When you look at this NBA Eastern Conference finals series, there are a couple of obvious handicapping-related factors that have to come up immediately. While the Toronto Raptors really had to grind things out against the Philadelphia 76ers, right down to the last-second winner by Kawhi Leonard in Game 7, the Milwaukee Bucks cruised by the Boston Celtics and have not played in a week.
So how would one look at this? Do the Bucks benefit from a presumed level of fatigue on the part of the Raptors? Or will Milwaukee suffer from “rust” coming out of the gate? Answers start coming at 8:30 PM ET at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, with TNT televising it.
Looking at the odds in Game 1, the Bucks are laying some points:
Milwaukee Bucks -6 (-108)
Toronto Raptors +6 (-102)
Over 217 points (-105)
Under 217 points (-105)
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Toronto used just a seven-man rotation in Game 7, so the starters logged a lot of minutes, and that was just a couple of days ago. Meanwhile, during this hiatus, Malcolm Brogdon has had a chance to continue healing after his foot injury. He returned for brief stretches against Boston, and looked good in the process. He played 16-1/2 minutes and had a +14 plus-minus rating, scoring ten points with four assists.
Why is his participation so important, on whatever level that might be? Because he is a rare bird, in the sense that he is one of only eight players in NBA history who have shot 50% from the field, 40% from beyond the arc and 90% from the line in the same season. The former rookie of the year is also a stalwart on the stop end, having been a former ACC defensive player of the year under Tony Bennett at Virginia.
And the Bucks were +26.9 points per 100 possessions against Toronto with Brogdon on the floor this season.
Milwaukee has looked like the kind of team that will match up well against Toronto in this series. They are #1 in the NBA in Defensive Rating, both in the regular season AND the playoffs, where they have actually lowered their points allowed per 100 possessions. (by 6.7 points, in fact).
They also had some success minimizing the effect of Leonard’s offensive game, although that statement has to taken in context, considering how incredible he’s been. But Leonard’s Usage figure was relatively low in the four meetings this season (26.2%), indicating that whatever scheme the Bucks have employed has served to limit somewhat the number of times he gets the ball.
And speaking of that scheme, we know that the Bucks allow the opposition to shoot a lot of threes. Well, Toronto has made just 31.7% of its triples during this post-season, and that isn’t going to get the job done. They didn’t hurt Milwaukee a lot in the regular season meetings, making just 27% from the arc. And Kyle Lowry was ONE FOR 20 in his three-point attempts. We all know how capable he is of bringing down an offense with errant shooting.
We certainly wouldn’t be all that surprised if Toronto settled back into its pattern of opening-game blunders in the post-season, as they have gone 4-13 ATS, although we’re not sure that is the operative factor. What might mean more is that teams with four or more days of rest over the past thirteen seasons have covered a little more than 68% of their playoff games.
As you may have guessed, we’re laying the points.
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