NBA Finals 2021: Bucks vs. Suns Game 1 Vegas Odds, Prop Bets and Predictions

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.


Naomi Osaka’s Complicated Withdrawal from the French Open

After Naomi Osaka hit a backhand winner on match point to defeat Patricia Maria Țig in the first round of the French Open, on Sunday, she smiled as she lowered her head, and then tugged her gray visor down. These were familiar gestures; I’ve seen her half-hide her smile countless times. The following day, after she announced that she would be withdrawing from the French Open for the sake of “the tournament, the other players and my wellbeing,” five tumultuous days after announcing that she would not be speaking to the press during the tournament, my mind went to that moment, the last time that I had watched her. Then I thought of the first time I’d watched Osaka pull her visor over her eyes.

It happened in 2018, during the U.S. Open trophy presentation, after a match marred by controversy surrounding a confrontation between Serena Williams and the umpire. The crowd, which had been on Williams’s side, booed as Osaka was named the champion. Osaka cried, and tried to hide her face. She was twenty years old then, already launched into a life that everyone could see and that no one could possibly imagine. Over the next three years, Osaka won three more Grand Slams, and the publicity surrounding her career and her life grew even more intense. Her image was on the cover of Vogue and on billboards towering over Los Angeles and Tokyo. She became an icon, and she did iconic things. She helped design sneakers for Nike, a salad for Sweetgreen. In May, Sportico estimated that she had earned more than fifty million dollars during the previous year, which made her the highest-paid female athlete in history, breaking her own record. A recent Times feature about her ran under the headline “How Naomi Osaka Became Everyone’s Favorite Spokesmodel.”

She was famous only partly because she was so good at tennis. It mattered also that she was young, that she was Japanese and American, Black and Asian. It mattered that she spoke about her values and seemed to live by them. It also mattered that she was very good with the press—eloquent about social issues, smart about the game, disarmingly funny about the rest. Most of these exchanges have come in press conferences. (She occasionally gives other interviews, some of them to a Japanese broadcasting company called Wowow, which sponsors her.) Press conferences, as a rule, are tedious and outdated. Nobody really likes them—not reporters, who would prefer to speak to athletes privately and at length, and not players, who are asked the same questions repeatedly, sometimes by people whose main motivation is to encourage controversy. Press conferences can seem particularly pointless to players who don’t need the press to promote themselves or reach their fans, which they can do more efficiently, and perhaps more effectively, through social media. The press, particularly at the Grand Slams, can include people who are not well versed in tennis; tabloid reporters; and, not infrequently, people who ask ham-handed and offensive questions, particularly of Black women. Just the other day, a reporter who wanted to get a quote from the seventeen-year-old star Coco Gauff about the possibility of playing Serena Williams began by saying, “You are often compared to the Williams sisters. Maybe it’s because you’re Black. But I guess it’s because you’re talented and maybe American, too.”

Press conferences also typically offer reporters their only chance to ask players questions on any subject, including difficult ones. Without press conferences, it seems quite possible that Alexander Zverev would not have been asked about the allegations of domestic violence against him. Without press conferences, reporters might get to talk to players only under terms established by the brands that sponsor them, or in exchanges that are heavily mediated by layers of managers and agents. And, for all of their obvious problems and weaknesses, press conferences do sometimes yield original insights into both the technical aspects of matches and the people who play them. That often seemed particularly true when Osaka walked into the room—until she declared that she would stay out.

