Bold predictions for Raptors-Bucks Game 1

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks kick off the Eastern Conference Finals on Wednesday night with Game 1 of what figures to be a highly entertaining series.

Game details: Here’s a look at the start time, television information and odds for tonight’s Raptors-Bucks Game 1.

  • When: 8:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, WI
  • TV: TNT
  • Betting line: Milwaukee -6.5 / 217.5 points

The big picture: Future NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo will have his work cut out going against Kawhi Leonard — who’s been on a Michael Jordan-esque tear — in this series.

Yet it will be the role players that determine which team wins, and which team watches the NBA Finals from home.

Here are some bold predictions for Game 1 Tuesday night.

Kawhi goes off for 40-plus (again)

Kawhi Leonard has turned into a volume shooter in these playoffs. He took a staggering 39 shots in Game 7 against Philly and scored 41 points — including the final two on a legendary bouncing buzzer-beater for the win. He shouldn’t need quite so many attempts in this game.

Leonard didn’t exactly explode offensively against Milwaukee in the three games during the regular season. However, he’s elevated his game significantly this postseason and we expect him to continue scoring at will in this game.

George Hill scores 20 off the bench

Backup point guard George Hill came alive late during Milwaukee’s semifinals series against Boston, scoring over 17 points per in the final three games. Eric Bledsoe struggled to find his shooting touch in that same stretch and was well below his seasonal averages against Milwaukee during the regular season.

We see this opening up the door for the veteran to emerge as a go-to option for the Bucks. He’ll put up an efficient scoring night with over 20 points averaging nearly a point per minute.

Siakam scores 25-plus points

The last time we saw Pascal Siakam, he was withering under the pressure of Game 7. He seemed scared to shoot the ball and finished with just 11 points on 4-11 shooting from the floor (including 0-2 from three). Now that the Raptors have advanced, the nerves should dissipate.

Look for this dynamic forward to have the kind of night that propelled Toronto to a blowout win over Philly in Game 5.

Toronto is just so much better when Siakam is playing aggressively and with confidence. He’ll have a huge night shooting in Game 1.

Giannis opens with triple-double

Giannis Antetokounmpo hasn’t had a triple-double in the postseason, but he came close a couple of times in the Bucks’ series against Boston. On Wednesday night in front of his loyal fans, Giannis will put it all together as he attempts to put his team up a game against Toronto.

This prediction comes with a caveat: Giannis will struggle with his outside shot, get stymied inside the paint — thanks to Leonard, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka — and have an inefficient night shooting from the field. With that in mind, we’re predicting he ends up with a lower-than-average scoring night but makes up for it with a strong overall game.

Toronto steals Game 1

These two teams may go seven games. It’s going to be an intense series between these two evenly-matched powerhouses. We know the Bucks are wary of losing another Game 1 at home, but given the way Toronto has gelled of late we’re predicting just that.

Look for Leonard to come up big once again late in the fourth quarter as the Raptors edge the Bucks in a nail-biting, single-digit victory on the road.