The NBA Playoffs begin today and we dive in with a look at the Toronto Raptors hosting the Milwaukee Bucks. Can the Raps snap their odd series opening game losing streak?
Today is an absolute treat for me. No, not because the NBA Playoffs are starting and not just because there are four straight NBA games on television back to back to back to back (though that’s pretty awesome). No, today is a treat because for the first time in months, I can simply handicap a BASKETBALL GAME. We don’t have to guess who may or may not be in the lineup. We don’t have to play the “well this team cares a little more” game. We can simply LOOK at two basketball teams playing their hardest on equal rest.
The NBA Playoffs are here! We had a very successful NBA regular season, finishing 17 games over .500 at 87-70. But now the real work begins, navigating through the complexities of an extended playoff series, where the matchups do not ostensibly change, but momentum swings wildly from one team to the other every night.
For the record, I am squarely on the Warriors v. Cavs III train – I see nothing derailing it, poor Cavs second half be darned. But I think we are going to have more fun than usual arriving at that destination.
Let’s dive in with today’s NBA Playoff Pick.
Today’s NBA Pick:
Milwaukee Bucks at Toronto Raptors -7
The Raptors have been here before; heavily favored in the opening round and tipping off in their home gym. And it has frequently gone poorly. We can all remember Paul Pierce savagely Game of Thrones’ing the “We The North” Raptors several years ago. Last year the Raptors survived but it was more poor play and more consternation as the struggled to barely stay alive. So have they learned their lesson, or should we??
Milwaukee has nothing to lose. They are young, scrappy and hungry and are plenty eager for their shot. Giannis is obviously a freak of nature athletically, but has also blossomed into one of the best all-around players in the NBA. Today is really his national stage debut. I like him to take advantage of it. But the Bucks are more than just The Greek Freak. They are defenders. Especially on the perimeter which is where the Raptors make their living. Lowry and DeRozan get to have fun with Malcolm Brogdon all series who brings some Virginia Cavaliers-style defensive intensity to the party. He’d be my vote for Rookie of the Year for the subtle contributions he has made in shaping Milwaukee’s defensive identity.
I do think the Raptors will win this series. Milwaukee has some real offensive limitations, especially once they lost Jabari Parker, but it didn’t stop them from finishing the season as well as anyone in the Eastern Conference. They went 14-4 in March and bring some serious mojo into the postseason.
The Raptors are also feeling good now that they are finally fully intact. Kyle Lowry is healthy and the mid-season addition of Serge Ibaka gives them the closest thing they have had to a “Big Three” since Lowry and DeRozan emerged as perennial All Stars. However, they lost the opening game in each one of their playoff series last year, so there is a small mental hurdle in play tonight.
I’ll take the points and wouldn’t be stunned if Milwaukee can clip them.
Today’s Pick: MILWAUKEE BUCKS +7