When Osaka first announced that she would not speak to the press during the French Open, she explained that her experience with press conferences had led her to the conclusion that many people have no regard for the mental health of athletes, and that this needed to change. “If the organizations think that they can just keep saying ‘do press or you’re gonna be fined,’ and continue to ignore the mental health of the athletes that are the centerpiece of their cooperation then I just gotta laugh,” she wrote. She also spoke of wanting to avoid having “doubt” seeded in her mind—“I’m just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me,” she wrote—leading some to wonder whether she was trying to insulate herself from negativity in order to maintain her focus. A bad loss at the Miami Open had snapped a long winning streak, and Osaka had then been upset in both Madrid and Rome; on Reddit, her older sister, Mari, in a post she later deleted, suggested that Osaka simply didn’t want to be distracted or have her self-confidence damaged. Osaka’s statement was fairly general, and people interpreted it according to their own assumptions about what was really going on. To some, Osaka was speaking her truth about an oppressive system. To others, she was refusing to accept the responsibilities that come with a lucrative career. Her fellow-players, almost to a person, took a more nuanced view: when asked about her stance, they said that they respected Osaka but understood the need for exposure, and that talking to the press was part of their job.

Road To Restart

ORLANDO, Fla. — With over 350 players on 22 teams gathered in one city and at one theme park that’s been magically transformed into one basketball ecosystem, everyone’s asking one question today:

How did we get here?

The orange basketball has taken its share of strange bounces throughout the 74-season history of the NBA, none loopier than the series of ricochets that began last fall and will continue into this fall. The crowning of the next NBA champion, therefore, will elicit a pair of celebrations — one of joy for the victors, one of relief for the league’s improbable journey.

The restart of the 2019-20 season, which endured a four-month pause caused by coronavirus, will officially launch Thursday evening inside a pair of small gyms at Walt Disney’s Wide World of Sports. Normally occupied by youth sports teams that flock to Disney in summertime, they’ve been tricked out to specifically meet the new requirements for a new world and what the NBA is marketing as a Whole New Game.

And so, sometime in early October, the Larry O’Brien Trophy will be hoisted in a place without fans, little fanfare and by players who’ll be excused for violating the social distance rule in order to give each other much-needed hugs.

“I’m excited about giving the world something to be excited about,” Rockets star James Harden said. “Just some joy and something to look forward to.”

If the end-game seems complicated, the starting line was rather mundane back in late September, shortly after training camps started.

‘A difficult year’

Amazingly, what passed for “news” then was a short-lived rap feud between Blazers star Damian Lillard and retired Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal. Imagine if the only wreckage in the 2019-20 season was confined to lyrics and a diss track.

Instead, drama and headlines only intensified from there. The league found itself in a social bind when Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for Hong Kong while his team and others toured China for exhibition games. Because the NBA and a handful of stars have business ties with China, commissioner Adam Silver had to stomp brush fires while also toeing the line for free speech, which is encouraged within the NBA. Silver later admitted the entire episode cost the NBA hundreds of millions in revenue and placed future China trips and business dealings in jeopardy.

And that was only the start of a big money drip.

When the season began, it did so without a precocious and much-celebrated No. 1 draft pick. Zion Williamson had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and skipped the first three months, denying the NBA and its TV partners a rookie whose sizzle didn’t arrive until he made his debut in mid-January, better late than never.

Other injuries combined to thwart a fully functional league: Stephen Curry, Paul George, Joel Embiid, Kyrie Irving, Blake Griffin and also Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, both done for the season following surgery last summer.

