It’s always nice when the best two teams in the conference all year long get a chance to face each other in the Conference Finals. Fortunately, we’ll be getting that this year in the East, as the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks start their series today (8:30 p.m. ET Wednesday on TNT).
Second-seeded Toronto is coming off a dramatic seven-game series win over the Philadelphia 76ers. Superstar Kawhi Leonard hit a game-winning baseline jump shot that bounced high off the rim before falling to send the Raptors to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Milwaukee has had an easier road to this point as the NBA’s overall No. 1 seed. The Bucks swept the Detroit Pistons before defeating the Boston Celtics in five games in the conference semifinals. The team is basically full healthy now and looks poised to play well at home.
Let’s discuss some factors affecting these teams heading into today’s contest. Finally, we’ll offer some betting picks on the game’s spread and over/under with our Toronto Raptors vs Milwaukee Bucks predictions for Game 1.
Will Toronto’s Off-Ball Players Hit Open Threes?
One thing Toronto majorly struggled with in the second round was its three-point shooting. The Raptors went a combined 68-of-228 (29.8 percent) from downtown, even though a large chunk of those shots were wide open.
Milwaukee is definitely a defensive team that is willing to ignore certain offensive players on the perimeter if it doesn’t deem them a big enough threat. The pressure will be on the Raptors’ key players who operate without the ball, like Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, Fred VanVleet, Danny Green and Serge Ibaka, to hit their outside shots.
If those guys aren’t hitting, the Bucks will be able to load up their defense to stop both Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry when they are handling the ball.
Can Toronto Keep This Game’s Pace Methodical and Stay Close Until the End?
Similar to the Golden State Warriors-Portland Trail Blazers series, there’s one team here (Toronto) that is coming off a tougher series and prefers to play a slow-paced game. The other squad (Milwaukee) is fresher and will feel free to run up and down in transition.
If the Raptors can make this game a half-court oriented contest, the pace will be slower and both teams will have trouble going on big, momentum-turning runs. If Toronto is close at the end of the game, I believe the Raptors will have a great chance to win. They have more proven playoff experience than the Bucks.
In general, I believe this game will either result in a Bucks win by double digits if they dictate a faster pace, or a Raptors win by single digits if they dictate a slower pace.
Will Malcolm Brogdon Be Able to Play at His Normal Capacity?
Brogdon played his first game in nearly two months in the Bucks’ series-clinching win over the Boston Celtics last week. The effects of his heel injury didn’t seem to be too significant, as Brogdon put up 10 points, three rebounds and four assists in just 17 minutes of action.
However, the Bucks would love it if Brogdon is ready for a bigger minute load in Game 1 against the Raptors. Milwaukee already has an advantage in offensive balance. They have a superstar in the Greek Freak, two players who can drop 20 to 25 points on any given night in Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe, as well as guys like Brook Lopez, Pat Connaughton, Nikola Mirotic and George Hill who can all chip in 10 or so.
If Brogdon is ready to thrust himself back into that Middleton/Bledsoe tier with his offensive contributions in a role of 30 minutes or so, it’s going to be really tough for Toronto to muster enough offense to match Milwaukee’s.
Our Preview’s Toronto Raptors at Milwaukee Bucks Game 1 Betting Picks & Predictions
Toronto may figure something out during the series, but for now, the Bucks have a superstar in Giannis Antetokounmpo who can reasonably cancel out Kawhi Leonard and much better depth. Milwaukee is also fresher and playing at home.
I think Milwaukee will make a statement with a great Game 1 full of fast-break points and fantastic defense. These are the Game 1 Toronto Raptors vs Milwaukee Bucks predictions for this preview:
- The Bucks are a 6 or 6.5 point favorite with the trusted USA online betting companies. This preview’s recommendation is to put money on Milwaukee -6pts @ -115 with Bookmaker or Intertops.
- Because I think Milwaukee will dictate pace and has so many offensive options to throw at Toronto, I expect a big point total from the Bucks. The second of the picks is to bet the over 216.5pts @ -115 with Bookmaker. The line is higher with the other sportsbooks.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.