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All the surprising ways Giannis and Kawhi define the Eastern Final

Did you stay from the biggest second round in NBA history?


The East Conference Final of Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors brought together the top two players at the conference – Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard, two of the superstars who defined these nut playoffs

Bad news: Can't watch each other so as fans wishing for a gladiator theater could hope

Let's bounce around the matches that we could see on

When Milwaukee has the ball: Guarding the Greek Madness

Bring out your centers! Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka

It was elegant to put centers in the center of Anthoounounmpo – Rudy Gobert, Joel Embiid, Jarrett Allen, Aron Baynes. and let them wait in the paint. That didn't work so well, but most teams don't have anyone with a combination of size and speed to stay ahead of the likely MVP. Missing such a unicorn-ish player, hold a huge man between Antetokounmpo and the edge ̵

1; the brave Antetokounmpo to lift the jumpers, while staying home on Milwaukee's army of shooters is feeling the least bad choice.

Unfortunately, Gasol's day handling of this chore is probably in the rearview mirror. It is not as fast as Embiid and Gobert on a horizontal or vertical plane.

Ibaka has a better chance and got a piece of Antetokounmpo allotment through four matches in the base season. (All four played before the predators got Gasol.) A double look Ibaka-Gasol helped stabilize Toronto against the bullying Philly team. Not important here – Milwaukee ranked 26th in the offensive rebound – but Raptors, suddenly so thin without (now) OG Anunoby, may have to steal a few minutes with Ibaka, guarding Antetokounmpo and Gasol on Brook Lopez or Ersan Ilyasova [19659002] Footnote no. 1: Bucks largely loses offensive rebounds, so Lopez can appear at the top of the arc and work as the first line of defense. A transition battle is an important game within the game. Toronto ended the league in points for holding in transitional games, according to glass cleaning data. Milwaukee praised the most persistent advocacy of the transition

. 2: Anunoby would come in handy, not only because Nick Nurse lost faith in Norman Powell (and some in Fred VanVleet) in the Philly series. Anunoby could absorb a bit of Antetokounmpo's task, and provide Toronto with more switchable, small-ball lineup options – options that might need more urgently here.

Bucks can be at their most dangerous with three guards and wings around Antetokounmpo and Nikola Mirotic. It was said that in the first game of Malcolm Brogdon from injury Mike Budenholzer set off five minutes for Eric Bledsoe, Brogdon, Khris Middleton, Antetokounmpo and Mirotic. (Milwaukee won 14 points in these five minutes.) This group has only signed up for one minute all season before this game

The Bucks can sleep George Hill, Pat Connaughton or even Sterling Brown – who has been guarding Leonardo in the regular season

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Does any of the great spouses in Toronto Milwaukee worry about leaning a little more into these groups? The Raptors had barely put Gasol on Tobias Harris against Philly. It was a little uncomfortable. Can I do any damage against Mirotic or Ilyasova?

On the other extreme, the Milwaukee playing lineups featuring all three of the Antetokounmpo / Mirotic / Ilyasova / Lopez quartets should be safe for Raptors to play their own super-sized trio Pascal Siakam, Ibaka and Gasol. Again: If Anunoby can't go and Powell shrinks, Toronto needs to fill in the minutes. Of course, some of the best moments of Powell as Raptor came against Milwaukee in the playoffs two seasons

Still Object, Unstoppable Force, etc.: Kawhi Leonard

Oh, baby. Let's do it! Leonard spun him back in the postseason, and reemerged as an all-court destroyer.

He guarded Antetokounmpo at only 31 properties in three games – Leonard missed the loss of Toronto – and Antetokounmpo tried only three shots for these trips, according to NBA.com compliance data. (Such data is not 100% indicating who started or completed holding a defending player. Records that guarded this player for the longest. But the second spectrum visual tracking paints the same image: In a limited sample, Leonard depressed Antetokounmpo filming and

These the numbers carry ton noise, they can't matter.At least a few assets, Antetokounmpo overtook Leonardo:

Antetokounmpo grew more comfortable in Al Horforde as semifinals of the conference Could he feel Leonardo the same way? able to act as the primary defender of the Antetokounmpo throughout the series and to bear the burden he had to manage (apologize) occasionally against Philadelphia – including Game 7 when he looked like the only Raptor he wanted to shoot

But it's something Toronto will do, maybe at a time of crunching, and it's easy for a game to work Almost Anyone

Milwaukee has tools to help him get away from Leonardo if it turns out to be problematic. They can use Antetokounmpo at both ends of the pick-and-roll, and present Toronto a bad choice: switch to yucky disagreements, or let the Antetokounmpo loose in the middle of a rotating defense.