MORE ON THIS STORY:https://www.nba.com/article/2020/07/30/nba-restart-2019-20

Lonzo Ball Flops and Jayson Tatum Shows Out in Amiri | Tunnel Takedown

On the latest “Tunnel Takedown,” hosts Racks Hogan, Kalysse Anthony and Mouse Jones put Jayson Tatum and Chris Paul head-to-head for the week’s best. Then, Stylist and correspondent Derek Roche does a deep dive on the ongoing luxury sneaker trend. Plus, Lonzo Ball gets roasted and we break down how to get Jeff Green’s extremely expensive look for less. COP THE FIT Air Jordan 1 “Travis Scott”: https://fave.co/2F8jRZM Air Jordan 1 “Turbo Green”: http://bit.ly/2u6IGia Amiri Ombre Plaid Flannel Long-Sleeve Shirt: http://bit.ly/2T89KHY ASOS DESIGN Two-Piece Oversized Velour T-shirt: https://fave.co/2u6fUhQ ASOS DESIGN Mini Fisherman Black Beanie: https://fave.co/2F9eSbc Balenciaga Black Race Runner Sneakers: https://fave.co/2VQON6a Champion Reverse Weave Pullover Hoodie: https://fave.co/2W2jTYR Converse Off-White Chuck 70 Low Sneakers: https://fave.co/2u2pMcx Levi 512™ Slim Taper Fit Stretch Jeans: https://fave.co/2F9aety Saint Laurent Pink Rive Gauche Logo T-Shirt: https://fave.co/2HvjiKX Saint Laurent Red Wool Teddy Bomber Jacket: https://fave.co/2HtqQxT Subscribe to Complex on YouTube: https://goo.gl/43ac5w Check out more of Complex here: http://www.complex.comhttps://twitter.com/Complexhttps://www.facebook.com/complexhttp://instagram.com/complexhttps://plus.google.com/+complex/ COMPLEX is a community of creators and curators, armed with the Internet, committed to surfacing and sharing the voices and conversations that define our new America. Our videos exemplify convergence culture, exploring topics that include music, sneakers, style, sports and pop culture through original shows and Complex News segments. Featuring your favorite celebrities, authoritative commentary, and a unique voice, our videos make culture pop.

Gladys Knight, Ahead of Super Bowl Anthem Date, Criticizes Colin Kaepernick

The soul singer Gladys Knight, who will be singing the national anthem at this year’s Super Bowl in Atlanta, seemed to criticize Colin Kaepernick in a statement published by Variety on Friday.

Kaepernick is the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback whose refusal to stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner” — and decision to kneel instead — to protest police brutality has made him a divisive figure nationwide, earning him praise from civil rights groups, but scorn from many conservatives, including President Trump.

“I understand that Mr. Kaepernick is protesting two things, and they are police violence and injustice,” Knight wrote to Variety. “It is unfortunate that our national anthem has been dragged into this debate when the distinctive senses of the national anthem and fighting for justice should each stand alone.”

The statement continued: “I am here today and on Sunday, Feb. 3, to give the anthem back its voice, to stand for that historic choice of words, the way it unites us when we hear it and to free it from the same prejudices and struggles I have fought long and hard for all my life.”

This is the latest twist at the intersection of politics, sports and music that has surrounded this year’s Super Bowl. Kaepernick is still in the middle of an ongoing arbitration case regarding a grievance he filed against the N.F.L. He has accused the league’s owners of colluding to keep him out of the league after not being signed last season.

His protests during the anthems became a cultural flash point, even though he wasn’t in the league. Other N.F.L. players began kneeling to support Kaepernick, as did celebrities off the field. Last fall, Nike made Kaepernick the face of a prominent advertising campaign.

This year’s Super Bowl became particularly fraught because of the halftime show. Some high-profile artists, including the rapper Cardi B, said they would not be willing to perform, in a show of solidarity with Kaepernick. Last year, Jay-Z rapped in one of his songs: “I said no to the Super Bowl, you need me, I don’t need you.”

Earlier this week, the N.F.L. announced the halftime acts would be Maroon 5 and the rappers Travis Scott and Big Boi. Scott’s decision to participate, in particular, received backlash, including from prominent African-Americans like Al Sharpton. Variety reported that Kaepernick and Scott spoke before the announcement and described the conversation as “cordial and respectful.” But on Wednesday, several posts critical of Scott appeared on Kaepernick’s Twitter account.

Perhaps anticipating the criticism, Scott announced on Sunday, in conjunction with the halftime billing, that he and the league were teaming up on a $500,000 donation to Dream Corps, a social justice group.

The scripted chaos of Stephen Curry

curry

Like a seasoned yogi realizing he can deepen his stretch, there is a zen-like quality to Stephen Curry’s exacting hunt for the perfect shot.

On Sunday against the Nets, he continued his streak of making at least five threes in the first seven games of the season, breaking the record George McLoud set in 1995. Curry is on pace to shatter the single-season record in three-pointers made, which he set at 402 in 2015-2016, which shattered his own the previous record of 286 in 2014-15, which shattered his own previous record of 272 in 2012-13.

