The 2021 NBA Finals are set to get underway Tuesday, with the Phoenix Suns hosting the Milwaukee Bucks.
For Milwaukee, it’s been a breakthrough postseason. After watching superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo win back-to-back MVP awards but failing to make the Finals, the Bucks finally have a spot in the championship series.
It’s been a surprising season for the Suns, who hadn’t previously made the playoffs since the 2009-10 campaign. It’s also been a coming-out party for budding star Devin Booker and a bit of a storybook run for Chris Paul, who despite 11 All-Star appearances, is on the cusp of appearing in his first Finals series.
“It was a lot excitement, a lot of emotion for myself, coach and the team,” Paul said of winning the Western Conference Finals, per Marc Berman of the New York Post. “Real-life stuff.”
Getting to this point is huge, but the Bucks and Suns now have to refocus on winning what should be a hard-fought—and entertaining—series. There will be plenty of action on the court for bettors to take in as well.
The Bucks still have talented players like Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez and Jrue Holiday, but without Antetokounmpo, a six-point line feels like a lot to overcome. Phoenix -6 feels like a fairly safe pick here—though it’ll be important to follow the injury report up to game time.
Khris Middleton Over/Under 27.5 Points
If Antetokounmpo can’t go, someone is going to have to step up for Milwaukee offensively. In the final two games of the Eastern Conference Finals, much of the responsibility fell on Middleton.
Middleton, a two-time All-Star, scored 26 and 32 points in Games 5 and 6, respectively.
DraftKings has the over/under for Middleton set at 27.5 points for Game 1. This is a fairly lofty line, but it’s not unrealistic. Putting Middleton at the center of a team-ball approach arguably gives Milwaukee its best chance at pulling off the upset.
Heading into gameday, the Suns are six-point favorites, likely for a couple of reasons. Phoenix is playing host, which should give the Suns a slight advantage. The Bucks could also play without Antetokounmpo, which puts them at a major disadvantage.
While Milwaukee was able to outlast the Atlanta Hawks with Antetokounmpo sidelined by a knee injury, beating Booker, Paul, Deandre Ayton and Co. will be an entirely different challenge. Just look at how the Los Angeles Lakers floundered against Phoenix when Anthony Davis went down.