have now watched the ‘under’ go 10-3 in this year’s playoffs, which includes a 5-1 mark on the road. You can’t dismiss those results but lowering the total three points from 218 to 215 is too much of a drop in my opinion,” David said. “The opener had a nice pace and total bettors playing the ‘over’ in both the first quarter (53 ½) and the first-half (107) connected as Toronto built a 59-51 lead at the break. As we’ve seen many times, the game slowed down considerably in the second-half, more so on Toronto’s end as it was held to 41 points in the final two quarters and it was scoreless in the final 3:30 minutes of the game. The production from the Raptors crushed the ‘over’ for the game and it also helped the ‘under’ (112) connect in the second-half.”
Including Game 1, Milwaukee has now seen the ‘under’ go 4-2 at home in the playoffs and the total results for the Bucks are 5-5 overall. David agrees with Rogers and expects points from both clubs on Friday.
“The 108 points scored by the Bucks in Game 1 was the second-lowest effort of the postseason for the club. As good as Toronto’s defense has been in the playoffs, the results on Wednesday had everything to do with Milwaukee missing shots as it went 11-of-44 (25%) from 3-point land,” David said. “Outside of Malcolm Brogdon (50%), none of the Bucks connected at a high rate from distance, including Lopez (36%), who finished with a team-high 29 points. Outside of Lowry (7-of-9), nobody on Toronto connected from the outside. Will that change?
“The Raptors haven’t been great offensively outside of Canada in this year’s playoffs but two of their better efforts came in their second road matchups (Game 4) at both Orlando and Philadelphia in the first two rounds. Along with playing the Game 2 ‘over’ (215), I would also lean towards Milwaukee’s Team Total Over (111 ½).”
Milwaukee ended up scoring its lowest total in a win this postseason and must now adjust to facing a team that finished fourth in defensive rating during the regular season. The Bucks were first and continue to lead in that category if you take into account solely postseason numbers. The Raptors rank second in defensive rating in these playoffs despite minimal production from their bench. VanVleet, Serge Ibaka and Norman Powell were the only Toronto reserves to see the floor, but shot just 5-for-15 from the field (2-for-8 from 3-point range) in getting outscored 22-12 by Bucks’ backups. Brogdon outscored the Raptors’ bench by himself with his 15 points. The 'under' is on an 11-3 run over Toronto's last 14 games and is 4-2 over the last six involving Milwaukee.
After largely dominating Detroit and Boston, the Bucks felt that battling through Wednesday's adversity made them better. They improved to 4-1 SU and ATS when falling behind by double-digits this postseason. Meanwhile, Toronto fell for the first time when building a halftime lead. The fourth quarter of Friday night’s game is going to be pivotal since it needs to see guys step up prior to taking the series back to Canada. Outside of Lowry, the Raptors shot 0-for-15 from the field in the fourth quarter, so a number of guys will have something to prove if Toronto reaches the final quarter with the outcome still in the balance.
Leonard went quiet in the fourth but still became the 14th player in NBA history to amass over 400 points over his team’s first 13 playoff games. He consciously let teammates get going early and wasn’t as aggressive as he was in Game 7 of the Philly series but still managed 31 points despite shooting just 1-for-5 from 3-point range. Look for a higher volume of shots to help produce an ‘over’ on his individual scoring prop as I’d expect him to score a minimum of 35 points in Friday’s Game 2.
Toronto will host the third installment of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday night.
Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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