The Golden State Warriors swept the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Finals to advance to their fifth-straight NBA Finals appearance. They now await the winner of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks.
Of the Raptors and Bucks, which one would match up better against the Warriors? Our NBA.com Staff discusses...
Steve Aschburner (@AschNBA): Toronto. And I thought this way even before the Raptors took a 3-2 series lead in the East finals Thursday night. Milwaukee's defence is stretched thin enough against Toronto, so the Warriors' firepower would be a huge problem. Especially when Kevin Durant returns, Golden State has defenders with whom it can swarm Giannis Antetokounmpo, even more effectively than the Raptors have or the Celtics (briefly) did. Draymond Green locked onto Giannis for four to seven games? Come on, that also would be a problem for Milwaukee.
Frankly, I'm not sure either of East finalists would get the edge at even one spot in a position-by-position breakdown. The only reason I think the Warriors won't sweep is they'll have to deal with some shifting of gears once Durant and maybe DeMarcus Cousins come back. Might cost 'em a game.
Shaun Powell (@Powell2daPeople): Go with the Bucks because not only do they have an elite player, they shoot 3-pointers and play decent defensively. Both teams match up well if the Warriors aren't bringing Kevin Durant. Neither, however, matches up well if they are.
John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann): Despite their performance in Games 3-5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, it's probably the Bucks. They're bigger and they have a lot of guards that can defend Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson (to some degree of success, at least). Their defence does allow a lot of 3-point attempts, but they are good at forcing the right guys to shoot those 3-pointers. In fact, the 7.6 3-point attempts per 36 minutes that Curry averaged against the Bucks was his lowest rate against any opponent.
Of course, Toronto's defence has been fantastic throughout the playoffs, Kawhi Leonard has taken things to a new level and the Raptors would also have a puncher's chance against the champs.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): It's close, but I'd give the Raptors the edge. I think the Bucks match up better defensively due to their size and athleticism, but the Warriors have the personnel to limit Milwaukee in the halfcourt like the Raptors have in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Raptors, on the other hand, have proven that they can grind out wins similar to how the Cleveland Cavaliers did against the Warriors in 2016.
I'd also trust Kawhi Leonard to continue playing at an MVP level against the Warriors. He's had some big performances against them in the past, most notably in Game 1 of the 2017 Western Conference Finals when he scored 26 points in 23 minutes before leaving with an injury.
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): I'm going with Toronto. A lot has changed since the teams met months ago and playoff Golden State is a different animal, but I saw enough in the two regular-season meetings between the teams to feel that the Raptors give them a tough time in the NBA Finals.
Defensively, Toronto has the personnel to match up with the prolific offensive talents of Golden State; it has shown the ability to get big defensive stops in the half court in the Conference Semifinals against Philadelphia and in the Conference Finals against Milwaukee. With Kawhi Leonard, an argument can be made that the Raptors have the best player in the series, meaning he is capable of putting the team on his back in crucial moments of key games.