Why Raptors are better matchup for Warriors in NBA Finals than Bucks

Why Raptors are better matchup for Warriors in NBA Finals than Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo, or Kawhi Leonard?

Khris Middleton, or Pascal Siakam?

Brook Lopez, or Marc Gasol?

Eric Bledsoe, or Kyle Lowry?

The Warriors know they will face either the Bucks or Raptors for the 2019 NBA Championship, but as for which team presents the tougher matchup, it's a toss-up.

Just look at the current state of the Eastern Conference finals. Milwaukee looked absolutely dominant, winning the first two games at home before the script flipped entirely in Games 3 and 4 in Toronto.

The result? A series that is now tied at two games apiece. The Bucks and Raptors appear quite evenly matched, and it's anyone's guess as to who will ultimately prevail out of the East.

In making quick work of the Blazers in the Western Conference finals, the Warriors left themselves plenty of time to rest up before the Finals begin. They'll have more than a week in between games, offering adequate time to ponder questions such as: which opponent would be a better matchup for Golden State?

While the margin between the two teams is razor-thin, there's reason to believe the Warriors would match up slightly better with the Raptors than they would the Bucks.

There were only two teams in the league that ranked in the top five in both offensive and defensive rating during the regular season: The Bucks and Raptors. Milwaukee ranked marginally better than Toronto in both categories, and they've maintained their close correlation into the playoffs, where the Bucks and Raptors rank first and second, respectively, in defensive rating.

The Bucks, however, are averaging 111.2 points per 100 possessions during postseason play -- fourth among all playoff teams -- compared to 107.5 for the Raptors, which ranks ninth.

Still, those playoff numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt, as they've been accrued against different opponents. The Bucks finished with the best record in the league during the regular season, so they had a somewhat easier path to the Eastern Conference finals than the Raptors did.

Milwaukee swept Detroit in the first round, and then after a brief hiccup in Game 1 against the Celtics, finished off Boston in five games. Meanwhile, Toronto dropped their very first game of the playoffs to the Magic before eliminating Orlando in five games, and then only narrowly advanced to the Eastern Conference finals after perhaps the most dramatic game-winning shot in NBA playoff history in Game 7 against Philadelphia.

As such, the Raptors played three more games than the Bucks on their way to the conference finals, and are guaranteed to have played at least two more playoff games than Golden State should they meet in the Finals.

So, the Warriors would have a slightly larger collective "load" advantage against the Raptors than they would against the Bucks, but again, it's minimal. That said, the fact that Golden State will have nine days of rest before the Finals begin -- while the Eastern Conference representative could have as few as two, -- could exacerbate the Dubs' advantage.

[RELATED: Raptors tying series with Bucks furthers Dubs' advantage]

Both teams excel on both ends of the court. Both are led by legitimate MVP candidates, two of the very best talents the game has to offer. Both finished with better regular-season records than the Warriors, so both would have homecourt advantage over Golden State.

So why the Raptors?

As we know, rotations shorten in the playoffs and typically more so the deeper in postseason play. The Warriors had the luxury of extending their rotation against the inferior Blazers, but that won't be the same case against either the Bucks or Raptors.
And the Bucks' shortened rotation appears slightly more threatening to Golden State than the Raptors'.

Milwaukee likely would trot out a nine-man main rotation for the Finals, whereas it might be difficult for Toronto to find that many playable guys in a series against Golden State. Of those nine Bucks players, more than half of them shot better than 35 percent from 3-point range. The Raptors have only four such players on their entire roster.

Two of the Bucks players that fell short of that 35-percent plateau are Antetokounmpo and Bledsoe, who -- aside from being extremely proficient interior scorers -- were both named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team on Wednesday. Leonard was the Raptors' sole representative on either of the all-defensive teams, joining Golden State's Draymond Green and Klay Thompson on the Second Team.

It's not a big difference, but at this point in the postseason, that makes plenty of sense. The best teams are supposed to advance, and clearly, they have. Whichever team comes out of the East will certainly pose more problems for Golden State than the Blazers did. The Raptors might be a slightly better matchup for the Warriors, but if you think the Dubs are going to waltz to their third consecutive league title, you're kidding yourself.

Charles Barkley admits he was wrong about Steph Curry's rank in NBA

Charles Barkley admits he was wrong about Steph Curry's rank in NBA

Stop the presses, but Charles Barkley is admitting he's wrong -- "100 percent wrong."

Sir Charles admitted his much during an interview with ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption" when discussing Warriors superstar Steph Curry.

"Steph Curry has put his name back in the conversation -- we talk about the best players in the world, we talk about KD, we talk about Giannis, Kawhi, LeBron -- Steph Curry is proving to us he's a two-time MVP," Barkley said.

What was he wrong about exactly? Well, for starters -- he left Steph out of his top five list of players currently in the NBA. 

This was his list:

OK, OK -- it's not an easy task. Any top-five lists are difficult because no matter what, you have to make some cuts. 

But ... it's Steph freakin' Curry, and it appears Barkley finally knows that. 

"He's been fabulous," Barkley said of the six-time All-Star.

But wait ... there's more.

Earlier this month, the Basketball Hall of Famer-turned-analyst said the Warriors had "no chance" of beating the Houston Rockets in the second-round NBA playoff series without the help of the injured Kevin Durant. He even said the Rockets will win "in blowout fashion."

Hmm ... OK.

He also said the Blazers ... whom the Warriors just swept, would be going to The Finals (although he originally said this back in March). Barkley received some backup from his fellow TNT analyst Kenny Smith, who agreed with the statement and followed it with a high-five. That'll boost your confidence.

But for now, Sir Charles admitted his faults and is even giving compliments to the entire Warriors team in the same interview ... something he is not known for.

[RELATED: Barkley predicts Bucks, not Dubs win 2019 NBA title]

"I want to give a shoutout to Steve Kerr and his coaching staff because they got guys on the bench who have come in the game -- going back to Game 6 in Houston -- and played fabulous and that's the coaching staff," he said. "It goes to show that when they're not playing games they're working with those young players."

Is this the year he finally stops trolling the Dubs?

Don't bank on it. 

Draymond Green's mom doesn't agree with Damian Lillard on Warriors-Blazers

Draymond Green's mom doesn't agree with Damian Lillard on Warriors-Blazers

The Warriors will play in their fifth straight NBA Finals starting on May 30 after sweeping the Trail Blazers in the Western Conference finals. 

Portland's star guard Damian Lillard, however, believes one player changed everything.

No, not Kevin Durant. 

"I think going into the Western Conference finals, in my mind this was a shot for us to win it all," he told reporters on Tuesday. "I really felt like we could have beat the Warriors and went on to win it all.

"I think we have Nurk (Jusuf Nurkic), it's a completely different situation. And that's not a crutch or an excuse, I just think with him out there our season would have probably been extended a little bit longer."

Draymond Green's mother, Mary Babers-Green, responded to Lillard's claims Tuesday on Twitter. And she's not wrong. 

The Warriors beat the Blazers in four games while missing Durant (right calf strain) and DeMarcus Cousins (torn left quadriceps) for the entire series. They were also without Andre Iguodala (calf tightness) in Game 4. 

Oh, and the Warriors became the first team to overcome three consecutive 15-point deficits in the NBA playoffs in two decades.

[RELATED: These three tweets from Jefferson sum up Warriors' sweep]

Missing the 7-foot Nurkic, who averaged 15.6 points and 10.4 rebounds, was certainly a big loss for the Blazers. Durant, Cousins and Iguodala were ... well, a lot bigger losses.

It's not even apples to oranges. It's Warriors to Blazers. One team is elite, the other is just good.