For most of the series, Raptors will have Siakam and Leonard guard the Middleton-Giannis combination – which means they can switch the two-man game between the best Milwaukee players:

Here's what happens when you can't change this action:

The Bucks Love One Side Floor for Middleton-Antetokounmpo Dance, So Helping Advocates Have a Skitter All the Way Through the Court

Milwaukee can turn into a less switchable pick-and-roll comprising Antetokounmpo and Bledsoe.

If Danny Green's predators have Bledsoe – and they will be dragging – they can switch this action, hold their nose and live with the Green at Antetokounmpo. However, Milwaukee may complicate things by having as the screen of Antetokounmpo and Bledsoe for Middleton.

t Good luck navigation that maze:

Antetokounmpo will hunt Toronto's smallest players. If these players are Brogdone or Mirotic, Milwaukee will build Antetokounmpo against one of them. Kyle Lowry is a 6-foot fire hydrant with limbs, but Antetokounmpo builds it in short order.

Real First Option: Pascal Siakam

Siakam drew a vast majority of Antetokounmpo's duty in the regular season, while Leonard mostly controls Middleton. Both second choice teams advocate a contradictory superstar, if it means deleting option no. 2.

Siakam has the contours of Horfordia a lawyer who can at least sweat Antetokounmpo, though not as stout. Even as the driver of the now-closed Pascal Siakam runway train, I must admit that Antetokounmpo seemed quite cozy to go to Spicy P. If Antetokounmpo ramps too easily, Toronto is in trouble. They will either live with him, help the shooters who have punished such help throughout the season (Bledsoe's 3-pointer is always a bellwether), overloaded by Leonard, overloading Ibak, or throwing the game in another way.

can put on help and restore the needle. Toronto's Defense Defense is wild, fast and intelligent. It spins with the ball – not behind it. But no one had an answer to Antetokounmpo yet. This may take the superhuman bidirectional efforts of Leonard.

When Toronto Has a Ball: Guarding Kawhi Leonard

Unlike GoT guys, Mike Budenholzer is not in the service of a fan: Khris Middleton

It seems like it should be bad for Milwaukee. Leonard has the size, strength and athletics of Middleton, but Middleton has done the job well. It seems Middleton gets Leonard's rhythm. These two kinds of games have the same methodical, start-and-stop tempo. Middleton was good at forcing Leonardo to make choices – a necessity because Lopez would hang in paint. If Leonard comes to the other side of the Gasol lift with the room behind him, he can fly from a deep environment.

Middleton did well to stay on Leonard's side and bring him to the center. Yeah, that's Leonard's sweet place. Bucks doesn't care. They will live with attacked long 2-indicators by Leonardo. They don't think every player can beat them. Probably right.

Expect Lopez to start on Gasole, though his drop-way-back style would seem to provide open 3-pointers for both Gasol (pick-and-pop) and Toronto stars . Sixers, therefore, removed Joel Embido from Gasol and hid him on Siakam. Why would Milwaukee not copy it, hold Lopez on Siakam and have a Rangier type (probably Antetokounmpo) that would erase Gasol's pick-and-roll attack?

They won't be if they don't have to, and the strike is here. will not have to. They shouldn't have switched matchups like Kyrie Irving / Horford pick-and-roll, and that partnership probably represents more immediate "3-indicators coming!" Danger to Lopez's Defense Style Than Any Toronto Duo

Lowry and Leonard can run off-the-bounce 3s, but that's not their first choice. Leonard wants to poke in the middle. Many Lowry's high-wire, quick release 3s comes in pull-ups in the transition, and off the catch in the middle of the court. (Lowry will have to take, and do, some floaters for Raptors to win this series. VanVleet must find his jumper.)

Raptors might be better off getting Leonard the ball on the block against Middleton. Leonard might be able to bulldozer closer to the rim, draw help, and unlock some kick 3.s

They could have Gasol and Ibaka set picks up on the floor, so Leonard and Lowry have room to dribble to the beat before running 3s.

