Our event of the day is the start of the NBA Eastern Conference finals. The Milwaukee Bucks host the Toronto Raptors for Game 1 at the Fiserv Forum. The top two seeds in the Eastern Conference face off in the conference finals. They have taken very different paths through the playoffs so far but all that is behind them as they hunt for a place in the NBA Finals. It’s Giannis Antetokounmpo versus Kawhi Leonard in a series-opener you won’t want to miss. For the first time since 2001, the Milwaukee Bucks enter a conference finals series. That team, led by stars like Ray Allen, Sam Cassell, Darvin Ham and Glenn Robinson, lost in seven games to the Allen Iverson-led Philadelphia 76ers. The 2018-19 Bucks became the first Milwaukee team since the 2000-01 team to win fifty games and reach the conference finals. Now they have a very real chance to make their first NBA Finals since 1974. So far, they have breezed through the playoffs, scoring 1052 points and going 8-1 through the first two rounds. This has been largely thanks to their star, Giannis Antetokounmpo. In the playoffs of an MVP-calibre season, the 24-year-old is averaging 27.4 points per game, 11.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists and a .557 effective field goal percentage.
However, as was seen in their semi-final series against the Celtics, the Bucks have developed a near-perfect symbiosis. When Giannis does well, the rest of the team does well. Khris Middleton is a perfect second fiddle to Giannis, excelling in the pick-and-roll and knocking down the jump shots that are outside of Giannis’ ability. But beyond them, the team has a whole is flourishing under Mike Budenholzer’s motion-based offense and if they move onto the NBA Finals, they will surely be a strong contender for the title. Meanwhile, Toronto find themselves in their first conference finals since the 2015-16 season thanks to one man, Kawhi Leonard. In Game 7 of the conference semifinals against Philadelphia, Leonard hit an unforgettable 15-foot jumper at the buzzer to avoid overtime and put Toronto into the next round. Despite Kawhi’s phenomenal numbers (31.8 points per game and a .596 effective field goal percentage), Toronto have not enjoyed the same easy progress as the Bucks. After doing away with the Orlando Magic in five, they had to battle through a series against the 76ers that went the distance. Toronto are a good team, with their offseason trade to acquire Leonard certainly paying off. However, the question remains as to whether they are good enough to beat the Bucks, who bested them 3-1 in their four regular season games. Tonight will be particularly tough for the Raptors, given that the Bucks have had a week’s rest, having finished their series against the Boston Celtics on May 8th. The Raptors, on the other hand, finished their series against the 76ers on Sunday. This Game 1 is expected to be a thrilling showdown between Giannis and Kawhi, so be sure you don’t miss it.
Honourable mentions around the globe go to the EFL Championship playoffs, where Leeds United host Derby County in the second leg of their semi-final at Elland Road. Leeds lead 1-0 after the first leg, taking a big step towards the playoff final on May 27th. The winner of this semi-final will face Aston Villa for a chance to play Premier League football next season. Derby has everything to do so expect an exciting match tonight. Elsewhere, in the NHL, the St Louis Blues host the San Jose Sharks at the Enterprise Center for Game 3 of their Western Conference finals series. The teams are tied 1-1 in this exciting series between two surprise conference finals contenders. The Blues search for their first Stanley Cup appearance since 1970 while the Sharks hope to return to the finals of the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Be sure to catch the next match in this thrilling series. In the MLB, the Miami Marlins host the Tampa Bay Rays for the second match of a short two-game series at Marlins Park. Stage 5 of the Giro d’Italia takes place between Frascati and Terracina. In horse racing, the Dante Festival begins at York Racecourse. In tennis, the Internazionali BNL d’Italiacontinues at the Foro Italico in Rome. In county cricket, division leaders Somerset host Surrey at the County Ground in Taunton for the second day of their fixture.
Whatever you’re watching, enjoy!
Photos by Milwaukee Bucks; Toronto Raptors
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