The 2019 Eastern Conference Finals gets underway Wednesday night when the Milwaukee Bucks host the Toronto Raptors. Giannis Antetokounmpo and the No.1 seed are significant betting favorites to win both the series and game 1.
Milwaukee is laying six points in the opener, according to OddsShark. The total is 217.5.
The Bucks are the better team in just about every respect. Milwaukee has the NBA’s best defensive rating in both the regular season and the playoffs. The Bucks have the East’s best offensive rating over the course of 82 games, and only the Golden State Warriors are averaging more points per possession this postseason.
Milwaukee has more depth than Toronto. The Bucks’ bench has been outstanding while Khris Middleton has been a more than adequate No.2 scorer. Kawhi Leonard has gotten little help on a nightly basis, essentially carrying the Raptors past the Philadelphia 76ers in seven games last round.
Leonard’s lack of support has been especially apparent on the road. The Raptors lost two of their three road games to the 76ers by double-digits. When Toronto did manage to steal a victory in Philadelphia, it was because Leonard had 39 points, 14 rebounds and five assists on 13-20 shooting.
In three road games in the second round, the Raptors other than Leonard shot 36.0 percent, 39.2 percent and 42.6 percent from the field. Antetokounmpo could neutralize Pascal Siakam. The onus will be on Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka to make shots, something they haven’t been able to do consistently this postseason.
The Bucks are well-rested at home, having been given a week off because of the quick work they made of the Celtics. The Raptors just played a grueling seven-game series and will be playing on the road.
Maybe Toronto will find a way to steal home-court advantage in one of the first two games, but taking the series opener will be a tall order.
Wednesday’s game starts at 8:30 p.m. EDT in Milwaukee.
Game 1 Prediction: Milwaukee over Toronto, 107-96