Two of the best players in the league begin pursuit of an NBA Finals berth when the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks host the second-seeded Toronto Raptors in Wednesday's Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. Leading MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo has dominated while helping Milwaukee outscore teams by an average of 15.3 points in the postseason, while Toronto's Kawhi Leonard is again a playoff star and made the decisive basket as time expired in the conference semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Raptors are in the Eastern Conference finals for just the second time in franchise history and they made it by riding Leonard's 41 points to a 92-90 victory over the 76ers, including the four bounces on the rim shot that is the first Game 7-winning buzzer-beater in NBA history. "Ended up getting a soft touch and it went in," explained Leonard, who is averaging 31.8 points in 12 playoff games, including a franchise record nine straight 20-point outings. Antetokounmpo is averaging 27.4 points and 11.3 rebounds as the Bucks went 8-1 against the Detroit Pistons and Boston Celtics to reach the East finals for the first time 2001. "At the end of the day, we realize we've never been there before," Antetokounmpo told reporters of the current group. "We're really hungry to achieve our goals. That's all we care about. As long as we play hard, we really don't care about what anybody has to say."
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, TNT, Sportsnet (Toronto) LINE: Bucks -6.5
ABOUT THE RAPTORS: Leonard is carrying the attack and has made Toronto a viable threat to reach the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. "It's amazing to me, whether we're in the huddle, locker room or film room, he's always locked in on what the coaching staff is saying and I think that's an interesting thing about him," Raptors coach Nick Nurse told reporters. "He's very coachable. He's focused and pays attention. I think that's a pretty big statement to say that. Then you get to his play in the playoffs and it's been at an elite level." Power forward Pascal Siakam (20.8 points per game) and point guard Kyle Lowry (12.4) are the only other Raptors averaging in double digits in the postseason but Lowry is shooting just 41.5 percent from the field.
ABOUT THE BUCKS: Milwaukee's four second-round victories over the Boston Celtics were by an average of 16.3 points and seven of its eight postseason wins have been by 10 or more points. Antetokounmpo's supporting class has been solid with small forward Khris Middleton (19.1) and point guards Eric Bledsoe (16.0) and George Hill (12.1) making strong contributions. Combo guard Malcolm Brogdon is a full-go for the series after scoring 10 points in 17 minutes in the clinching win over Boston after missing the previous seven-plus weeks with a foot injury.
1. Antetokounmpo averaged 27 points and 15.3 rebounds as the Bucks won three of the four regular-season meetings.
2. Toronto SF OG Anunoby (abdomen) has been ruled out of the opener, and has yet to play in the postseason.
3. Middleton has made multiple 3-pointers in all nine playoff games and has made 28 overall.
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Key Players to Watch
- POINTS/G 1994 Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 | SF
- REBOUNDS OFFENSIVE/G 159 Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 | SF
- ASSISTS/G 430 Eric Bledsoe #6 | PG
- 3 POINTS % 187 Brook Lopez #11 | C
- REBOUNDS DEFENSIVE/G 739 Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 | SF
- BLOCKS/G 179 Brook Lopez #11 | C
- STEALS/G 116 Eric Bledsoe #6 | PG
- TURNOVERS/G 1 Jaylen Morris #30 | SG
Game 5: Toronto Raptors at Milwaukee Bucks - Eastern Conference Finals
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- AnkleQues Tues | questionable
Wilson is battling left ankle soreness and it is uncertain if he will suit up for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Raptors.
- AnkleProb Fri | probable
Wilson has a left ankle sprain but is expected to suit up for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Raptors.
- HeelProb Wed | probable
Brogdon has recovered from a minor tear of the plantar fascia in his right foot and is expected to return for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference second round against the Celtics.
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- LegProb Tues | probable
Leonard is expected to play against the Bucks in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals despite a left leg injury.
- BackProb Wed | probable
Boucher is dealing with back spasms but it is likely he will play in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Bucks.
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