In the offseason, he told the Wall Street Journal, “I might be delusional, but I feel like I can get better at putting the ball in the basket.” His personal trainer, Brandon Payne, added that “he’s not even close” to his peak. Together, to hear it from Pablo Torre on ESPN’s High Noon, Curry and Payne devised a drill in which Curry had to hit 20 sets of shots, differing in spot and style, from the perimeter, and swish six of 10 free throws. It was called “Perfection.”

Up against the Warriors’ decadence, tried-and-true theories about the professional athlete’s insatiable drive fall away. It’s hard not to wonder why they’re not satisfied when they’re already deemed unbeatable. What an extravagance. And what do they have left to improve?

But the difficulty of Curry’s shots aren’t mere theatre. If he wants to actually shoot the ball, defenses are going to force the world’s best decoy to chase perfection and master chaos.

Consider: Opponents would rather allow Kevin Durant to play one-on-one against mismatches and let Jordan Bell throw down alley-oops than allow Curry to shoot threes. Hell, they’d rather let him get lay ups: the Warriors often free Curry up by running him off screens as he cuts to the rim, usually as a fake-out before he sprints to the corner pocket. Against the Jazz on Oct. 19, Curry was aggressively chased off the three-point line by Dante Exum and hounded on pick and rolls by Ricky Rubio and Rudy Gobert, whose 7’9 wingspan gave Curry pause. They tugged at his jersey and laid him out with hard screens. Royce O’Neale even gave him a nosebleed. Curry didn’t hit a three until more than halfway through the second quarter, on a uniquely unguardable play illustrated by NBA analyst Jared Dubin.

Curry tried to push the game to devolve into chaos, his high-risk way of forcing the issue: boxing out for offensive rebounds, throwing dangerous outlets, whipping rainbow passes across the floor. But the Jazz’s length, athleticism, and discipline tipped the scales in their balance, up until Jonas Jerebko’s game-winning putback for the Warriors.

As though he took note, Curry had, to put it lightly, more success against the Wizards on Oct. 24, scoring 51 points and drilling 11 threes. The Wizards tried to switch and trap Curry mercilessly, forcing the ball out of his hands. The only problem: he got rid of it by flinging it into the basket.

READ MORE: https://www.sbnation.com/2018/10/31/18047242/stephen-curry-highlights-golden-state-warriors-mvp

Companies and brands often attempt to avoid taking strong public positions out of fear of alienating customers, but Nike is running straight into the political fray.

Screen Shot 2018-09-04 at 5.07.43 AM

Four days before a new NFL season gets underway, Nike is throwing its weight behind one of the most polarizing figures in football, and America: former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick will be one of the faces of Nike’s 30th anniversary commemoration of its iconic “Just Do It” slogan. The campaign will also feature athletes such as Serena Williams, NFL wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., and Shaquem Griffin, a rookie linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks whose left hand was amputated when he was a child.

Kaepernick tweeted out a photo from the campaign on Monday. Over a black-and-white picture of his face, a caption reads, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

In backing Kaepernick, whom the company has sponsored since 2011, Nike is making a high-stakes gamble that its customers support his protest, or at least that enough of them do. The company is also betting its brand can withstand criticism from conservative corners, including the White House.

Kaepernick has not played in the NFL since the 2016 season. That year, he began kneeling during the national anthem to raise awareness about police brutality against African-Americans and other racial injustices. Dozens of other players also began joining Kaepernick, and he has grown into a symbol of dividing lines over race in America.

In 2017, he filed a grievance against the NFL, alleging the league conspired to keep him out because of his protests. An arbiter last week denied the NFL’s request to throw out the grievance, allowing the case to proceed to a trial.

The protests have divided the league, often pitting a conservative white owner base against the NFL’s mostly African-American players.

The owners voted in May to approve rules that would have required players to stand on the sideline during the anthem or or remain in the locker room. Teams would be fined if players did not stand during the anthem, and the rules allowed individual teams to set their own policies.

