Mike’s Twitter: @MOConnor_NBA
This is the series we’ve all been waiting for. For my money, this is the NBA Finals – I don’t see the Sixers, Hawks, or any team out West competing with the Milwaukee Bucks or Brooklyn Nets.
While a game like this has plenty of intrigue already, adding some money on the line makes it even better. Let’s get into some of my picks for today’s Bucks vs. Nets Game 1 showdown.
Smart Money NBA Betting Picks for Tonight’s Action
I am picking the Bucks to win this series, and that starts with a Game 1 win on the road. I’m hedging slightly by taking the spread instead of the moneyline, but Game 1 is always a little funky, so I’ll take the extra breathing room.
Simply put, the Bucks can match up with the Nets defensively, but the Nets can’t match up with the Bucks defensively. I like the chances of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday slowing down Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving, respectively. I do not like the Nets’ chances of doing the inverse.
One of the things that was abundantly clear in the two games that these teams played in May was the fact that the Nets simply cannot guard Giannis. They have no one who can match up to him physically in the post, and they also lack the team cohesion to fluster him on the perimeter, like the Raptors and Heat did in 2019 and 2020, respectively. The two-time reigning MVP had 49 and 36 points in those two early May matchups.
I also think Brooklyn could run into a similar problem as Miami ran into against Milwaukee last round, and that’s a massive rebounding deficit due to a lack of interior size. The Bucks are a deceptively massive team, and Brook Lopez and Giannis will be able to push bodies around on the inside against the likes of Durant, Blake Griffin, and Nic Claxton.
I’m extremely bullish on the Bucks overall in this series, and I’m taking them plus four points in Game 1.
Top Player Props for Tonight’s NBA Action
52.5 is a huge number for an NBA playoff game, but that’s how much I believe in Giannis’ ability to dominate this Brooklyn team. As I alluded to above, Brooklyn simply doesn’t have the size to guard Giannis from anywhere on the floor, and I think their only hope of containing his scoring is by throwing out a bunch of denials and double teams against him – which is why I’m taking points, rebounds, and assists instead of simply points.
This is a bet on two things: A) Jrue Holiday’s ability to stick with Irving at every turn, and B) Milwaukee’s insistence on defending the rim at all costs. With how big their front line is and how strongly they emphasize rim protection, I’m not expecting Irving to have a big night in terms of finishing at the cup. And with Holiday’s ability to clamp down, I’m also not expecting Irving to get free in the midrange very much. As was the case in the two games in early May, Irving will have to get a ton of his offense from beyond the arc. This is, then, a bet that Irving doesn’t get outrageously hot from that area.
Bruce Brown has only made one three-pointer in his last five weeks of play. He only attempted two threes against Boston. But with these odds, I’m sprinkling some money on this bet.
The Bucks, more so than almost anyone else in the league, love to leave poor shooters wide open in an effort to pack the paint and protect the rim. My thinking here is that they will do just that against Brown, and he will end up drilling a wide-open three-pointer at some point in the game.
Don’t put too much money into this, but with the odds, I love a small bet here.
I just can’t see Portis playing a huge role in this series. With how small the Nets’ front line is, I think that the Bucks will be willing to match them by putting Giannis at center for stretches of the game. That would cut Portis’ minutes, obviously.
Even if Portis plays a lot, I don’t see the ball finding him a lot. The Bucks have so many favorable matchups on the floor at any given moment, that I don’t think Portis will be called upon to do much.