Bucks vs. Nets Odds & Pick: Betting Value on Milwaukee in Game 2 (Monday, June 7)
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Giannis Antetokounmpo (center).
- The Bucks look to level their series against the Nets on Monday night in Game 2.
- Brooklyn will be without James Harden, while Milwaukee hopes to avoid the shooting woes that plagued it on Saturday.
- Brandon Anderson breaks down the betting value in the matchup, delivering his best bets for the game below.
Bucks vs. Nets Odds
|Moneyline||-120 / +100|
|Time||Monday, 7:30 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Monday afternoon and via BetMGM.|
Well, it took under one minute for the playoff series we waited all season for to be thrown into chaos. James Harden tweaked his right hamstring injury on Brooklyn’s first possession and limped straight to the locker room.
Just like that, mountains of pre-series analysis and picks went right out the window.
Harden missed 21 games due to the same injury and was ruled out for Game 2 on Sunday afternoon, which isn’t a great sign for his long-term outlook. This series does see two days off before Game 3 and two more before Game 4 since both teams won so quickly in the first round, so Harden could potentially get a full week off and still return for Game 4.
That does put a little more pressure on Milwaukee to win a game like this, knowing that it has some advantage with the Nets down their MVP candidate, for now. And unfortunately, that now means we’re down three of the 10 presumed starters — or at least closers — in this series, since Donte DiVincenzo and Jeff Green are both also out.
Bruce Brown started the second half without Harden, so he’ll be the presumed Harden replacement. P.J. Tucker was a surprise starter for Milwaukee with DiVincenzo out, and he played 28 minutes. Brooklyn also started Blake Griffin as its big man, and he had a throwback game and was huge in the Game 1 win.
The Nets looked completely out of sync early after the Harden injury, but the Bucks failed to take advantage and went far too deep into their bench. Milwaukee looked rusty and couldn’t hit a shot, while Brooklyn got big nights from its two healthy stars along with Griffin and Mike James. The Nets ended up winning relatively comfortably in a Game 1 that was hard to read much into.
So with Harden out — for at least one more game — how does the series reset and what can we learn from everything we saw in Game 1?
Let’s dig in.
Tucker was a surprise starter, with Milwaukee starting both of its presumed “centers” together. Tucker’s inclusion initially worked like a charm. He scored a few buckets early, including a corner 3-pointer, and was his usual pesky self in defense.
But Brooklyn adjusted quickly and sagged more and more off Tucker as the game went on, allowing his defender to help aggressively and play 5-on-4 in defense. Tucker finished a team-worst minus-13 on the night even after his positive early start.
Milwaukee went much deeper into its bench than most expected. Jeff Teague played 14 minutes, which appeared to be approximately 14 minutes too many, and Bobby Portis was quickly targeted defensively in his 17 minutes. The other two off the Bucks’ bench, Bryn Forbes and Pat Connaughton saw 22 and 20 minutes.
Many were surprised and frustrated to see the three Bucks stars limited to around 36 minutes apiece. That was in part due to Milwaukee calling off the dogs in the last few minutes, but Coach Bud’s rotations felt wonky in the moment, and he stood by them after the game.
The biggest problem for the Bucks in Game 1 was that Milwaukee just couldn’t hit a shot to save its life. The Bucks hit just 6-of-30 3-pointers, an ugly 20% mark that was even worse than that until a couple late meaningless makes. Milwaukee also made only 11-of-19 free throws (58%), with the three stars hitting just 2-of-8. It’s tough to win a game when you shoot that poorly. Khris Middleton was especially poor on both ends.
Of course, the upside is that Milwaukee is unlikely to shoot that poorly the rest of the series, especially against Brooklyn’s shoddy defense. Analyzing the Shot Quality reveals that the Bucks would have been expected to score 15 more points on 3s on an average shooting day, and that Middleton alone would’ve scored 14 more with average shooting luck. Instead, he finished with just 13 points on 6-of-23 shooting. Blech.
The Bucks scored 107 points in this game, but Shot Quality reveals that Milwaukee would have scored nearly 128 points with an average shooting day, and that the Bucks would have been expected to win 58% of the time based on historic shot data. That’s certainly an encouragement for a team that just couldn’t buy a shot.
The Nets looked to have a significant bench advantage coming into this game, and that showed itself true in Game 1 — even without Harden around to run the bench minutes. That’s a real worry for Milwaukee going forward.
Forbes and Portis are the only real scoring punch off the Bucks’ bench, and both will be hunted quickly on defense once they enter the game. Milwaukee needs to win the rare minutes without any of Brooklyn’s three stars, minutes which wouldn’t have been available if Harden were healthy.
One area the Bucks were successful in Game 1 was on the glass. Milwaukee grabbed 15 of its own misses — it certainly had plenty to try for — and that helped the Bucks keep some possessions alive and get a few easier looks near the rim when the outside shots weren’t falling. That’s not an anomaly. The Bucks need to continue to take advantage of their size and dominate the glass.
Milwaukee needs to be physical and strong in this series, to slow it down some and play “playoff basketball” and try to get physical with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Instead, it too often felt like the Bucks were playing Brooklyn ball, running up and down the court and settling quickly for good looks instead of working the poor Brooklyn defense and finding great looks. That led to missed shots and run outs in the other direction, and it meant that the Bucks played Brooklyn’s game.
