Thursday NBA Playoffs Betting Odds Game 3 Preview, Prediction for Bucks vs. Heat: Plenty of Value on Milwaukee (May 27)
Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Giannis Antetokounmpo.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks will look to take a 3-0 lead over the Miami Heat when they travel to South Beach on Thursday night.
- The Bucks caught fire from 3 in Game 2, which is much more than anyone on the Heat could say.
- Roberto Arguello breaks down the game below and shares a betting pick and prediction based on his analysis.
Bucks vs. Heat Odds
|Moneyline||-125 / +105|
|Time||7:30 p.m. ET|
The Heat host the Bucks Thursday night as they look to avoid falling into a three-game hole after losing the first two games of the series in Milwaukee.
The Bucks won Game 1 by two in overtime on Khris Middleton’s midrange jumper with 0.5 seconds left before curb-stomping the Heat in Game 2 Monday. The Bucks led by 26 points after the first quarter and won by 34.
After being favored by five points in each of the first two games, the Bucks are 1.5-point favorites as of Wednesday night heading into Game 3.
Which Bucks Will Show Up?
If the Bucks cover as road favorites, they will need to continue forcing players other than Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo to beat them while forcing the Heat’s below-average defenders to get stops.
In Game 1, the Bucks made just 5-of-31 (16.1%) 3s and still won despite being outscored by 45 points from beyond the arc. Their shooters regressed to the mean in Game 2 as they made 22-of-53 (41.5%) from deep in the rout.
The Bucks took advantage of the Heat’s poor off-ball defenders on the perimeter, while shooters like Bryn Forbes, Pat Connaughton, and Middleton made the most of their open looks.
A key reason the Bucks had so many quality looks on Monday was that they are simply bigger than the Heat. While Miami could get away with the smaller but sturdy Jae Crowder defending Giannis Antetokounmpo last postseason, it’s clear Trevor Ariza isn’t strong enough to hold his own. This forced the Heat to play Adebayo at the four alongside Dewayne Dedmon — who led the Heat in scoring in Game 2 — at the five.
Monday was the first time these two had logged a single minute on the court together all season. While this will help the Heat defensively, it makes scoring in the paint a bigger challenge with less spacing offensively against a Bucks defense that allowed the third-fewest points in the paint in the regular season.
So in summary, the mid range has to improve for Miami’s offense to be effective. They’re shooting more mids but at a significantly worse rate. Also, Miami’s 3PT shooting has not been good enough to overcome the midrange issues and would help open up more rim/mid opportunities.
— Dr. Strus (@PhillyHeatNBA) May 26, 2021
The Bucks’ shooters have also improved significantly from last season.
Jrue Holiday, Middleton, Forbes, Connaughton, and Bobby Portis give the Bucks much more shooting depth than they had last year in the bubble, and this is important against a Heat defense that allowed the fewest points in the paint in the regular season. Replacing the best player from last year’s series, Eric Bledsoe, with these shooters is more important than any schematic adjustment the Bucks have made.
Heat Need Butler & Adebayo to Step Up
If the Heat cover or win outright, they need shooters to step up while Erik Spoelstra finds a way to get Butler and Adebayo more open looks near the rim against a Bucks defense that limits shots in the paint.
The Heat beat the Bucks last postseason by making enough shots with players like Goran Dragic, Tyler Herro, and Butler stepping up as shooters. The Bucks showed in Milwaukee they will force the Heat to beat their drop-scheme defense as they pack the paint and force players like Butler and Adebayo to make jumpers instead of getting into the lane, where they normally do most of their damage.
Butler made over 40% of his 3s against the Bucks last postseason, but he made just 24.5% of his 3s this regular season. Expecting him to make perimeter shots is a losing strategy.
Putting Antetokounmpo on Butler has been an effective way of limiting his looks near the rim, and the Greek Freak’s incredible length has also bothered Butler as a pick-and-roll distributor.
Crowder was also a much better screener and 3-point shooter (making over 40% of his 3s in the upset over the Bucks in the bubble) than Ariza has been, which hurts Butler’s ability to get into the paint because there’s less spacing and separation when Butler is a pick-and-roll ball-handler.
One issue Miami has had with trying to shed Giannis for Jimmy is that even when Giannis gets caught high side on the screen, he's so big it effectively takes away the roller. With Jrue pinching in, there's not much advantage created.
They really have to Goldilocks the angle. pic.twitter.com/mSHdQBYYJg
— Couper Moorhead (@CoupNBA) May 25, 2021
The Heat will need to do a better job of scheming looks for Butler in Game 3 after he only took 10 shots in Game 2 following an opening game in which he put up a season-high nine 3-point attempts. Adebayo had some decent looks in Game 2 but simply missed midrange shots that he needs to make.
The Bucks have dared the Heat’s shooters to beat them, and they haven’t been good enough — Nunn led the team with 14 shots on Tuesday but only scored nine points. The problem with the Heat relying on players like Nunn, Herro, Dragic, and even Duncan Robinson to make shots is that the Bucks have longer and more athletic players like Holiday and Middleton, who can take advantage of the Heat guards defensively.
This weakness is precisely why the Heat traded Kelly Olynyk — whose size and pick-and-pop presence they sorely miss in this matchup — for Victor Oladipo. However, Oladipo’s season-ending quad injury leaves the Heat without many feasible options to space the floor, get to the rim, or defend on the perimeter at a high level.
With the Heat returning home to Miami, expect them to give the Bucks their best shot at home and be competitive.
However, Milwaukee is simply the better team, and its ability to surround Antentokounmpo with shooters puts Miami in a tough spot to either give up dunks or open 3s.
The Bucks have a handful of matchup advantages the Heat simply cannot solve with their current roster, and I love the value on the Bucks as just 1.5-point favorites (with value down to Bucks -4).
Pick: Bucks -1.5 (bet down to Bucks -4)