Bucks vs. Nets NBA Playoffs Game 1: Market Forces

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Bucks vs. Nets NBA Playoffs Game 1: Market Forces
Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks drives to the basket. Eric Espada/Getty Images/AFP

Do the Milwaukee Bucks have enough of that small-market value to go in our NBA picks for Saturday’s opener versus the Brooklyn Nets?

Milwaukee Bucks vs. Brooklyn Nets

Saturday 5th June 2021 – 7:30 PM ET at Barclays Center

Now that we have that pesky first-round out of the way, we can get down to some real basketball. The Brooklyn Nets needed some real competition on their road to the title; they’re the +170 favorites for NBA odds board at press time, after brushing aside the Boston Celtics 4-1 SU and ATS, good thing we chose the right time to fade them. Maybe the Milwaukee Bucks will provide said competition this Saturday in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal.

Their chances are good, according to top sportsbooks. The Bucks were even more dominant in their first-round sweep of the Miami Heat, destroying last year’s Eastern champions in Games 2, 3 and 4. This sets up what might be the best series of the entire postseason. Brooklyn is favored, of course; they’re –200 on the series prices at Bovada (visit our Bovada Review), and the fine folks at YouWager (visit our YouWager Review) have the Nets at –4 on Saturday’s NBA lines after opening at –4.5. Looks like the sharps might be on Milwaukee for this matchup.

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Old-school handicappers would be delighted. As talented as they are, the Bucks (+170 to win this series, +600 to win the title) represent a regional fanbase that didn’t grow much after back-to-back playoff meltdowns. The Nets, on the other hand, have been the center of attention in the East since adding James Harden in midseason to form a mind-boggling Big Three alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Fans in the Big Apple may still prefer the New York Knicks, but the rest of the world has gone ape over Brooklyn.

Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets grabs a pass. Sarah Stier/Getty Images/AFP

Too bad that isn’t reflected more in the NBA odds for Game 1. FiveThirtyEight have the Nets winning this contest by four points, leaving zero room for profit on the NBA spreads. Maybe their projections are off, though. Jeff Sagarin at The USA Today has Milwaukee rated about a half-point ahead of Brooklyn, so even if you give the Nets 2.25 points for what should be a near-capacity crowd at Barclays Center, we’ve got the requisite 2-point cushion between the projections and the actual odds to put the Bucks in our NBA picks for a reasonable bet size.

Of course, the tricky thing with these projections is how dirty the data is. The Nets spent almost the entire regular season without all of their Big Three on the court at the same time – not to mention Blake Griffin (plus-0.6 BPM at Basketball Reference), who’s provided some useful minutes in a supporting role for his newest employers. The Bucks also didn’t get a full season from their most important players, two-time MVP Giannis Antentokounmpo and former All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday. Let’s stick with the old-school approach and ride with the Bucks in Game 1, but keep that bet small given the lack of support from the quants, and may the sphere be with you.

NBA Pick: Bucks +4 (–105) at Youwager

Bucks +4(-105)
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*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.