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.

Ex-Warrior Anthony Morrow reveals Steph Curry nickname from rookie season

Ex-Warrior Anthony Morrow reveals Steph Curry nickname from rookie season

Steph Curry and Anthony Morrow were teammates with the Warriors only for one season.

But they built a friendship during the 2009-10 campaign that carries on to this day. And as we all know, it's common for people who are good friends to create nicknames for each other.

So what did Morrow call Steph? Well, we just found out as the two-time NBA MVP was a guest on "The Life Podcast," which is co-hosted by Morrow and Justin Jack (Jarrett Jack's brother).

"I had a nickname for Steph when we were with the Warriors -- his nickname was 'Middle School Shawty,' " Morrow said. "He played carefree like he was in middle school, but it was effective.

"And he turned into one of the GOATs, man."

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

We have learned a lot about Steph over the years, but this definitely is new information.

It's safe to assume the majority of the basketball world is familar with the "Baby-Faced Assassin" nickname given to the three-time NBA champion years ago. But "Middle School Shawty?" We haven't heard that one until now.

And you better believe yours truly is going to use it from time-to-time moving forward.

[RELATED: Steph calls on people to get uncomfortable to enact change]

One final tangent -- in 2009-10, Morrow shot 45.6 percent from deep on 4.4 attempts per game, while Steph shot 43.7 percent from beyond the arc on 4.8 attempts per game.

That's wild.

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

Steph Curry calls on people to speak up, get uncomfortable to enact change


Steph Curry calls on people to speak up, get uncomfortable to enact change

Steph Curry was one of the first athletes to speak out after George Floyd's death in police custody.

The Warriors star posted on Instagram trying to articulate how fed up he is with police violence against African-Americans and the institutional racism that's been prevalent in this country since its inception. The Warriors star spoke further about Floyd's death, the ensuing protests and where he thinks we as a society can go from here in an appearance on "The Life Podcast" with Anthony Morrow and Justin Jack.

"It's just crazy, how many examples do you need," Curry said of police violence and systemic racism toward African-Americans. "This one, I actually found out from [Stephen Jackson]. He's been posting like crazy trying to make sure his partner is memorialized the right way and they remember his name and he's taken that on his back. It's crazy to think in my Instagram feed, I don't post that much, but like, I couldn't even get through eight different posts from Ahmaud Arbery to George Floyd.

"And that, in and of itself, it's sad to your point. One, we know there's police brutality, we know there's systemic racism, all these issues that we're all trying to address. As the black community, the thing that we are doing is trying to use our voice, our platforms, everybody is activating in the streets and the communities trying to do the work and everyone is playing their part.

"But until people outside of our community speak up, use their platform, get uncomfortable and actually feel some type of emotional change to the issues then we are just going to be in the same situation. That, to me, is the thing I've been watching on social media, if we can actually get some solutions. To raise your voice and get mad and get angry and you hate doing it over and over again, but we got to figure out some solutions to this problem and they got to be accountable to it."

Floyd was an unarmed African-American who was killed in police custody in Minneapolis when officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for eight minutes. The video showed Floyd telling Chauvin and three other officers who were watching that he couldn't breathe and asking for Chauvin to stop. Floyd's death sparked protests across the country as citizens march against police brutality and systemic racism.

Floyd's death comes three months after the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot and killed by armed white residents of a South Georgia neighborhood while he was out on a run. After months of outcry and the release of the video of the killing, the two men finally were arrested on May 22 and charged with murder. It took three months and a massive outcry from celebrities, like Curry, for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to step in and arrest Gregory and Travis McMichael.

Chauvin was arrested Friday and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. To Curry, the video of Chauvin killing Floyd was horrifying and Chauvin's reaction during the video and in the aftermath shows how deep the systemic racism is ingrained in the DNA of people and institutions.

"It's crazy that he's been just sitting at home chilling," Curry said of Chauvin. "I'll never get over the grace period that people get. Is it just me -- like you just said his rap sheet and how he's got complaints for all this -- like what I'm trying to say is, it's crazy how ingrained his perspective on life is and the abuse of power and all that stuff is happening and you see the camera literally 10 feet away from you and you don't have a facial reaction, you don't have any empathy, you don't have nothing. You just got your hands in your pockets.

"For me, I'd be acting different just knowing that I was on camera. He was so ingrained in his ways and that just speaks to how deep this conversation is that we've been fighting 400 years. That is just counter-intuitive to me knowing that I'm on camera and I know I'm wrong. But maybe you just don't know you're wrong."

There were protests all over the country this past weekend, from Minneapolis to Dallas and Oakland to New York City. While some protests turned violent, Curry acknowledged a number of police officers who didn't antagonize the protesters and instead chose to listen, speak up and walk with those seeking justice and change.

"Shoutout to all the police officers that I've seen speak up," Curry said. "Every single one of y'all, keep doing it. If you want change, it's the people right next to you that's going to do it. Shoutout to them because that takes some boldness to step out. I know they got that code and all this type of stuff. Appreciate them."

[RELATED: Poole: Calling out star white coaches, QBs fair game]

Curry is one of countless star athletes who used their platform to speak out in the wake of Floyd's death. That list includes Warriors coach Steve Kerr, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Derek Jeter, Joe Burrow, Jaylen Brown, Carson Wentz, Trevor Lawrence and Odell Beckham Jr. Kerr, 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman and former NFL defensive end Chris Long all have asked more prominent white quarterbacks and coaches to use their platform.

Chauvin, a 19-year police officer, had 18 previous complaints in his file. 

The other three officers who were present when Chauvin killed Floyd have not. One of the officers, Tou Thao, had six previous complaints in his file. The other two did not have any previous complaints.