A wild, nerve-wracking playoff season with plenty of surprises along the way is finally nearing its conclusion, with today’s resounding Bucks victory setting up the 2021 NBA finals between two teams on a mission to end long droughts, the Phoenix Suns and the Milwaukee Bucks.
Two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo will hopefully play in the 2021 NBA Finals. His hyperextended knee is being termed a day-to-day ordeal according to Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer.
As nasty as the injury looked when he landed awkwardly attempting to deny a Clint Capela dunk at the rim, Antetokounmpo was fortunate in that he suffered no structural damage. No ligaments were torn, so the presumption is that he’ll be able to return at some point over the next week or so.
Betting markets don’t anticipate the “Greek Freak” to return for Game 1 since his absence appears to have been baked into a line that opened in the 5.5-point range but has been set at six everywhere but DraftKings.
The total has been set at 217.5/218 depending on where you shop.
Even though the Suns get to host the first two games of the series, they probably wouldn’t be more than a three-point favorite if Antetokounmpo was definitely a go.
Milwaukee won the last two games of the Eastern Conference finals against Atlanta behind guards Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday. Middleton scored the first 13 points of the second half as the Bucks broke open a tight contest in Game 6 while Holiday nearly logged a triple-double.
Phoenix defeated the L.A. Clippers in six games and comes off its most efficient offensive performance, scoring 130 points on 94 possessions.
Chris Paul shot 7-for-8 from 3-point range in the second half of the close-out game at Staples Center to reach the championship round for the first time in his 16-year career.
The Bucks scored more than 123 points per 100 possessions in all four Eastern Conference final wins but don’t hurt yourself running to the window with ‘over’ bets too quickly. Milwaukee will be playing the top defensive team they’ll have run into this postseason.
The same thing can be said about Phoenix since they ran into a Lakers squad without Anthony Davis and dodged Kawhi Leonard due to a knee issue in the Western Conference finals after sweeping out the Nuggets in the semis.
The Bucks (105.0) and Suns (106.7) rank first and second in points allowed per 100 possessions this postseason and are also the only two teams in these playoffs allowing fewer than one point per transition possession.
The teams also rank first and second in opponent field goal percentage in the restricted area, while the Suns rank first in field goal percentage defense on shots from outside the paint (44.8%).
The Bucks allow teams to get to the free-throw line the least of anyone in these playoffs, which may come in handy since Paul and Devin Booker often rely on finding a rhythm at the stripe.
Phoenix forward Jae Crowder played in the NBA Finals last season with Miami but both teams are light on experience at this stage of the season.
The Bucks are in their first Finals since 1974 and last won in ’71. The Suns have never won and are playing in their first championship round since Charles Barkley led the team to a spot opposite Michael Jordan’s Bulls back in 1993.
Sportsbooks have been fairly consistent with their numbers, installing the Suns as a heavy favorite to claim their first title. The Suns are -182 and the Bucks +152 at DraftKings. The Suns are -185 at FanDuel while the Bucks are +155. At BetMGM, the Suns are -190 while the Bucks are +155.
Paul is +140 to win NBA Finals MVP but if you’re of the belief that Milwaukee shouldn’t be written off despite Antetokounmpo’s uncertain status, Holiday at +1600 to capture MVP isn’t a bad bet.
Another interesting prop worth considering is riding the Suns to win Game 1 and the series at -125 at DraftKings given how unlikely it is that Antetokounmpo will miss the series opener.