File-This May 8, 2019, file photo shows Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo driving past Boston Celtics' Aron Baynes during the first half of Game 5 of a second round NBA basketball playoff series in Milwaukee. Leading the Bucks’ resurgence is MVP candidate Antetokounmpo, a fan favorite and a source of pride for Milwaukee’s Greek community. Antetokounmpo was born in Athens, Greece.“It’s important for the Greek community to be able to gather together as a unit and celebrate him. And he in turn celebrates us,” said Tim Stasinoulias, 61, a Bucks fan since the team came to Milwaukee in 1968.(AP Photo/Morry Gash, File)

NBA Eastern Conference Finals – Raptors and Bucks

It will be a tantalizing matchup tonight between the Bucks and the Raptors for Eastern Conference supremacy. The kick-off for the best-of-seven series will take place on Buck territory, starting at 8:30 pm in Milwaukee.

It’s been almost two decades since the Bucks made it to the conference finals, the last time being in 2001. The Raptor’s first and only trip to the conference finals was hopeful in 2016, losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 6 games.

The Toronto Raptors have never before made a trip to the NBA Finals. And as for the Milwaukee Bucks, it has been 45 years since making it to the final round. Regardless of which team wins the title of Eastern Conference Champion, the outcome will be something refreshing for the NBA.

The Bucks are coming from a breezy round 2, defeating the Celtics 4-1. They sent the Celtics home in the final game of their four-win streak with a score of 116-91.

The Raptors had to hold on a little tighter during the last round. They beat the 76ers 92-90 in Game 7 with a monumental buzzer beater by Kawhi Leonard. Not only will this shot go down in Raptor history, but in NBA history as the first ever buzzer beater in a Game 7.

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) fails to stop Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard’s (2) last-second basket during the second half of an NBA Eastern Conference semifinal basketball game in Toronto on Sunday, May 12, 2019. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

A Familiar Match-up

Top-seeded Milwaukee and second-seeded Toronto met four times during the regular season, with Milwaukee winning the series 3-1. The only Raptor victory came on January 1st in Milwaukee, when Siakam scored a then-career-high of 30 points for a 123-116 win. Milwaukee finished first in the Eastern Conference with a record of 60-22, two games ahead of the Raptors with a record of 58-24.

The only other playoff meeting between the clubs was in the first round of the 2017-2018 NBA Playoffs. The Raptors captured the series 4-2, sending the Bucks home in Game 6 with a score of 92-89.

Who to Look Out For

Arguably the two best players of the Eastern Conference will be featured in this best-of-seven series – Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Leonard is averaging 31.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game in the playoffs. He has been the team’s leading scorer in all but two of those games. This includes Game 7 during the semifinals against the 76ers when his 41 points was topped off with his now-famous buzzer-beater to win the game. It is clear that Leonard has been a vital resource to the team during the playoffs, with an average of just under 40 minutes of playing time per game.

Antetokounmpo has also been a powerful force in the playoffs, averaging 27.4 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. Although, he hasn’t had to come to the rescue as Leonard has. Milwaukee has an average margin of victory of 15.3 points for this season’s playoffs.

Leonard has been shaped and praise from the pressure he’s been put under. Antetokounmpo is just as well equipped, although has been given more of a break than Leonard. Antetokounmpo averaged 31.4 minutes per game during the playoffs.

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