C is a superstar of a name on both sides: Giannis and Kawhi. C is a Milwaukee franchise that hasn't been to the NBA finals in 45 years, facing a Toronto franchise that has never been to the title round. The Bucks have a coach with a business degree that was not last year; the Raptors have a coach with a degree in accounting that was not the chief last year.
Similarities abound between Milwaukee and Toronto.
In the next two weeks, a team will separate.
The high-headed Bucks host the second-series Raptors on Wednesday night in the first game of the Eastern Conference final. They got the best records in the NBA this season: Milwaukee went to 60-22, Toronto went 58-24 and one of them will have the home advantage for the NBA Finals starting May 30th.
"You can't get involved in people's expectations," said Marthi, the star of the Raptors. "You have to worry about your expectations, your team's expectations and victory, and that's what we need to focus on. The one-to-one match doesn't matter. This game is not a one-on-one basketball game."
Leonard made the stroke that sent Toronto to the conference final, a corner jumper on Joel Embiid who bounced on the circle four times before falling. The Bucks, as expected, were impressed.
However, they were not shaken. The team with the best regular season record also has the best record in these playoffs so far at 8-1, and confidence is not poor. The Bucks' only flaw in these playoffs is a defeat in Game 1 at home to Boston in the second round, a mistake that will be in their minds on Wednesday.
"Against Boston, you can go down 1-0 and you'll still be fine," Bucks champion Giannis Antetokounmpo said on Tuesday. "But against Toronto, it's hard to be at that point, to lose the first game in your home."
The Milwaukee coach, Mike Budenholzer, is acutely aware of everything Leonard puts into play. He was an assistant in San Antonio when Leonard was starting there – after the Spurs ironically exchanged George Hill in Indiana for Leonard's project rights. Hill is now the play-point of the Bucks' security points.
"He made a great first impression of San Antonio on his teammates, his technical staff," said Budenholzer when asked about his first days with Leonard. "Only the ability to bring out balls, rebounds and all sorts of little things that sometimes go unnoticed. But to think that it was evolving towards the player who is … I don't know when it happened".
Here are some other things to know about the Milwaukee-Toronto series:
This is the first final of the East since 2006 in which neither of the two coaches was leading the respective team a year earlier. Pat Riley of Miami addressed the Flip Saunders of Detroit in 2006; Riley was in Heat's front office the previous year, and Saunders had been fired from Minnesota. Raptors coach Nick Nurse was an assistant with the Raptors under Dwane Casey last season, and Budenholzer was in the last year of his term with Atlanta.
WATCH THE INJURY
The Raptors are still unreserved key OG Anunoby (appendectomy), and the nurse said that it will probably take at least another week before the team can identify a possible return date. The Bucks will remain without Pau Gasol for the rest of the season with a foot injury – so unlike the Western final where Stephen Curry of the Golden State meets the Portland Seth Curry in a brother and brother match, the final of the East Marc Gasol will play without the Raptors center in front of his brother.
This is the first time that an Eastern final has paired teams that have released at least 58 victories in the regular season since 2011, when Miami (58-24) beat Chicago (62-20). It is the 33rd time that a seed number one has faced a seed n. 2 since the 16-team format was used in 1984; in the east, the seeds n. 2 have beaten n. 1 10 of 18 times, and in the west are the seeds n. 1 with a margin of 8-6.
HISTORY OF HUNTING
Toronto has already collected a franchise record with 66 victories this season, counting both the regular season and playoff contests. The 2015-16 raptors went to 66-38; these Raptors are 66-28 so far. The Bucks have up to 68 wins this season, the fourth in franchise history. The 1970-71 Bucks won 78 games, so the Milwaukee brand for the single season is out of reach, but this season's team could reach n. 2. The 1973-74 Bucks won 70 games and 1971-72 the Bucks won 69.
The NBA's prize pool for bonuses this season is a record of $ 21,676.510, and Milwaukee and Toronto both have a significant part of this. The Bucks have already requested $ 2,516,774 in pool money; the Raptors are up to $ 1,782,207. The winner of this series was secured $ 2,543,681 more just for winning the NBA finals – and would have won another $ 1,295,117 for winning the title.