2017 NBA Playoffs
The Toronto Raptors will be facing off against a formidable opponent in the 1st round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs going up against the Milwaukee Bucks led by Giannis Antetokounmpo. (Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)

In the 1st round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs, the Eastern Conference 3rd seed Toronto Raptors will be put to the test against a young and hungry team in the sixth seed Milwaukee Bucks. Led by the ‘Greek Freak’, Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks length, and athleticism will be something that will trouble the Raptors lethal offense as this is set out to be one of the East’s most competitive series.

The most important factor going into game 1 for the Raptors will be how the return of Kyle Lowry impacts their starting lineup. Toronto had gone 15-7 without Lowry since the All-star break. But since his return they are 4-0, thanks to DeMar DeRozan’s stellar performances to end the season. They’ve adjusted to their new playoff experienced players Serge Ibaka and P.J Tucker with minor hiccups. If the Raptors pull through in this series, it will be on the back of the offensive minded guard duo of Kyle Lowry & DeMar DeRozan and how they dictate the momentum of the games. If Lowry can adjust to the newest members of the Raptors rotation, this 2017 NBA Playoffs series will finish sooner than later.

2017 NBA Playoffs
The Toronto Raptors missed Kyle Lowry for a large proportion of their season after the All-Star break. Can he get back into rhythm for them on time? (Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports)

The Bucks advantage, other than their obvious advantage of length and height, is the fact that their head coach Jason Kidd, has faced off against the Raptors in the NBA playoffs before during his time with the Brooklyn Nets. He’ll be able to provide post-season experience for a team that doesn’t have a lot. Without home-court advantage, Kidd will help this young Milwaukee team to maintain their composure. With that being said, the Raptors may have more playoff experience but they have to make sure they do not overlook the Bucks by focusing on the potential challenge facing them in the second round, the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Nonetheless, if the Bucks want to have any chance at pulling off an upset in this series, they need their franchise player Giannis Antetokounmpo at his best, at all times. It won’t be hard for him to exploit the Raptors because he is a nightmare to matchup against on the defensive end. This series will consist of the Raptors constantly trying to throw different defenders at Giannis, hoping to contain what seemed all season long like an unstoppable force.

2017 NBA Playoffs
Jason Kidd has done a tremendous job in coaching this young Milwaukee Bucks team into a playoff contender in the Eastern conference. Cred. Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

There is really no doubt that the X-factor in this 2017 NBA Playoffs matchup will be Giannis Antetokounmpo. With the Raptors being the more talented team on paper it will be up to Giannis to effect the Bucks on both ends of the court. Serving as both their defensive anchor and offensive catalyst, it will be on the young star to make a name for himself and Milwaukee in this series.

2017 NBA Playoffs
It will be the Toronto Raptors new found grit and toughness that leads them over the Bucks in the 1st round. Credit: Jack Boland/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network

Although this is a 3rd seed playing against a 6th seed in the Eastern conference, this series could go anyway because both teams have their respective baggage coming into the Playoffs. The Raptors will have to deal with the adjustments of playoff basketball with Kyle Lowry, while the Bucks will have to maintain their composure in the crazy atmosphere that is the Air Canada Centre. In the end, I predict the Raptors playoff experience and gritty style will give them the edge over the Milwaukee Bucks in 6 games.

Game 1 starts Saturday at 5:30 EST in Toronto and you can bet fans on both sides will be eager to see how both teams have prepared for the battle ahead. This really is the best time in the NBA. Playoff basketball is back.

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