NBA Playoffs Odds, Picks & Predictions (Tuesday, August 18): Magic vs. Bucks Game 1
Don Juan Moore/Getty Images. Pictured: Giannis Antetokounmpo and Aaron Gordon.
- The Milwaukee Bucks open the 2020 postseason facing the Orlando Magic Tuesday in the first of a quadruple-header of NBA playoff action.
- The Bucks are double-digit favorites entering today's matchup (-13.5) and the number could very likely go up before tip.
- See how Matt LaMarca plans to bet today's game and the series.
Magic vs. Bucks Game 1 Odds
|Magic Odds||+13.5 [BET NOW]|
|Bucks Odds||-13.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||+900/-1430 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||225.0 [BET NOW]|
|Time||1:30 p.m. ET|
The NBA playoffs got underway on Monday, and we have another four games on tap today.
Tuesday’s NBA action starts with the Milwaukee Bucks vs. the Orlando Magic at 1:30 p.m. ET. The Bucks have been the best team in basketball during the regular season, and they secured the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference early during the restart. The Magic might be the worst team in the playoffs after struggling to a 3-5 record in Orlando.
With that in mind, it’s not surprising that the Bucks are favored by 12 points. The total sits at 225 points.
Will the Bucks roll through this series, or can the Magic put up a fight? Let’s break it down and try to identify some betting value.
Expectations are high for Milwaukee heading into the postseason. The Bucks were arguably the best team in basketball last year but ultimately fell short against Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors. Leonard is now in the Western Conference, so anything less than a trip to the NBA Finals would have to be considered a disappointment for Milwaukee. The Bucks are listed as -167 favorites to win the Eastern Conference on DraftKings Sportsbook.
The Bucks followed up their excellent 2019 season with another dominant campaign in 2020. They finished first in the NBA with a Net Rating of +9.4 points per 100 possessions, which was significantly higher than the rest of the league. The gap between the Bucks and the Clippers – who finished second in Net Rating – was greater than the gap between the Clippers and Mavericks (who finished sixth).
Milwaukee was particularly dominant on the defensive end of the court. The Bucks allowed only 102.5 points per 100 possessions, and they did it by employing a unique strategy. Milwaukee encouraged opponents to shoot the ball from deep — particularly from 3-point range other than the corner. A whopping 30.7% of the shots they allowed were non-corner 3-pointers this season, which was the highest rate in the league (per Cleaning the Glass).
This defensive philosophy allowed them to pack the paint. They allowed just 29.1% of shots at the rim, which was the lowest mark in the league. Overall, they limited opponents to the lowest effective FG% (eFG%) in the league and the third-lowest expected eFG%.
Of course, it’s a lot easier to play defense when you have Giannis Antetokounmpo on your roster. Antetokounmpo is an incredible player in all facets of the game, but he is unquestionably the best defensive player in the league. The Bucks allowed just 98.6 points per 100 possessions with Giannis on the court this season, and he ranked first in the league in Defensive Win Shares (per Basketball Reference).
What ultimately makes the Bucks so scary in the playoffs is that they were so dominant during the regular season without pushing their star players. Giannis averaged just 30.4 minutes per game, and no one else on the roster averaged more than 29.9 minutes.
The Bucks starting-five of Giannis, Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, Wesley Matthews, and Brook Lopez posted a Net Rating of +18.8. That lineup should play more minutes together during the playoffs, which should strike fear into the hearts of their opponents.
The Magic couldn’t overtake the shorthanded Nets in the bubble, which is why they are stuck with a brutal first round matchup against the Bucks. Orlando finished the regular season ranked 19th in Net Rating, which is the worst mark among all playoff teams.
The Magic also enter the postseason with a couple of big injuries. Jonathan Isaac is out for the playoffs after tearing his ACL and meniscus, and Aaron Gordon is questionable. Michael Carter-Williams is also doubtful, which could leave the Magic without three rotation players.
The Gordon injury will be crucial for Game 1. He served as the primary defender on Giannis for long stretches during the regular season, and he did about as good of a job as possible. Gordon held Antetokounmpo to 38.1% shooting from the field on 21 attempts. If he’s unable to suit up, the Magic really have no one else they can deploy on Giannis to slow him down.
On offense, the Magic don’t really have much going for them in this matchup. They are not a particularly good 3-point shooting team: Orlando ranks 24th in non-corner 3-point shooting and 25th in 3-point shooting overall. So, the Magic are not well equipped to take advantage of Milwaukee’s weakness.
Orlando also ranks 27th in effective field goal percentage, so this is one of the weakest offensive teams in the league.
The Magic’s best chance of keeping this series competitive is by getting a few monster performances from Nikola Vucevic. That said, Brook Lopez did a pretty decent job against Vucevic during the regular season. He limited Vucevic to 43.8% shooting while serving as his primary defender, including just 20% from 3-point range.
Betting Analysis & Pick
Honestly, anything short of a Milwaukee sweep would be considered a disappointment in this series. The Bucks are way too good, and the Magic can’t exploit any of their limited weaknesses.
I think there is considerable value betting the Bucks to sweep at -150 at DraftKings. Those odds translate to an implied probability of roughly 60%, which I think is simply too low. The Bucks defense should smother the Magic offense, so Milwaukee arguably wouldn’t even need to bring its best offensive game to get the job done.
As for Game 1, the sharps appear to be happy to back the Bucks as large favorites. Milwaukee has received 68% of the bets, but those bets have accounted for 89% of the total money wagered. That’s a pretty large discrepancy between bets and dollars, which is typically an indicator of sharp activity.
Betting on No. 1 seeds in the first round has also historically been a profitable endeavor. Top seeds have gone 83-72-3 against the spread since 2006, which is good for a 53.5% cover rate. If we look at teams that were favored by at least eight points, the cover rate improves to 57.3%.
Considering those trends and the gulf in quality between these two teams, I have no problem laying the points with the Bucks.
- Bucks -12 (would play up to -13)
- Milwaukee to sweep series -150 (would play up to -175)