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Phan: Why I’m Buying Bucks Futures Before Game 2

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Photo credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Giannis Antetokounmpo

  • The Milwaukee Bucks were at -330 before Game 1 to win their second-round series against the Boston Celtics.
  • After a Game 1 loss, they're now down to -130, and Justin Phan thinks it's the perfect opportunity to buy low.

Everyone saw the Celtics’ defensive strategy (switching, walling off Giannis Antetokounmpo, etc.) coming in Game 1 … except for Mike Budenholzer. It was startling to see how seemingly blindsided Bud was to counter the Celtics’ game plan, for which he had almost a full week to prepare.

The Bucks were held to an 89.1 Offensive Rating, the third-lowest mark they’ve posted in a game this season. Al Horford’s work on Giannis was a big reason why — Giannis summed it up before the series started, saying, “He’s tough. He’s strong. He’s smart.”

Giannis averaged 34.8 points per 36 minutes on 60.7% shooting this season against the Celtics when Horford was off the court. With Horford on, those numbers dropped to 25.3 points per 36 and 46.8%.

We saw Bud start to get a bit more creative to open the second half, using Giannis with Khris Middleton in a pick-and-roll coming off a dribble hand-off. Expect more of these play types moving forward to make it tougher for the Celtics to wall off the paint and for Horford to send Giannis into the help.

The shooting should come around for the Bucks, too. They were just 9-of-28 (32.1%) on wide-open looks in the series opener and were as bad as it gets inside the arc — sixth percentile at the rim (47.8%) and first percentile on mid-range shots (18.2%).

The Celtics were able to have their cake and eat it, walling off Giannis while not having to pay the price for overhelping with his teammates repeatedly missing clean looks. Those shots will start to fall, which will force the Celtics into some impossible decisions between helping on Giannis or marking capable perimeter shooters.

Another reason for optimism is the expected return of Malcolm Brogdon, who’s been doing more and more in practice and appears to be poised for a Game 3 return. There’s a good chance he’ll be limited initially, but even then he’ll offer a massive improvement over Pat Connaughton, who was unplayable in Game 1.

The market has shifted in a big way following the Bucks’ loss, with the series price moving from -330 to -130 at Westgate. That seems like a significant overreaction for a Bucks side that should take care of business in Game 2 and is more than capable of winning a game on the road.

Milwaukee ranked second in efficiency differential among all teams during the regular season away from home and currently lead all teams in the playoffs.

Looking at all the series prices currently, Bucks -130 appears to be the best value out there and a perfect opportunity to buy low before the price jumps following a likely Game 2 win.

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