We’ve got four teams left, and the NBA Conference Finals are on their way. Kodey Stauffer (@KODES8088 on Twitter) is here to tell you what you need to know about each series.
Golden State Warriors vs. Portland Trailblazers
The Warriors have had ups and downs but still remain the Gold(en) standard of the NBA with a stacked lineup and the Blazers continue to play underdog even here in the Conference Finals.
The Warriors currently lead all playoff teams in points per game at 118.1 that can be contributed to their 28.3 assists per game, and Kevin Durant’s 34.2 PPG leading all playoff players. The big story here is Durant is out for game 1, and uncertain for game 2. The Warriors “No Durant, no problem” worked on Houston in game 6 as Curry and Klay combined for 60 points and ended the series in Houston. The Warriors remain the team to beat especially with 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala hitting 3’s at over 40%. Everything is coming into place at the right time for Golden State.
Little known fact: The Trail Blazers are one of two teams to have a winning record against Golden State in the past two years (4-3). However, they aren’t even close in the playoff series between the two (8-1). The Trail Blazers are hoping to rewrite that narrative, and it starts by controlling the pace. The Trail Blazers are the slowest team in the postseason with 23.3 minutes of possession per game. A surprise to share is that Damian Lillard is second in the playoffs with 45 three pointers made (2 more than Curry). Enes Kanter has proved to be an asset so far this postseason increasing his free agency stock with over 50% FG made and 10.5 boards.
The Blazers grinned through a long series with the Nuggets and shown their “next man up” mentality with the likes of McCollum stepping up in Dame’s cold hand have shown they are no joke. The Warriors will only be without Durant for up to 2 games and are on a quest to be the first team the three-peat since the Lakers.
Winner: Golden State Warriors
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Toronto Raptors
The two-top seeds in the East both made it to the conference chip. The tale of the tape differs from one journey to the next with the Bucks taking care of business in 5 games against Boston with an average margin of victory of 16.25 points. Meanwhile the Raptors benefited from Klaw Magic with the only game 7 buzzer-beating shot in NBA history against the 76ers last round. This series is gonna be fun.
The Bucks have continued to play like the best team in basketball only losing one game in two playoff series. They are 2nd in points per game (116.9), 1st in rebounds (52), 2nd in assists (25.6), 1st in blocks (6.7), and 2nd in FG%. All of this follows Giannis’ stat line of 27.4-11.4-4.4 and 1.6 blocks per game. The Bucks will benefit from the home court as the Raptors did should it come to a game 7 (which I hope it does).
Toronto just got out of an emotional, physical, and mental slugfest with the 76ers and are battle tested following that series. Kawhi has played incredible and it’s crazy to think people forget he almost single-handedly took down the Warriors a couple years ago. Fun stat: Kawhi is recorded the third most amount of points in a conference semifinal with 243(!) points in that round. The Raptors have also converted 82.3% of their free throws which is best in the NBA postseason so far. The Raptors will need more than Kawhi to beat this Bucks team.
These are some of the best teams in basketball, and this matchup will feature 2 top-10 players in the NBA. Maybe even top 5. The Bucks are just better on every other facet of the court. Antetokounmpo has a better supporting cast that will also be welcoming back Malcom Brogdon. The Bucks will just prove to be to fast for the Raptors, and less fatigued. WILL STILL BE MUST WATCH TELEVISION EITHER WAY.
Winner: Milwaukee Bucks