Those rules are on hold while the league and the players’ association negotiate.

Nike’s public support of Kaepernick also risks drawing the anger of President Donald Trump.

Trump and his allies have repeatedly seized on the issue. At a rally in Alabama last year, Trump said team owners should “get that son of a bitch off the field” if a player knelt in protest of injustice during the anthem. Vice President Mike Pence walked out of an Indianapolis Colts game after some players knelt.

“This is a very winning, strong issue for me,” Trump told Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones last year, according to a sworn deposition Jones gave in connection with Kaepernick’s lawsuit.

Nike declined to comment on whether it expected Trump to criticize the company or how it would respond if he did.

The company also drew fire from Fox Sports Radio host Clay Travis, who called the Kaepernick campaign “pathetic,” and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who tweeted, “I guess @Nike will now focus on making knee pads for NFL.”

But many users voiced support for the brand’s decision and mocked people who claimed to be destroying their Nike products in protest, suggesting they should donate them to charity instead.

Williams said she was “especially proud to be a part of the Nike family today.”

Outspoken sports journalist Jemele Hill argued that people shouldn’t be surprised by Nike’s decision based on its history.

“Nike became Nike because it was built on the idea of rebellion,” she wrote. “This is the same company that dealt w/ the NBA banning Air Jordans. They made [Michael] Jordan the face of the company at a time when black men were considered to be a huge risk as pitch men. They aren’t new to this.”

The Organized Chaos of Botaoshi, Japan’s Wildest Game

One side protects its pole. The other does everything possible to topple it. Botaoshi, a game combining elements of rugby, sumo and martial arts, hangs on in Japan despite the dangers.

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TOKYO — On a cloudless spring afternoon, thousands of parents, teachers and alumni watched as a pack of young students charged across a field, screaming and snarling, and then crashed into a wall of students defending an 11.8-foot wooden pole. The attackers clawed, shoved and jumped over the opposition. Heads butted. Elbows were thrown. The wall buckled, then stood firm. Like a mast on a sailboat in rough seas, the pole dipped, then rose again.

This wasn’t trench warfare, it was botaoshi, a century-old game that combines elements of American football, rugby, sumo and martial arts. The game has gotten so dangerous that many Japanese schools have abandoned it, but it lives on at Kaisei Gakuen, where it is the centerpiece of the school’s annual sports festival.

Little known in America, botaoshi, or “topple the pole,” remains a rite of passage at Kaisei, which opened in 1871 and is one of Japan’s most prestigious secondary schools. Teachers say the game promotes teamwork, toughness and sportsmanship. Students eagerly await their chance to compete in the tournament in their junior and senior years. (Underclassmen play more rudimentary games.) Alumni can recount details of games played decades ago.

READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/22/sports/botaoshi-japan.html?action=click&module=Editors%20Picks&pgtype=Homepage

N.B.A. Power Brokers Gather, With No Men Allowed

LAS VEGAS — As the sun set on another day at the N.B.A. Summer League this month, a group of 60-odd power brokers gathered at an upscale restaurant on the Las Vegas Strip. They were among the league’s elite: executives who help engineer blockbuster trades, salary-cap gurus who devise contracts and scouts who identify prospects.

They sipped wine, nibbled hors d’oeuvres and made conversation; perhaps an unremarkable scene except for one thing: They were all women.

nba women

“This is the first time, to our knowledge, that this has ever happened,” said Liliahn Majeed, the N.B.A.’s vice president for diversity and inclusion.

Long known for its progressive approach toward social issues, the N.B.A. has emerged as an industry leader among men’s professional sports leagues when it comes to hiring and promoting women. Richard Lapchick, the director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, recently released a study that found that the N.B.A. had the highest percentage of women working at the league office and with individual teams, outpacing the N.F.L. and Major League Baseball. Women hold 31.6 percent of team management positions in the N.B.A., according to the study.

SOURCE: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/24/sports/nba-women-hiring