NBA Playoffs Odds, Game 1 Preview, Prediction for Heat vs. Bucks: Can Jimmy Butler Spur Win in Milwaukee? (May 22)

NBA Playoffs Odds, Game 1 Preview, Prediction for Heat vs. Bucks: Can Jimmy Butler Spur Win in Milwaukee? (May 22) article feature image
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Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: immy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat.

  • The Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks meet for the second consecutive time in the NBA Playoffs Saturday afternoon.
  • As much as things have changed for the Bucks this season, there's a feeling they could be overpriced as 5-point betting favorites against the scrappy Heat.
  • Roberto Arguello explains why he likes the Heat to cover in a competitive Saturday matinee.

Heat vs. Bucks Game 1 Odds

Heat Odds +5
Bucks Odds -5
Moneyline +180 / -215
Over/Under 226.5
Time 2 p.m. ET
TV ESPN
Odds as of Saturday and via FanDuel.

The No. 6 seed Miami Heat face the No. 3 seed Milwaukee Bucks as an underdog Saturday afternoon in a rematch of last season’s thrilling five-game upset.

The Heat knocked off the Bucks as the fifth seed last year in the bubble before advancing all the way to The NBA Finals. The Bucks will look to prove that they have turned a corner against a team that exposed them with hot shooting.

Let’s take a look at both sides of this matchup to find some betting value in the season opener.

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The Miami Heat Have Been Waiting for the Playoffs

Much like last postseason, the Heat will need their shooters get hot and for Jimmy Butler to have a big playoff performance if they want the same result from the bubble.

The Bucks’ defense, similar to the Heat’s defense, is built upon forcing opponents to make shots outside the paint.

The Heat beat the Bucks last postseason by making enough shots with players like Goran Dragic, Duncan Robinson, and Jimmy Butler stepping up as shooters. Butler and Herro were especially great in that series, hitting 45.5% and 42.4% on their 3-point shots respectively.

To win again this season, the Heat will need Dragic and Tyler Herro to play efficiently as they run the bench unit while Robinson makes shots an efficient level to provide scoring and spacing. Herro

Butler has emphasized all season that the Heat have just needed to get into the postseason, and then he will do the rest. Win or lose, Butler should have his chance to decide this game. He is a relentless driver (he ranks 12th in the NBA in Drives per game), but will be forced to make more pull-ups than usual against the Bucks.


Have the Bucks Truly Turned the Corner?

If the Bucks hope to cover, and exact some revenge on the Heat, they will need to be efficient from the perimeter while having at least one of Jrue Holiday, or Khris Middleton step up alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo.

While the Bucks allow the third-fewest points in the paint per game (43.1), the Heat allow the fewest points in the paint per game (41.3), and the Bucks will need to be better from beyond the arc than they were last postseason to defeat the Heat.

The Bucks made significant changes to their roster to adjust to teams like the Heat building a wall to stop them as they replaced a good defensive player, but well-below-average shooter, Eric Bledsoe, with Jrue Holiday, who shot 39.2% on 3s while also playing elite defense.

The Bucks will need players like Holiday, Middleton, Bryn Forbes, Donte DiVincenzo, and Bobby Portis to step up and make shots from beyond the arc. The Bucks improved from being the 20th-best team from beyond the arc (35.9%) last season to sixth at 38.8% this season.

With the threat of Antetokounmpo’s elite athleticism and dunking ability, the Bucks’ shooters will have plenty of opportunities against this Heat defense to win the game. The Bucks will also need to take advantage of the Heat’s below-average defenders like Herro and Dragic through the pick-and-roll to dictate favorable matchups.

The Bucks’ defense, which ran mostly on a drop scheme last season, will need to mix up its looks against the Heat’s offense. Last year, the Bucks ran mostly a drop, and the Heat beat them by scheming in-rhythm perimeter shots that they made efficiently.

This year, the Bucks have switched their scheme defensively to prepare for this kind of moment where they can switch more often and prevent easier opportunities on 3s. However, defending the 3-point arc will be easier said than done against with an elite shooter like Robinson.

Heat-Bucks Pick

While the Bucks should be better than the Heat on paper with their improved shooting and defensive versatility, I like the value on the Heat as underdogs. The Heat will come out playing confidently and with something to prove after Bam Adebayo’s Defensive Player of the Year snub earlier this week. The Heat should be confident now that they face the Bucks for the first time this season with Butler in the lineup.

I expect Butler to regain that postseason dominance he displayed last year as the Heat keep the game close. The Heat will have key veterans like Dragic and Butler rested and ready to play while they step up alongside younger players like Herro, Kendrick Nunn, and Bam Adebayo, who have all been playing at a high level down the stretch of the regular season.

After their recent postseason failures to adjust their schemes, the Bucks have to prove that they can handle the Heat — I give the upper hand schematically to Eric Spoelstra and the Heat.

Heat +5 is my best bet of the game (bet down to +3.5), but I also like the value on the Heat to win outright at +180 (down to +150).

Pick: Heat +5 (bet down to +3.5)

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