Heat vs Bucks Odds, Prediction, Picks | NBA Playoffs Game 1 Betting Preview (April 16)

Heat vs Bucks Odds, Prediction, Picks | NBA Playoffs Game 1 Betting Preview (April 16) article feature image

John Fisher/Getty Images. Pictured: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks.

  • The Milwaukee Bucks are heavy home favorites (Point spread: Bucks -9.5) against the Miami Heat in their NBA Playoffs series opener Sunday.
  • The Heat beat the Bucks in the bubble, but the Bucks eliminated the Heat in the 2021 playoffs. Which side has the edge this postseason?
  • Chris Baker has the NBA Playoffs Game 1 betting preview and shares his pick below.

Heat vs Bucks Odds

Heat Odds+9.5
Bucks Odds-9.5
Time5:30 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

It seems like every year we're doing a Heat vs. Bucks betting preview in the NBA playoffs, and here we are again.

The Heat will be playing at a severe rest disadvantage after earning a gritty home-win over the Bulls to clinch the No. 8 seed. Will fatigue affect the Heat here? Or will the Bucks starters come out rusty after not playing for the past 10 days?

Let’s examine where we can find value in this Game 1.

Miami Heat

The Heat actually split the regular-season series, but their first two wins were against a Bucks team missing Giannis Antetokounmpo. Their two most recent games against Milwaukee were far more representative of how these teams should look in terms of lineups/rotations. Both of those were sizable losses, but you can make a case this is the healthiest the Heat have been all season.

The big problem for the Heat offense will be the fact that they won’t be able to win the “math” game at all. This was evident in those two recent head-to-head matchups, during which the Heat took fewer than 60% of their shots from the 3-point line or at the rim. Having Brook Lopez in drop and Antetokounmpo often serve as the low-man essentially eliminates any looks at the rim for Miami.

Bam Adebayo will be key in this series since he'll have to make outstanding decisions off of the catch and short roll. He needs to be wise enough to know when he has space to shoot over Lopez, but also savvy enough to move the ball quickly to shooters when it isn’t there.

The problem with the Bucks and the reason they are so scary is because they also eliminate the 3-pointer extremely well. Unlike the Heat defense, which ranks 29th in 3-point attempt rate allowed and fourth in rim rate, the Bucks rank in the top five in both rim attempt rate (third) and 3-point attempt rate (fifth).

Milwaukee is also first in the NBA at limiting the sacred corner 3-pointer. That is terrifyingly elite, and the Heat just aren’t going to be able to defeat the Bucks fundamental scheme in my opinion.

Consequently, Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro will have to be lights out with their mid-range games when they get to their spots. The Heat will also need Max Strus to play like the Max Strus we saw against the Bulls on Friday night.

We might get elite shooting from the Heat in a few games, but I wouldn’t bet on it being sustainable throughout seven games. Miami’s offense ranked 25th in effective field goal percentage this year (53.1%). The Heat's inability to make shots is the primary reason they are were in the play-in tournament. This just isn’t a very talented team, and Erik Spoelstra and Butler can only carry them so far.

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Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks are deservedly favorites to win the NBA finals since they're easily the most talented team in the NBA, in my opinion. Milwaukee is extremely deep and filled with guys who have championship rings or serious playoff experience. They are analytically sound, limiting shots at the rim and beyond the arc on defense, and they're offensively sound, ranking fourth in 3-point attempt rate on that end.

The Bucks have gotten deeper year over year, while Brook Lopez and Jrue Holiday made unbelievable individual leaps this season. Lopez deserves to be Defensive Player of the Year, while Holiday is one of the best point-of-attack defenders in the NBA.

Milwaukee's point guard also made offensive leaps this season. Holiday was fourth in offensive rating swing (+7.6) this season, and he also was an above-average shooter from every area of the floor.

Between those two, Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, I think the Bucks legitimately have four top-35 players in the NBA. That's ridiculously unprecedented outside of Golden State during the Kevin Durant years.

Focusing on this series, the Heat will prioritize taking away the rim, transition and second chances so the Bucks role players will have to be on point from 3-point range. The Bucks are going to get plenty of 3s as the Heat build walls against Antetokounmpo. If Milwaukee hits 3s at just an average rate, it will probably be wraps for Miami. The Bucks have plenty of spacers and ranked ninth in 3-point accuracy this season, so I don’t think this will be an issue across a seven-game series.

That being said, we have seen the Bucks completely vomit on themselves from 3 in a playoff run before, but they still managed to win an NBA finals that year, a testament to how many ways this team can beat you.

Heat-Bucks Pick

Focusing on Game 1, it’s difficult to pick a side here since I'm right in line with the spread. That being said, if you were looking for the game when the Heat may hold value, your best bet might be Game 1. The Bucks haven’t played in two weeks, and I'd anticipate their being some rust early in the first half.

My personal best bet for this game will be the over.

The Heat offense has improved slightly, but veterans like Kyle Lowry and Kevin Love are massive negatives on the defensive end at this point in their careers. Combine that with Strus and Herro on the floor, and you get a lot of mismatches and advantages for the Bucks offense.

On the other end of the court, I think we could see the Heat have a bit more rhythm given how active they've been with the play-in tournament. Miami should start hot as the Bucks shake off some of their rust from their long break.

Additionally, I expect the Bucks to look to play fast as they have all season long and press their “math” advantage by increasing the number of possessions in the game.

Take the over 218.5 and play this up to 219.5.

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