Bucks vs. Heat Odds & Picks: Don’t Trust Milwaukee in This Playoff Rematch (Tuesday, Dec. 29)
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks.
- The Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat will clash in a postseason rematch, but the Heat will be without Jimmy Butler.
- Can the Bucks capitalize on the revenge spot without the Heat's star player in the lineup?
- Brandon Anderson previews the odds and matchup, including why he's betting on the short-handed the Heat.
Bucks vs. Heat Odds
|Bucks Odds||-5.5 [BET NOW]|
|Heat Odds||+5.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||-220 / +180 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||222.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||7:30 p.m. ET|
The Milwaukee Bucks had this game circled on their calendars for months now. The last time the Bucks saw the Miami Heat was in the Eastern Conference semifinals when they were bounced out of the NBA playoffs in five games.
It was a shocking and embarrassing playoff exit for a team with the two-time MVP and the best record in the league (the Bucks were probably lucky the Clippers fell apart how they did a few days later and stole the spotlight).
Now the teams meet again in the first of a pair of back-to-back meetings. Will the Bucks exact some revenge, or is this just the wrong matchup for Milwaukee?
Just about everyone on the Bucks shoulders the loss to the Heat, as you would expect when a No. 1-seed nearly gets swept in the second round. Giannis Antetokounmpo was held to 21 points or fewer in all but one game, missed most of the final two games due to injury, and also missed a key late shot in Game 2 that sent the Bucks spiraling. Khris Middleton was bad, and Eric Bledsoe was miserable, and Mike Budenholzer couldn’t make an adjustment to save his life. It was all ugly.
That’s the good news, now, though. Antetokounmpo is healthy again, though Bam Adebayo is about as good as anyone on earth at defending hm. Middleton should play better. Bledsoe is gone, replaced by a much better option in Jrue Holiday. The Bucks aren’t as deep, and it’s not like we can expect any key adjustments from Budenholzer since that’s not exactly a thing he’s known for, but the Bucks’ key pieces should be better.
The Bucks will certainly need to play better than they have so far this season. They opened the season with a loss to the Boston Celtics — a game that the Bucks trailed by double digits for much of the second half, came all the way back, but saw Jayson Tatum hit a go-ahead 3-pointer in the final seconds and then Giannis miss a tying free throw. They were also blown off the court Sunday by the New York Knicks of all teams.
If the Bucks aren’t focused and ready for this game, especially after a puzzling loss to the Knicks and several long months to stew over their postseason ending at the hands of the Heat, then this team may have some deeper issues.
The best news for the Bucks comes on Miami’s injury report, and it’s the key piece of information that may turn this game: Jimmy Butler is doubtful with an ankle injury. His absence in this game cannot be overstated.
Andre Iguodala started for Butler last time out, and our NBA Insiders tool projects him to crack the starting lineup on Tuesday. He would likely get the assignment of guarding Middleton. That’s no picnic for Middleton on the offensive end, but there is a huge drop-off from Butler to Iguodala offensively as well — even more so for a team that doesn’t have a ton of offense to start with.
The Heat were always going to be a difficult matchup for the Bucks last in the postseason. They took and made a ton of 3-pointers, and that was key against a Bucks defense that is specifically designed to force opponents to let it rain from deep.
But this is not last season. The Heat rank 26th in the NBA in 3-point attempts through its two games, which puts them bottom five in the league. Part of that falls on additions like Avery Bradley and Moe Harkless, who have never been great shooters, in place of Jae Crowder’s big minutes, but we’ll see if there’s a bigger trend there.
Like the Bucks, the Heat will rely on defense, and probably even more so with Butler out. The Heat will want this to be a rock fight and hope they get enough 3s from Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro, and the likes to pull off another upset.
The Bucks went 2-6 against the Heat last season, including the playoffs and 59-16 against everyone else. Quite a difference there.
The Heat have the coaching edge here, and the Heat also have a real rest advantage, having not played since Christmas. And the Heat are playing at home, where they were absolutely dominant last season. It’s always hard to quantify those advantages, but they sure can stack up.
I like the Bucks far better big picture. I still have the Bucks as the clear No. 1-seed in the East again, and I predicted the Heat would be a fringe playoff team. But all of that is irrelevant for one game, and one bad matchup can doom any team. The Heat clearly have the Bucks’ number and a specific stylistic matchup that gives them problems.
But can they do it without Butler?
There’s a key game that gives us a nice clue, and it came on Aug. 6 in the seeding games, one of Bucks’ two wins against the Heat last season. It’s relevant because Butler sat out, while the Bucks played a normal rotation and got the win. But the Heat won the first quarter by nine points, and led by 17 at halftime. It took a big third quarter from the Bucks and a huge fourth-quarter comeback to get the win, even without Butler on the court.
I can’t in good conscience trust the Bucks to beat the Heat, not after everything we’ve seen in 2020, not after this team just gagged against the Knicks. Everything logical says the Bucks should win easily, with four of the five best players on the court. But logic hasn’t held in this matchup, and there’s just too much smoke here to not worry about a little fire.
I’m not confident in the Heat covering, so if they do cover, I want to make it worth my time. I’m going for the kill, another Miami win straight up at +180 on the moneyline. That’s an implied 35% chance of a Heat win, and I just can’t buy that number with everything we’ve seen.
Where there’s smoke there’s fire, and where there’s fire, there’s Heat. Is Milwaukee finally ready to handle the Heat?
Pick: Miami ML +180