Another idea: Slingshot Leonard on Gasol screens, so when he gets into the ball, he will swim with airspace. They could have started Leonard in the corner, and let him fly out of the Lowry screen before he came to Gasol. If this first choice from Lowry produces a switch, even better; But there's another big reason why Milwaukee doesn't have to be afraid of Lopez-on-Gasol: Gasol's even more reluctant shooter than Horford. The Bucks scheme is the mind. They bet most of the great men who don't want to shoot all the open views Milwaukee could provide. These greats are confusing. They feel guilty. Do I Really Just Shoot? But I'm the center! Isn't this kind of selfish? Lopez is better than you think while steering the balls and returns to his man. He has good timing. If necessary, it can come to a three-point arc. He switches to Lowry and Leonard in emergency situations, and the bank on other Bucks swarming off Toronto's smaller shooters. (This worked against Irving and Boston. Toronto will usually have better overall shooting.)

This setting will leave Antetokounmpo on Siakam – the worst long-range shooter in the Toronto starter. (Siakam shot 42% on the 3s corner, but only 17-on-63 on three times the break.) Antetokounmpo can jump more and nobody covers so much territory. Antetokounmpo is a devastating, demoralizing helper – a long-standing phantom that is somewhere all around. He can help and get back in time to compete with Siakam in the corner of 3s. He is Milwaukee's best rim protector, and Bucks prefer to keep him in the positions from which he can do.

Should be able to swallow Siakam's spiked-laked, spinny isolation game. You can point out Siakam an average of 24 points per game against Milwaukee at 64 percent of the shooting.

Count me as a skeptic. He has done much of this damage against Ilyas and the rest of the Bucks, who shouldn't spend so much time guarding him now, both on NBA.com and on the other. He shot well against Antetokounmpo, but not often. (Siakam went 11-out-17 more than 116 total assets with Antetokounmpo as his primary advocate, at NBA.com. He took 19 shots against Ilyasova for only 60 properties. Again: that data is far from perfection.)

Siakam is good, but Antetokounmpo can handle it. I like the idea of ​​using Antetokounmpo to make Siakam out of line as a shooter.

Siakam is fearless. He does not suffer from bouts of persnicket hesitation that occur as Lowry and Gasol – basketball snobs in the best sense whose compound snobbies can still work against Raptors. Forcing the two to pick up a part of Siakam's shot, and engulf them – and set Toronto on fire in the process. The downside is that they could actually go crazy and shoot, and shoot, and bury the Bucks under open jumps. Milwaukee would have to adjust or just tighten up

OK, but what if it doesn't work? Will we get Kawhi-Giannis Bowl?

If Leonard brutalizes Middleton, things get very interesting. Antetokounmpo is probably the ideal defender for Leonard – he is the ideal defender for most players – and maybe he could have more than Leonard in the tank; Antetokounmpo has only played nine games in the last 37 days. It wouldn't be difficult for Milwaukee to switch matchups, so Antetokounmpo defends Leonardo.

Would they do it from a position of strength, or from a position of weakness – because they want to, or because they have to? Every good series forces it to be swallowed. Antetokounmpo-on-Gasol can be the primary Milwaukee gambit when playing small ball sets with Antetokounmpo and Mirotic as nominal forward and center performance; they were (in essence) the only circumstances in which Antetokounmpo defended Horford. Milwaukee can destroy its base defense in these minutes and engage Switch Mode

Watch out for: Malcolm Brogdon

Healthy Brogdon takes Milwaukee to a different level. Brogdon is a trustworthy 40 percent three-point shooter and probably the best Milwaukee leader.

He was, perhaps a little unpredictably, the second option Milwaukee defended Leonardo. Budenholzer wasn't really fighting out of it and Brogdon was pretty good at playing

Leonard is another thing. Brogdon is back from a leg injury. If it is, he gets a chance for Leonardo. Brogdon's lead role would allow Budenholzer to always have one of Brogdon and Middleton on the ground so that Leonard could carry out his duties. (It would also mean that Mirotic would have to defend the Green when the appetizers would stand forward, the Raptors might want to run Green around even more than usual, and see if Mirotic can keep up.)

Both teams come to these final conferences with the ideal matchups set. Who first cave? Does he have a cave? The answers will tell us a lot about how the series goes – and who will win.

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