The battle between Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo could be crucial in settling the Eastern Conference finals

NBA playoffs: Three things that could decide Bucks v Raptors series


The match-up between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Toronto Raptors is one of the most intriguing of the entire NBA playoffs.

Milwaukee easily advanced to the Eastern Conference finals by topping the Boston Celtics. Meanwhile, Toronto managed to squeeze past the Philadelphia 76ers in seven games.

Top-seeded Milwaukee and Toronto were the two leading teams in the East throughout 2018-19. Both have at least two All-Stars and multi-dimensional offenses.

The Bucks beat the Raptors three of the four times the teams met during the regular season.

Ahead of Game 1 in Milwaukee on Wednesday, we pick out three things that could be crucial in the series.

 

Kawhi v Giannis

This is the match-up everyone wants to see.

Raptors wing Kawhi Leonard and Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo are two of the game's brightest stars.

Each has delivered for his team time and again this postseason. Antetokounmpo is difficult to stop around the rim, and Leonard hit the biggest shot in Raptors history when he knocked down a dramatic fourth-quarter buzzer-beater in Game 7 against Philadelphia.

Leonard and Antetokounmpo are go-to scorers who can also change a game defensively. It will be enormous fun to watch them face off multiple times.

Battle of the benches

The Bucks' bench is one of their strengths. The Raptors definitely cannot say the same.

Milwaukee will rely on their second unit for long stretches and can depend on as many as nine players. Ersan Ilyasova, George Hill and Pat Connaughton have all made an impact for the Bucks so far in the playoffs, and Malcolm Brogdon returned from a foot injury in Game 5 against the Celtics.

Toronto, on the other hand, have received little from their reserves, which has forced coach Nick Nurse to play his starters heavy minutes throughout the postseason. The Raptors will hope that trend does not continue.

 

OG Anunoby’s status

It is unclear whether OG Anunoby will return in this series.

The 21-year-old Toronto forward underwent an emergency appendectomy in mid-April and has yet to play in the playoffs. He did some light work at practice earlier this week.

Anunoby, however, is still at least a week from ramping up activities, which means he will not make it back onto the court until the latter part of the series.

He is only likely to feature if the series stretches to Game 6 or 7, scheduled for May 25 and 27.

If he does manage to make his 2019 postseason debut and is healthy against the Bucks, the towering Anunoby would provide the Raptors with another player capable of guarding Antetokounmpo.

That could make all the difference.



Wednesday NBA scores, highlights

Spurs' Popovich ejected as Pelicans win seventh straight

New Orleans, who trailed by as many as 15 points, overturned a nine-point half-time deficit to celebrate their seventh successive victory.


JR Smith suspended by Cavs

JR Smith suspended by Cavs for detrimental conduct

The Cleveland Cavaliers announced JR Smith's one-game ban two hours before Thursday's NBA clash against the Philadelphia 76ers.


Sparks fly as 76ers beat Cavs

Sparks fly in final seconds of 76ers' win over Cavaliers

The Philadelphia 76ers impressed in a surprise victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA.


James sends praise to Simmons

LeBron James sends praise to Sixers stars Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid

Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James heaped praise on Philadelphia 76ers duo Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid following Thursday's clash.


Curry leaves game due to injury

Stephen Curry leaves game after tweaking ankle

Stephen Curry was defending a drive to the basket when he jumped and came down on Golden State Warriors team-mate Zaza Pachulia's foot.