The Milwaukee Bucks try to even their best-of-seven second round series in Game 4 against the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday. Here’s a complete preview, including updated betting odds and NBA picks.
Brooklyn Nets vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Sunday, June 13, 2021 – 03:00 PM EDT at Fiserv Forum
The Nets opened as 2-point favorites at Unibet and over at FiveThirtyEight, they have the Bucks at -3. This leaves a massive 5-point gap between the projections and the actual NBA odds. We need at least two points between the projections and the lines before we lay any serious wood. Here we are getting more than enough.
FiveThirtyEight gives the Bucks a 63 percent chance to win. The equivalent moneyline is -170. For support, we turn to USA Today’s Jeff Sagarin’s projections; he has the Bucks at -0.86 using his Rating numbers, and the Nets at -0.10 using his eigenvector analysis. Is there some room to grab potential betting value with the Nets -1 at Bet365?
The Bucks Found a Way
The Bucks didn’t let the Nets get into rhythm in the first quarter, they slowed the game down offensively, got to the line and most importantly made their key shots. This is where James Harden (plus-13.2 Offensive Box Plus/Minus in the playoffs) is missed. Harden, who played just 43 seconds in the series opener because of a strained right hamstring, controls the tempo of games single-handedly.
Milwaukee played hard-nosed defense and slowed the game down in the half-court. This is the only way to compete with Brooklyn. You can’t play to their tempo. It paid off. It was the Khris Middleton and Giannis show as the two stars combined for 68 of the team’s 86 points. Middleton had 35 points and 15 rebounds and Antetokounmpo added 33 points and 14 rebounds, despite going just 1-for-8 (12.5 percent) from beyond the arc. No other Bucks player scored in double figures and the bench had just six points. It wasn’t ideal or pretty but the Bucks got the ‘W’ and they’re back in the series.
Offense = Defense for the Nets
A lot has been said about the Nets on defense but you have to understand that their offense is their defense. The Nets manipulate the flow and pace of a game with their offensive tempo and the Bucks have to keep up. Whoever plays Brooklyn ends up not playing defense, as their system is set up so they run the opposing team out the gym. The Nets turn games into a shootout with the hopes that they will score more efficiently than their opponent. The downfall is that the other team’s scorers can get hot.
A great offense like Brooklyn’s not only can deflate a great defense like Milwaukee’s, but it also shakes up their offense. The opponents go back with nerves and fear and shock from what just happened defensively. They know if they miss here, it will happen again. Remember that basketball is about who makes more shots and, in the playoffs that element is literal. Once again it will come down to whether the Bucks can slow the game down or trade baskets with the Nets!
Khris Middleton has to been the Bucks’ go-to player again. Jrue Holiday (plus-0.8 Offensive Box Plus/Minus in the playoffs) was a good addition to this team because he can also go get a basket when needed but Middleton is the closer. That said, even with the win I wasn’t impressed with the Bucks and it’s hard to see them winning this series. I actually like the Nets on Sunday!
Joe Harris had an awful game on Thursday with just three points on 1 of 11 shooting and 1 of 7 from beyond the arc in 37 minutes and the Nets still lost by just three points. Harris will play much better in Game 4 and Kyrie Irving is also due for positive regression from 3-point range after making just two of his eight attempts in Game 3. The Nets also need more from their bench, as Landry Shamet, Mike James and Nicolas Claxton combined for just seven points. It’s actually remarkable that this team almost won Game 3 with no help from their reserves. This has to change on Sunday and I just don’t expect Harris and Shamet going a combined 2-for-10 from 3-point range again.
NBA Pick: Nets -1 (-115) at Bet365