NBA Odds & Best Bets: Our 3 Top Picks & Predictions for Game 1 of Nets vs. Bucks (June 5)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images. Pictured: Giannis Antetokounmpo.
- Round 2 is officially upon us. Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks will face Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets in Game 1 of their NBA Playoffs series.
- Some are calling this series the real NBA Finals matchup, and it's setting up to be a good one.
- Our staff broke down three picks for Game 1, so check out each section of analysis below.
With the first round of the playoffs going smoothly for both the Bucks and Nets, they will now play a series against each other in what some consider the real NBA Finals matchup.
Check out each bet, and use the table below to navigate to any of the three.
NBA Odds & Picks
Nets vs. Bucks
Brandon Anderson: Welcome to the actual NBA Finals.
Anyone who tells you they know what will happen in this series is lying. We’ve only seen Brooklyn’s three stars play together for like 17 minutes so far this season, and we didn’t get to see them in any of the three games against Milwaukee.
Neither of these teams got much of a real first-round test, so this is really still a first rodeo for both of these teams at this level of playoff basketball — the Jrue Holiday version of the Bucks and the gestures wildly at everything version of the Nets.
I like the Bucks early in this series, and I think they have an excellent chance at stealing Game 1. The Bucks have a team identity. They know who they are, the pieces fit together, and they’re prepared for this moment. They showed us that in the first round with an impressive sweep over defending East champs, the thorn in Milwaukee’s side.
The Nets have come out slow repeatedly in the playoffs, and this team hasn’t really had its gut-check moment yet. They haven’t been pushed — not like these Bucks have pushed them. Brooklyn still feels like those KD Warriors used to feel — like they think they’re inevitable and can just flip the switch, score points, and win.
I think the Bucks get off to a fast start in this series and wake Brooklyn up a little bit. I think the Bucks can steal Game 1. Expect Giannis Antetokounmpo to have a monster series, and he and Milwaukee set the tone early with tough defense and a team that knows itself against one that doesn’t have answers yet on either end.
But I still trust the Nets to come up with those answers as the series goes on.
Brooklyn might have the best player in the series — the Nets might have the best two, in fact, and unless Giannis can be the clear top player in the series, it’s hard to see the Bucks winning. Brooklyn may have three of the four best players, too, if Kyrie Irving shows up like he can.
I also trust the Nets’ depth more. Jeff Green is a loss, but he’s one of five “big men” Brooklyn rotates through. Donte DiVincenzo is a bigger loss for the Bucks. It means a bad player in the starting lineup and it means Bryn Forbes, Pat Connaughton, or some other bad option on the court at all times. Expect KD, Kyrie, and James Harden to hunt.
The Nets just have so much offense and so many potential answers. Milwaukee is a good but not great defensive team. I think the Bucks slow the Nets down early but trust Harden and KD to find answers, and I trust Kyrie and Joe Harris to hit shots. I trust great, elite offense to win out and find a way once it has time to answer some questions this series.
At BetMGM, I can get +400 on the Bucks stealing Game 1 but the Nets coming back to win the series anyway. I’d be taking Milwaukee to cover or win anyway and still like Brooklyn, so this bet is a match made in heaven.
Nets vs. Bucks
Kenny Ducey: The Nets lost both meetings with the Bucks when these two teams last met in May, but this time, Brooklyn’s the decided favorite. While the Nets’ opening-round victory over the Celtics was certainly convincing, I don’t think they deserve to be favorites of this magnitude.
It’s true both of those meetings were in Milwaukee, and in the playoffs Brooklyn’s defense has looked a little bit better. With that said, the Bucks have the personnel to contain the Nets. When Milwaukee had Giannis Antetokounmpo guarding Kevin Durant in those two meetings, the Bucks could slow the Nets considerably on offense, and I expect to see more Giannis and less PJ Tucker on KD now that the stakes are incredibly high here.
We’re going to have to use our imagination to arrive at the answer as to what happens here given that Brooklyn’s decent defensive numbers (if you count a 115 defensive rating as decent) came against a Boston offense that ran out of ideas and Milwaukee’s defensive masterpiece was with a poor offense on the floor.
We should see a bit of both here, bringing this game to a close conclusion. I’m always going to side with the great defense given the Nets’ reliance on their offense and think the Bucks steal this one outright.
There’s also the issue of rebounding which we didn’t even talk about; Milwaukee had a 57% rebounding rate against a team that ranked in the bottom-10 in the stat during the season, and the Bucks will face a similarly poor rebounding team in Brooklyn.
Nets vs. Bucks
I reserve judgement on that, but it’s pretty clear that with the injury to Joel Embiid, these are the best two teams remaining in the Eastern Conference and whoever wins this series will likely represent the East in the Finals. I’m not willing to play anything on this series as of now, but I like the Bucks to cover +4 and win Game 1 outright.
For as much firepower as the Nets have with Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving, this is the ideal team for Giannis Antetokounmpo to face. Brooklyn lacks the rim protection and ability to build a wall, which has given Antetokounmpo problems in the 2019 ECF against the Raptors and the 2020 ECF semifinals against the Heat in the bubble.
There’s no Marc Gasol, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka, Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler or Jae Crowder walking through these doors.
Antetokounmpo is likely to be the best player on the floor in a series flooded with firepower, and he should be able to cut through the Nets defense like a hot knife through butter.
The Nets were 21st in Defensive Rating, allowing 113.7 points per 100 possessions in their non-garbage time minutes this season, and even in the playoffs against an anemic Celtics team missing Jaylen Brown, they still gave up 117.6 points per 100 possessions, which was 12th among all 16 eligible playoff teams.
This is not a good defense, and it will struggle against a Bucks team that is third in field goal percentage at the rim, shooting 67.8% from the field. In two of their three matchups, the Bucks outscored the Nets in the paint (44-30 and 48-32), so I expect that to continue here.
With the Bucks being so big, they’ll likely have to play DeAndre Jordan, which means the Nets will have another defensive liability on the floor in addition to Irving, Harden, Harris and Durant coming off an Achilles injury.
You can’t hide everyone.
The Bucks are also one of the better rebounding teams in this league, and they’re facing a Nets team that ranks dead last among teams in the playoffs and the play-in game in defensive rebound rating, rebounding just 65.7% of misses. That means the Bucks will get more second-chance opportunities to score. It doesn’t mean much to have more firepower when the opposing teams will get more chances to score the basketball. The Bucks are first in second-chance points during these playoffs, scoring 18.8 points per game, while the Nets rank 13th in opponent second-chance points (16).
More importantly, people forget, this Nets team has played just nine regular-season games and five playoff games together. Plus, a key role player in Jeff Green is hurt, which means they can’t play the “Green at center” lineups that were some of their best units all season. Green was also one of their best role players who could stretch the floor and defend.
Overall, I like the Bucks to come out strong in this series early, and they should steal one of these first few games on the road as the Nets are adjusting to a real playoff team.