Thursday NBA Odds & Pick for Bucks vs. Heat: Can Giannis Antetokounmpo Will Milwaukee to Win?
Justin Casterline/Getty Images. Pictured: Giannis Antetokounmpo
- The Milwaukee Bucks will face the Miami Heat on Thursday night (8 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass).
- The Bucks stomped the Nets in their season opener after raising their championship banner, but will be missing a few key pieces due to injury tonight, including Jrue Holliday and Brook Lopez.
- See how we're betting Bucks vs. Heat below.
Updated Bucks vs. Heat Odds
Editor’s note: This story was published before Jrue Holliday and Brook Lopez were ruled out for the Bucks, and has been updated since, including our betting angle.
|Time||8 p.m. ET|
|TV||NBA League Pass|
The Miami Heat tip off their NBA season by hosting the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night.
The Bucks began their bid to repeat by knocking off the Nets, 127-104, in their season opener on Tuesday night. Giannis Antetokounmpo picked up where he left off in The Finals by posting team highs in points (32), rebounds (14), and assists (seven) in the win.
The Heat upset the top-seeded Bucks in the second round of the 2020 playoffs in the bubble, but after the Bucks added Jrue Holiday, they swept the Heat in the first round of the 2021 playoffs.
This season the Heat have added a point guard of their own with the signing of Kyle Lowry in free agency. Will the addition of Lowry be enough to lift the Heat over the Bucks on Thursday night? Let’s find out as the Bucks are a short two-point road favorite.
If the Bucks win and cover as road favorites, it will be because Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo have huge nights while players like Grayson Allen and Pat Connaughton shoot efficiently from beyond the arc.
The Bucks have a long injury report as Jrue Holiday (heel), Brook Lopez (back) Donte DiVincenzo (ankle), Bobby Portis (hamstring), Semi Ojeleye (calf), and Rodney Hood (foot) are all out.
With Holiday, Lopez, DiVincenzo, and Portis out, the Bucks will be without their third, fourth, fifth, and sixth leading scorers from last season. Pair this with the fact that Bryn Forbes is no longer on the roster, and the Bucks have just two players who scored more than seven points per game last season: Antetokounmpo and Middleton.
Middleton is the Bucks’ best scorer from the midrange and beyond the arc, and he will need to take advantage of the open looks that he will get when the Heat go all out to stop Antetokounmpo from getting easier looks at the rim.
If this is a close game late, like Game 1 of the playoff series between these teams last year, Middleton will need to hit clutch shots for the Bucks to escape what should be a rocking atmosphere in Miami.
KHRIS MIDDLETON BEATS THE HEAT 🔥 pic.twitter.com/dPR8CeJqHq
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 22, 2021
In their four playoff games against the Heat last season, the Bucks outrebounded the Heat by an average of 16.75 rebounds per game, but they will need to make threes in this game to make up for their lack of size and depth inside.
The Bucks will need to weather the storm when Antetokounmpo checks out as the Bucks only have one other center or power forward available: rookie power forward Sandro Mamukelashvili.
If the Heat pull off the upset, they will need Kyle Lowry to have a big game in his Heat debut while shooters Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro score efficiently from beyond the arc. The Heat’s injury report is much shorter than that of the Bucks as Victor Oladipo (quadriceps) is the only player listed as he remains out indefinitely.
Kyle Lowry’s debut is the most interesting part of this game for me. The Heat didn’t have a true point guard last year, and with their two best players, Jimmy Butler and Adebayo, not being above-average three-point shooters, the Heat will need Lowry to set them up in advantageous positions.
In the preseason, Lowry has made it a priority to push the ball in transition so that the Heat’s athletic and savvy playmakers can get easier buckets without facing a set defense.
This will be important against a Bucks defense that likes to pack the paint and will likely force Butler and Adebayo to become jump-shooters as much as possible in the halfcourt. However, without Lopez available, expect the Bucks to switch much more often than they otherwise would at full strength.
The addition of Lowry is also significant because it means that the Heat won’t need to run their offense through Adebayo at the elbow by using as many dribble handoffs as last year. Lowry’s presence as both a quality shooter and shot creator means that the Heat can get the ball to Adebayo with more spacing so that he can utilize his freakish size, explosiveness, and touch to score more easily than settling for pull ups from the elbow.
For more on how Lowry’s addition affects Adebayo’s role offensively, check out this breakdown from Brady Hawk of Five Reasons Sports.
Robinson, Herro, and even Max Strus should also benefit from Lowry’s addition into the offense, and their shooting will be key against a Bucks defense that wants to force jumpshots.
Last season, the Bucks allowed the most non-corner three-point attempts last season (30.6% of opponent shots) and the most long midrange shot attempts (13.2% of opponent shots) in the NBA, per Cleaning The Glass. With Goran Dragic and Kendrick Nunn gone, the Heat will need Herro and other shooters to step up in the midrange as well as beyond the arc.
Expect this game to have the physicality and intensity of a postseason game as the Heat were eliminated at home against a very similar Bucks team to end last season. However, the Bucks have been decimated by injuries as they are without two key starters in Holiday and Lopez while they also have just two frontcourt players available.
The Heat didn’t have a strong point-of-attack defense against the Bucks last season, and this led to some over-switching and Bucks bigs matched up against smaller Heat players when fighting for rebounds. This time around, the Heat will be the bigger team, and the Bucks will likely switch much more than they are used to without Lopez anchoring the drop (and also Holiday running over screens).
The Bucks will also switch heavily when Antetokounmpo is off the floor. If this was a playoff game, I would expect Antetokounmpo to play about 40 minutes given the lack of depth around him in the frontcourt, but with this being just the second game of the season, there is no need to play him that much, especially considering the other injuries this Bucks team is already dealing with.
Expect the Heat to come out guns blazing in a revenge game against this depleted Bucks team. The addition of Lowry will help the Heat get some easy looks in transition, and Butler and Adebayo will take advantage of the Bucks’ switching defense by getting mismatches that will lead to buckets or free throws.
The Bucks will need a superhuman effort from Antetokounmpo and Middleton to win or cover, and although this is very possible, this feels like an unlikely spot for that to happen against a Heat team that will be able to focus its defensive efforts on those two with the other leading scorers for the Bucks out.
Confidently take the Heat at -2 with value down to -4.5 against the shorthanded Bucks for one unit. If you want a little more action than just one unit, I recommend a live bet on the spread or moneyline (only at a better number than you bought pregame) when Antetokounmpo goes to the bench for the first time.
Pick: Heat -2 (bet to -4.5)
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