NBA Finals Series Bets: Our Staff’s 4 Mid-Series Picks Ahead of Game 5
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks vs. the Phoenix Suns during Game 4 of the 2021 NBA Finals.
The Suns looked unstoppable in Games 1 and 2 and got contributions from everywhere on their roster. The Bucks came back in Games 3 and 4 behind otherworldly play from Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Game 5 can often decide the series, and there is no better opportunity to capitalize on series props than a when a matchup is tied 2-2. Our NBA analysts are eyeing four series bets entering Saturday’s matchup. You can read their analysis and picks below.
NBA Finals Series Odds & Picks
NBA Finals 3-point Leader
Joe Dellera: Middleton (+175) and Jae Crowder (+200) are both sitting with 12 made 3’s on the series, while Devin Booker has nine (+750).
There is a field bet listed at +400 on DraftKings, but based on the players available, the field is basically just Pat Connaughton (11) or Cameron Johnson (7) and those odds for those players isn’t something I want to get involved with.
This is a three man race between Middleton, Crowder, and Booker. I’d rule Crowder out simply based on attempts. He’s only taken 26 compared to 33 and 30 from Middleton and Booker respectively. If Crowder does not continue to shoot 46.2% from behind the arc the opportunities are not there for him to take home this crown.
That leaves Booker and Middleton. Booker needs four more 3s than Middleton over two or three games. That is a tough task considering he’s averaging just 2.1 3-pointers made throughout the playoffs while Middleton is averaging 2.7 and takes more 3s than Booker.
The Suns will continue to try and keep Giannis Antetokounmpo out of the paint, which should open up more opportunities for Middleton. In Game 4, Middleton drained 3-of-8 from 3-point range and the fewest attempts he has had in any game was six.
With the lead Middleton has, I’m comfortable taking the favorite at plus money.
NBA Finals MVP
His argument was that a Bucks series win would surely leave Giannis Antetokounmpo as the Finals MVP due to his dominance and the narrative of his injury return, while a Suns win would crown Chris Paul as the legacy and career accomplishment pick. Plus, you know, those are the best players on each team.
I liked the argument, but at the time, CP3 didn’t have good enough odds to play. That has changed now after Paul had a rough go of it in Game 4 while Devin Booker went off for 42. Booker actually moved to Finals MVP favorite at BetMGM live in game before dropping back to third favorite, just behind Paul, but I still think this award is Paul’s to lose if the Suns win.
But it’s not just because of the legacy thing. As we discussed on our Action Network NBA podcast, I actually like the Bucks better than the Suns right now on a neutral court. Their best player has been far better than Phoenix’s best player — whether CP3 or Booker.
But Phoenix still gets two of three games at home, if we get there, and we know a home Game 7 is a massive advantage to the home team. That means I have to take the Suns seriously, but I can’t talk myself into them at -150, an implied 60% chance of winning. I’d put it closer to a coin flip right now, with the home court advantage evened out by the Bucks having the best player and playing a little better overall.
However, I think the only way the Suns actually win two games and take the Finals home is if Paul actually plays better, if he actually plays like the deserving Finals MVP and not just the legacy one. Phoenix can’t win two more games like Game 4, with CP3 struggling and Booker doing all the scoring. If that’s the Suns we get, Milwaukee will win the series.
If the Suns do win this title, I think it has to involve Paul playing at a high level, high enough to make him Finals MVP in that scenario. And since we can play that angle at +190, an implied 34%, that means I’m now getting 2-1 odds on what I essentially feel is just the Suns to win the series. Even if I like the Bucks just a little better straight up, I have to take those odds and see if the Point God can come through.
NBA Finals Series Score
Austin Wang: I’ve been bullish on the Suns the entire season and I think they can take care of business with a Game 5 win at home. The popular belief is that this series will go seven games, but I see value in getting 3-to-1 odds on the Suns winning the series in six games.
Chris Paul has had a long, illustrious 16-year career. But, let’s be honest: as much leadership and intelligence he brings to the table, there’s equal parts competitive pettiness. How much glory would he derive from winning his first NBA championship on the opponent’s home court and gloating in enemy territory? I can imagine him salivating at the thought right now.
The current odds of +300 are based off the Game 5 price of Suns -175 and an assumed price of Suns +155 in Game 6. If the Suns win Game 5, I make the Game 6 fair price cheaper than those +155 odds.
I think the Suns’ leadership, coaching, success on the road and CP3’s pettiness factor all give the Suns an additional edge and make this closer to Suns +122 (45% implied probability) in a potential close-out Game 6.
Game 5 Winner/Series Winner
Raheem Palmer: I’m normally conservative when it comes to props like this. Typically I’d opt to play the Suns in Game 5 and give myself an opportunity to think things through before placing a bet down on the Bucks to win the series.
The Bucks are in prime position to win the NBA title entering this game. Their dominance inside the paint has allowed them to generate more free throws as well as crash the offensive glass, plus they have the ability to force the Suns into turnovers.
The Suns are shooting a higher percentage to no one’s surprise — Mike Budenholzer’s Bucks struggle to consistently hit shots during the playoffs — but what stands out is that the Bucks are dominating every other area of the four factors.
They’re forcing more turnovers (12.3% to 8.1%), they’re dominating on the offensive glass (29.8% to 17.6%) and they have more free throw attempts (94-75). The Bucks have proven that they can win ugly games, which is what we’ll see in Game 7 if both teams continue to hold serve at home in Games 5 and 6.
Although I initially liked the Suns to win this series as I believed they had the edge in clutch situations, Game 4 taught me that my assumption was wrong.
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s limited offensive arsenal makes him somewhat of a liability as a No. 1 option in the clutch, but Khris Middleton has proven he can hit tough mid-range jump shots when necessary. The Bucks are the better clutch team, I can’t deny it.
On the other side, Monty Williams didn’t handle clutch situations well in Game 4 — he kept Devin Booker on the bench with five fouls for a chunk of the fourth quarter essentially fouling out his own player. His decision not to use his challenges to reverse calls that may have given Phoenix the ball in addition to him not calling timeouts to set up the 2-for-1 or call plays when down by two were also poor choices in hindsight.
The Suns are still a young team outside of Chris Paul and Jae Crowder. As a whole, this team doesn’t have much playoff experience and hasn’t faced any adversity throughout this postseason.
The Bucks have faced disappointment year after year, finishing with the best record in the league the past two seasons and getting bounced out early. But this season, they aren’t folding the way they had in the past.
While it would be nice to see Paul get his first championship ring, it feels like this story ends in tragic fashion just like the last time an MVP caliber player in Charles Barkley was traded to the Phoenix Suns.
We all love a good point guard, but in the playoffs, basketball is a big man’s game. While Paul is wearing down from the pressure from Jrue Holiday, the Suns have no answer for Antetokounmpo.
You can play this prop now or wait for the Suns to win Game 5, but the Bucks should find a way to win this series.