Raptors (3) vs Bucks (6)

Chevall Kanhai and Jason Tyson breakdown the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks First-Round series.

Toronto Raptors

Remember the first Jurassic Park? Mainly, the scene where extinct members of our society are tearing apart a specimen with antlers? Fitting that a buck has similar antlers to describe what could potentially happen in this series.

The Toronto Raptors have progressed in each of their last couple of seasons in the playoffs. Pushing the Cleveland Cavaliers to a six game series in the Eastern Conference Finals last season is something to build upon this playoff run. “The six” is back into the Playoffs this season with a few roster adjustments. Trade deadline deals that brought Serge Ibaka in from Orlando and P.J. Tucker from Phoenix without the Raptors losing any significant players definitely shows the commitment Raptors GM Masai Ujiri has to win now. The road to the Finals in the East means you have to face the defending champions, the Cavaliers. The addition of Ibaka gives the Raptors an upgrade over Bismack Biyombo from last season. Should small ball ensue Ibaka can shift to the five spot while still being a perimeter threat with his shooting. Defensively, he can still block shots and be a solid big to hold the interior. Adding P.J. Tucker solidifies another wingman who can defend. Alongside DeMarre Carrol and Norman Powell the rotation for the Raptors will be flexible should they need to go small or big with the likes of Jonas Valanciunas.

The Raptors recently welcomed back Kyle Lowry after a 21-game absence due to a wrist injury. In his absence Cory Joseph and Delon Wright shared the point-guard duties for the Raptors while this has allowed them to gain valuable playing time with their new additions. However, with their floor general back Toronto will go as far as DeMar DeRozan and Lowry take them. DeRozan is having a career year averaging 27.3-points per game, 5.2 rebounds per game while shooting 48-percent from the field. DeRozan will be the offensive motor for the Raptors as he’s had few scoring outbursts this season in which seven games he scored 40 or more points. The positive of Lowry is that he is shooting 46-percent this season which is a career high this opposed to his career 42-percent. Plagued by shooting woes last postseason Lowry will need to continue a good shooting performance alongside DeRozan.

“We the North” will be heard loud and clear from all the way north of the United States. Toronto and Canada are ready to roar. Oh, it wouldn’t be right to not mention the Raptors Ambassador, Drake. The “6God” and Grammy award winning rapper hopefully shouldn’t have to sweat too much.

Series Prediction: Raptors in 5 games

Jason Tyson
Baseline Times NBA Staff Writer

Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks finished the 2016-2017 Season with a winning record of 42-40. A nine game improvement from last season’s 33-49. The assumption was that the Bucks may have folded into another Eastern Conference team that is lottery bound. Jason Kidd has defied that notion as the Bucks are a top shooting team at 47.4-percent which is good enough for fourth place this season only behind the Golden State Warriors (49.5-percent), Los Angeles Clippers (47.5-percent) and Washington Wizards (47.5-percent). The Bucks also average 24.2 assist per game which is good enough for fifth place this season out of the entire league. Two words that can connect the Bucks to these offensive strengths?

Giannis Anteokounmpo

“The Greek Freak” will be on showcase this postseason as the only player in NBA history to ranking in the league’s top 20 in all five major stat categories. Once again, the only player in the history to do this. Anteokounmpo finished 14th in scoring, 15th in rebounding, 18th in assist, fifth in blocks and ninth in steals. Can we say all-around? The thought of only being age 22 today has the mind running wild of the potential he has and a favorable Most Improved Player candidate for this season. As the leader by default Anteokonmpo will have his hands full trying to contain DeMar DeRozan. Hard not to imagine that Coach Kidd will utilize The Greek Freak should DeRozan catch a hot hand in parts of this series.

Experience vs Youth

It’s always near easy to side with experience in the postseason when matched against inexperienced youth in the NBA. This series however, maybe a bit indifferent based on the Raptors track history in the postseason. As a two seed last year the Raptors struggled with the seventh seed Indiana Pacers in which they squeezed by with a five-point victory in a game seven. The follow series in the Conference Semifinals the Raptors again, were taken to a game seven by the fifth seed Miami Heat. This gives the young Bucks a careful consideration that the possibilities of getting to a game seven is likely and they can potentially upset a higher seed.

Support for Giannis

At the start of the season the Bucks added Matthew Dellavedova and Tony Snell and drafted Thon Maker in last year’s draft. Maker did not have much playing time until March and April where it seems he should be continuing to be a part of the line-up. Should the Raptors go big Maker alongside Greg Monroe should be a solid counter to an Ibaka and Valanciunas line-up Dwane Casey could show. Minus Jabari Parker who has a season ending knee injury, the Bucks will need solid bench play behind their all-around leader in Giannis. Rookie of the Year candidate Malcolm Brogdon will get his first shot of a playoff series in his first year. Defensively, should he be assigned to handle DeRozan the rookie will have to make all the effort to slow down one of the league’s best Shooting Guard.

On paper the team from “The 6” appears to be better this postseason and have taken small strides in each of their past postseasons to achieve more. There is the hesitation based on the Raptors recent postseason history that I believe they may not be able to sweep but good enough to take the series. Just hold on as we’re going home to the second round is my prediction for the Toronto Raptors.

Series prediction: Raptors in 6 games

Chevall Kanhai
Baseline Times NBA Staff Writer