The Eastern Conference finals are underway as the Milwaukee Bucks host the Toronto Raptors. This is a competitive series between the top two seeds of the Eastern Conference. The Bucks are the first seed of the Eastern with a regular season record of 60-22. The Raptors are second with a record of 58-24. In the playoffs, both teams went different paths, but they are the two remaining teams in the East.
In Game 1, the Bucks beat the Raptors 108-100. The Bucks won a game that came down to the final quarter. The Bucks held on despite an impressive quarter from Raptors guard Kyle Lowry.
For the Raptors, Lowry had 30 points. He scored 14 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter. Lowry was the only Raptor to score a field goal in the final quarter. The rest of the Raptors were 0-of-15 in the fourth. The Bucks took advantage and ultimately won the game.
Game 1 was a close game that could have went to either team. Game 2 went to the Bucks as well, but the series can go to either team. With this in mind, an interesting question comes into play? Is the Eastern Conference open without LeBron James?
For most of his career, James played in the Eastern Conference. He changed conferences for the first time in his career last summer. While in the East, James made it to the Finals nine times. His last appearance was last year against the Warriors. The Cavaliers lost to the Warriors in a sweep.
James’ teams (the Cavs and Heat) were arguably the favorites in the East. Every year, his teams reached the Finals regardless of their regular season performance. Last year, the Cavs were the fourth seed of the East and managed to reached the Finals. When James was in the East, his teams typically made the Finals. With James no longer in the conference, the dynamic of the East has changed.
Now, the Milwaukee Bucks are arguably the favorites. However, even Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo realizes how open the East is.
“I didn’t see it as open,” Antetokounmpo said Thursday. “But now that I look back and see how everything went, it’s definitely open, not having LeBron in the East and not trying to go through him.”
Is the Eastern Conference wide open? It is safe to say yes.James’ impact on the conference was significant and his absence does the same. Regardless, fans are in for a good series.
Featured image courtesy of Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports