A Breakdown of the NBA Eastern Conference Semi-Finals

Elijah Weston-Capulong, Sports Editor

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Celtics-Bucks

After a disappointing series, the Bucks advance to the Conference Finals after ousting the Celtics in five games. This second round loss marks the end of an up-and-down season for the Celtics, while the Bucks will continue their bid for the Finals, and maybe even the NBA Championship. Furthermore, for Milwaukee, this series is a way to get revenge on Boston, who beat them in a game seven of the first round in last year’s playoffs.

AP
Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, center, goes to the basket past Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum (0) during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game in Boston, Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

The Celtics started the series with an extremely convincing with a 22 point win over the Bucks in Milwaukee (112-90). Kyrie Irving lead the way for Boston with 26 points and 11 assists, as their defense kept Antetokounmpo to only 22 points on 7-21 shooting. So convincing was game one for the Celtics, that Paul Pierce, a Boston small-forward, said that the series was “over.” That statement aged badly, as Milwaukee went on to win the Next four games, with Giannis averaging 30 points per game, while Kyrie Irving struggled to give the Celtics the offensive lift that they needed. This series, the Bucks averaged 113 points a game, while allowing 104.4. These stats show perfectly the highlight of this series, the Bucks’ offense.

Excluding a scrappy performance in the first game, the Bucks were firing on all cylinders, showing that they can keep up their incredible offensive run, which put them at first in points per game in the regular season, in the playoffs. Looking forward, the Bucks will have to continue to be fantastic offensively, as they will face the Toronto Raptors, first in playoff opposing points per game (96.0).

 

76ers-Raptors

This series had everything. Really, everything. Of course, as much is expected for a two versus three seed Conference Semi-Final. But with Kawhi’s buzzer beater and heroics from Jimmy Butler and the Sixers’ all-stars, this became a series for the books.

Yahoo Sports The Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard (2) drives past the Sixers’ Jimmy Butler during game seven of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.

With home advantage and fresh legs, and Philadelphia missing Joel Embiid, the Toronto Raptors started strong, with a 108-95 win over the 76ers in game one. Interestingly, this first game set a tone for “blowout” wins for the remainder of the series, with the majority of the games in this series being decided by 10 points or more. The average margin in points between the two teams over the entirety of this series was 13.3. After this convincing start from Toronto, it seemed as if game two was theirs to lose. But, Toronto’s dominance quickly came to an end, after the Sixers led by as many as 18 during the first half, and, after a small scoring run from the Raptors, kept up their stellar defensive performance throughout the whole game, holding an extremely talented offensive team to only 89 points at home. Final score: Philly 94-Toronto 89.

After suffering a blowout loss in Game three, the first of the series played in Philadelphia, the Raptors found themselves on the back-foot. Down two to one, the Sixers gaining momentum, and Game four to be played at the Wells Fargo Centre, a three to one deficit seemed right over the horizon for Toronto. But, just like the Sixers in Game two, the Raptors tightened up on defense, and clutched a five point win “The City of Brotherly Love.” Led by Leonard, who had an extremely efficient 39 points on 13-20 shooting (5-7 on threes), the Raptors pulled out of a close game, which shifted the outlook of the series from a close Sixers win, to an even tie, with the Raptors holding a slight edge, as they went back Toronto for Game five. After blowout wins from both teams at their respective venues, the series is tied, three to three, forcing a much-anticipated Game seven.

The final game of the series was a defensive masterclass from both teams, who held each other to only 90 and 92 points respectively. On top of that, the point differential between the two teams never eclipsed 10 points, making for a gut-wrenching, close game for all four periods. Behind an inform Leonard (41 points), the Raptors played a great game on both ends of the floor. Including holding the 76ers to just 13 points in the first quarter, Toronto held the Sixers’ starting five to just 25 for 57 on shooting, while Philadelphia’s bench players scored just 8 points total. B

ut, the 76ers also had an great defensive game. Even though Kawhi had 41 points, he shot only 41 percent, while the Raptors as a team shot 38 percent.

After the third quarter, Toronto was up 67-64, with Kawhi Leonard at 26 points. But, in the fourth quarter, “the Klaw” went off for 15 points, including an eight-point scoring streak which carried a struggling Raptors team through an offensive storm from Philadelphia. With the score at 90 each with 4.2 seconds left (Toronto to inbound), the thought of a game-winning buzzer beater in game seven, was far fetched, to say the least. In fact, it had never been done before. But, as Kawhi Leonard fade-away two-point jump shot from the corner bounced for a stunningly long time, Toronto and the rest of the millions of viewers worldwide realized the Raptors had just won off of perhaps the most memorable buzzer-beater of the decade.