NBA: Who Could Make it Out the East?

One of the most talked about topics in the NBA is: Which team is the best to matchup against the two-time reigning champions Golden State Warriors?

With LeBron James out west, the Cleveland Cavaliers are tanking for the first pick so the Eastern Conference is wide open for business at the top. For the time first since 2009, a new team will make it out of the East that is not a LeBron James-led team.

Now with Golden State having five, yes FIVE All-Stars starting, it is very easy to assume that the West will not change at the end. Despite James Harden‘s historic scoring run and OKC’s dynamic duo in Russell Westbrook and Paul George, it just feels like the West is the Warriors’ to lose. So, who will they play?

There are four teams that come to mind, but only two stand out among the pack. Let’s break it down and see how they would fare with the Dubs.

Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks are the kings of the East as of right now. They are 43-14 with Giannis Antetokounmpo, The Greek Freak, being their MVP candidate. He has Milwaukee rolling in the right direction with the best record in the NBA. Giannis is averaging 27.2 points, 12.7 rebounds, and 6.0 assists per game. He was even the captain for his own team at the All-Star game.

The Bucks have already had both of their meetings with the Warriors for the season and splitting those games with the road team winning each.

On November 8, 2018, the Bucks went into Oracle Arena and defeated the champs by 23 points. The Greek Freak had 24 points and 9 rebounds that game. Eric Bledsoe had 26 while Malcolm Brogdon had 20 points.

The Bucks played a solid brand of defense that night too as Kevin Durant barely notched 17 and Klay Thompson had 20. The story line of that game was the injury that occurred to Stephen Curry who left the gamd in the third quarter with an inner thigh injury.

In there second meeting, the Warriors returned the favor in Milwaukee with a 10-point win on December 7. Curry and Thompson both put in 20 points and hit four of nine from beyond the arc. All of the Bucks’ starters scored in double-figures led by Giannis’ 22 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists. The tipping factor was the Warriors’ 19 three’s made.

The Bucks could be overmatched in a potential series in June with the Warriors. Giannis versus Durant as well as Bledsoe versus Curry would be the key matchups to watch for. Both teams have solid starters, but the experience on the Warriors bench would be a bit too much for Milwaukee even with Nikola Mirotic.

Toronto Raptors

The second best team in the NBA (record-wise) is the Raptors. Even though the Bucks have a better record, Toronto is the favorite to exit the East. With a MVP candidate in Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors are a team that can play multiple styles. They can slow it down and play an ugly brand of ball powered by defense. Kawhi, Danny Green, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and now Marc Gasol can alter a game with stout defense.

Toronto has no problem playing in shootouts as well, proven in both meetings with Golden State.

On November 29, 2018, the Raptors defeated a Curry-less Warriors team in overtime at home. It was a very entertaining game with Kevin Durant dropping 51 points and 11 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough. Leonard poured in 37 while Pascal Siakam dropped 26 points. The Raptors walked out with a 131-128 win.

On December 12, 2018, the Raptors rolled into Oracle without their superstar in Leonard. Oddly enough, they won, sweeping the season series. Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka both had 20-point double-doubles to lead the Raptors. The Splash Brothers struggled combining for 24 points on 10-for-29 shooting. Durant had 30 points but with no help, the Warriors lost by 20.

In a Finals matchup, the perimeter stars would be the keys to victory for both teams. Leonard and Durant would be an exciting battle while Lowry and Curry could go blow-for-blow. Thompson and Green play similarly as three-and-d players, except KT is an All-Star.

The X-Factor would be the benches and with Gasol coming over the Raptors could take the Warriors to seven games.

The Bucks are playing a special brand of basketball this year and are a team to reckon with for the future, but the Raptors are better suited to compete now.

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