Still, it’s way too early to give up on Milwaukee. The Bucks almost certainly won’t miss so many shots again, and the Nets aren’t likely to get outlier nights from so many role players. Both teams saw a letdown after the Harden injury. Now the Bucks have had time to adjust accordingly, and remember, the Bucks swept the Nets in early May in two games without Harden.
If you still believe in the Bucks, you’re getting +200 to win the series now, and that’s against a team that may or may not get Harden back.
So how will the Nets adjust without their third star?
Oddly enough, we actually have more data on the Nets without Harden than we do with them. Brooklyn has played 19 games this year with 0 Harden minutes and both Irving and Durant active. Some of those, of course, came early in the year before the Harden trade with a different roster, but what can we make of the data?
Per Killer Sports, the Nets went 10-9 in those Harden-less games with their other two stars playing. That includes an 8-10-1 record against the spread. The average total closed at 233.3, while the games finished with an average of 236.0 points, with nine overs, nine unders, and one push.
That record was boosted a good deal by games against non-playoff teams, though. Brooklyn was 6-1 in those games straight-up, but the Nets with KD and Kyrie but no Harden were only 4-8 against playoff teams and 3-9 ATS. That includes, of course, those two May games against the Bucks.
With no Harden, the pace is up in these games, since Harden tends to play more slowly and deliberately. In the two May Bucks games, the pace came out at 102.7, and both of these teams played their fastest pace of the postseason in Game 1. The Bucks won both second and fourth quarters in those May contests. Milwaukee won the two games by three and six, not exactly overwhelming at home, but the Nets shot 44% on 3s between the two games and lost anyway.
In Game 1 on Saturday, the Nets got a shockingly great game from Blake Griffin. He got the start and had 18 points, 14 rebounds, and three assists, looking lively on both ends and hitting four of five 3s. That performance is quite unlikely to repeat itself. Mike James surprisingly played over 30 minutes off the bench and had a big night himself with 12 points, seven rebounds, and three dimes. Nic Claxton was also a big positive off the bench with his energy and defense.
Still, Brooklyn is not exactly a deep team. Kyrie Irving played over 44 minutes in the Game 1 win, and Durant was over 40, even with both sitting out the final minutes. Griffin played 35 too. It’s hard to see Brooklyn sustain that level of play all series, especially at this pace. Bruce Brown played 21 minutes off the bench but will likely start Game 2, so he’s not even a bench option. Beyond him, it was just James, Claxton, and Shamet, with the latter two playing only 26 minutes combined. DeAndre Jordan was considered a possibility to start and defend Giannis Antetokounmpo, but he was the one Net who didn’t play a second.
The Nets typically keep KD and Kyrie together, which should mean some precious minutes with no stars and a pretty rough lineup. Milwaukee has to take advantage of that, and the Bucks did so in the regular season, winning both the second and fourth quarters in both May games. If Durant and Irving play all 12 minutes in the first and third, it may be wise to bet on the Bucks in the following quarters.
It’s fair to point out that Brooklyn’s offense actually underperformed a bit too. The Nets should have scored 123.5, not 115, by Shot Quality, and Brooklyn only got to the line nine times (and made all but one). The Bucks will be much better in Game 2, but the Nets might be a little better too. Remember how disjointed and disinterested the team looked early in Game 1.
I like two angles on this game, and you can choose to play either or both.
First, I like the over. Game 1 opened at an NBA postseason record 239.5 and finished well below that at 222, but remember all the missed shots! By Shot Quality, these teams would have been expected to score 250 points on an average shooting night in Game 1, easily covering the spread.
The books, though, have adjusted this line down, way down. It’s down to 233.5 as of Sunday evening, and that feels like an overreaction to Harden’s absence and the lower scoring Game 1. There’s still plenty of offensive firepower even without Harden, and remember, the Nets play faster without him.
I also like the Bucks to cover the 1.5 and win outright. It’s still early in the series, but this is an important opportunity for the Bucks to win a coin-flip type game on the road against a crippled team. Milwaukee can’t go down 0-2 in two games without Harden, needing to win four of five against this level of talent and with Harden still potentially returning later on.
The Bucks’ level of urgency should be high, which should lead to shorter rotations and more minutes for the Milwaukee stars (please, Bud!), and the Bucks are sure to shoot better in Game 2. I quite liked Milwaukee’s defensive organization and thought the Bucks were mostly getting better shots than the Nets in Game 1.
I actually picked the Nets to win the series in six heading in, but I like the Bucks more after what we saw in Game 1. The shots didn’t fall, but the Bucks answered a lot of the questions I had going in, and the biggest reason I liked Brooklyn was Harden — his advantage with the bench unit, his creation, and his ability to attack the Bucks defense. Without Harden, these Nets still resemble an AAU team at times. Harden is the one who unlocks their true greatness.
I’m looking to play some Milwaukee +200 to win the series, and I’m thinking about their Eastern Conference and title odds too.
And I like the Bucks to come out and get a statement win tonight. They’re the better, more talented team without Harden involved. I’ll play the Bucks +100 moneyline, and I may look to parlay it with the over 233.5 where books allow it.
This is the moment for the Bucks. It’s time for Milwaukee to step up.
Pick: Bucks ML +100 | Over 233.5