Article by: Harrison Weaver
Raptors vs. Bucks
What a series this is going to be. The only way this could possibly be a more exciting series is if Brook Lopez was matched up against Joel Embiid for the opening tip and that miracle in Toronto leaned out of the rim instead of falling in, leading to a thrilling Sixers victory in OT. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Instead, we get to watch the big ball of emotions which is Kawhi Leonard, who literally told reporters after hitting the ONLY Game 7 buzzer beater in NBA history, that whenever he experiences something he’s never done before he will “probably try to give some emotion” (Yes, that last part was a direct quote from Kawhi). I personally love it. Removing myself from the lens of a heartbroken Sixers fan, Kawhi Leonard could quite possibly be a programmed piece of artificial intelligence, and it’s actually good for the NBA that he doesn’t smile, he doesn’t laugh, he barely celebrates. I think it’s hilarious, and he’s a good, hard-working guy. A lot of it is from what he learned from his time in San Antonio under Pop, and he provides a counter-personality to a lot of players who like to show-boat, talk trash, and celebrate after plays or wins. It adds a dynamic, regardless of how flat some people may think it is.
Anyways, now to the matchup. The Bucks have been taking care of business in these playoffs and have shown no signs of weakness in getting to the Conference Finals. They swept the Pistons and after losing Game 1 to the Celtics, won the next four games to close out the series. Giannis is playing out of his mind, and Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe and the gang are stepping up as well. On the flip side, Toronto has shown their signs of weakness. Kyle Lowry has disappeared and he looks like he couldn’t hit the side of a barn door at times. Serge Ibaka has occasionally looked stiff. Marc Gasol has been bullied on occasion and his shot has been streaky. Also, Siakam was pretty much shut down by Joel Embiid for half of the conference semi finals.
However, when the spotlight was the brightest, they pulled through. In Game 7, Lowry, Gasol, and Ibaka were all excellent. Paired with Kawhi’s magical shot, and here they are. For the Raptors to win this series, they need more consistent play out of those supporters I just listed. I think the Raptors will win this series. The Raptor’s moves over the past few years all lead up to this moment. Kawhi Leonard is playing like the best and most clutch player in the league right now, and he is poised and ready to take the Raptors to the Finals.
My pick: Raptors in 7
Warriors vs. Trailblazers
My instant reaction to Game 1 of this series: The Blazers are outmatched. The Warriors are the better team. Steph and Klay are hot at the right time, and when that is the case, a banged up Portland team has no chance. The Blazers can’t beat Golden State now, they’ll never be able to do it with KD back on the floor. Now let me pump the breaks and do the NBA a favor by trying to make this series somewhat enticing, despite the fact that it is already over. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have displayed some real magic this postseason, as Lillard carried the Blazers to a victory over OKC, and McCollum was really special against Denver. I tip my hat to Portland. After Nurkic went down before the playoffs, everyone was giving them a pat on the back and talking about what they could have been in the playoffs. Yet, here they are. They’ve beaten a very talented OKC team, and they beat the second best team in the West, in an up-and-coming Denver team.
Portland has some magic left in them. If they can somehow find a way to steal Game 2, they might be able to send this series back to Golden State tied at 2-2, which would make for an intriguing Game 5. How do they do that? Plain and simple. Lillard and McCollum shoot the lights out, and Steph and Klay revert back to cold shooting (by their standards) and the Warriors get sloppy and turn the ball over. The Blazers supporting cast needs to play near the top of their ceiling, and Dame and CJ cannot afford to have bad games if this series is to go 6 or 7. But in my opinion, the Warriors win Game 2, split the 2 games in Portland, and then finish them off in Game 5. The Warriors look close to what they looked like back in the hay-days of Steph, Klay, and Draymond, which bodes very badly for Portland. Just wait until KD comes back….
My pick: Golden State in 5
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