|Time||1 p.m. ET|
|Odds via PointsBet. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.|
Don’t call it a comeback! After losing Game 2 as 10-point favorites, the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks regained control of home court after their 111-81 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Friday night.
Without the services of All-Star forward Khris Middleton, the Bucks took care of business in Game 3 and now look to take a commanding a 3-1 lead with a win on Sunday afternoon.
The result was stunning for many as there’s been a huge shift in the market for Game 4. Have oddsmakers overcorrected for what we saw in Game 3, or is it correct in its assessment of this series?
Let’s analyze both sides and find out!
Will the Bucks Defense Keep Stepping Up?
No Middleton? No problem!
After struggling in Games 1 and 2 and losing Middleton to an MCL sprain when he sipped on a drive to the basket in the fourth quarter of Game 2, many fans, analysts and bettors alike assumed the Milwaukee Bucks were in trouble.
Former Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich once said, “Never underestimate the heart of a champion,” and the Bucks proved that on Friday night with their biggest win of the series, a 111-81 beatdown in a game that was never in doubt.
Much of the talk coming into this game surrounded who would step up in the absence of Middleton. The Bucks responded by posting their best Offensive Rating of the series, scoring 116 points per 100 possessions.
Bobby Portis started in place of Middleton and put up 18 points along with 16 rebounds. Grayson Allen was also a key contributor off the bench, scoring 22 points on 8-of-12 (66.7%) shooting, including 5-of-7 (71.4%) from downtown.
Jrue Holiday also responded with his best game of the series, scoring 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting with six assists and six rebounds while Giannis Antetokounmpo added 18 points of 7-of-12 shooting, seven rebounds and nine assists. Neither played more than 29 minutes, which is a testament to how much this game got out of hand.
The Bucks have the upper hand here, they can still outshoot the Bulls from behind the arc and create a math problem against a Bulls who take the majority of their shots from the mid-range.
Still, the Bucks offense is prone to getting bogged down. Fortunately for the Bucks, their defense has consistently shown up against the Bulls outside of Game 2, in which the Bulls shot nearly 50% from the field.
With the Bucks holding the Bulls to Offensive Ratings of 86.5 and 84.6 in Games 1 and 3, it’s clear that Game 2 was an outlier, and we can expect the Bucks to win with their defense just as much as their offense.
Can the Bulls Bounce Back?
In Game 2, we saw the Big Three of DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic play like stars. Unfortunately for the Chicago Bulls, that wasn’t the case in Game 3 when they scored a combined 45 points on 18-of-39 shooting, a far cry from Game 2 where this trio scored a combined 85 points.
Even more troubling, DeRozan had just nine shot attempts in Game 3 while going 3-of-5 from the free throw line. Nonetheless, it’s clear the Bulls can’t win unless he’s playing like a superstar, but his postseason history doesn’t suggest his Game 2 performance was sustainable.
Shooting remains an issue for the Bulls both in frequency and accuracy as they shot 26.5% from behind the arc in Game 3, and are hitting just 29.2% of their 3s for the series. This is particularly problematic against a Bucks defense that tends to give up open 3s. The Bulls aren’t built to capitalize on it as they took the lowest percentage of 3-point field goals (30.4%) in the regular season this year.
As a whole, the offense is struggling to score consistently, and even with their offensive surge in Game 2, the Bulls have an Offensive Rating of just 93.7 in this series, and they’ve shot under 40% in two out of the three games.
The Bulls still don’t have an answer for Antetokounmpo inside, but their Game 3 performance can be corrected with better effort. They were dominated in every facet of the game including offensive rebounds, fast break points, points in the paint and second chance points.
While I think the Bulls should play better, there isn’t much hope for their overall chances in this series.
Oddsmakers have completely adjusted the side and total from what we saw in Game 3, and it’s tough to say it’s not warranted. The Bucks have held the Bulls to just 93.7 points per 100 possessions in this series, which is the worst mark among all 16 playoff teams. Those numbers include a Game 2 outburst where DeRozan, LaVine and Vucevic couldn’t miss.
Nonetheless, it’s tough to back the Bulls in this spot. The Bucks had their best offensive performance in Game 3, but I still don’t trust them without Middleton enough to back them on the road with an inflated number.
The real value for me remains on the total because of the Bulls’ struggles on the offensive end of the floor in addition to a slower pace with the Bucks starting Portis in Middleton’s place. I’ll play Under 218.5 even with oddsmakers dropping this total from what we saw in Game 3.
Pick: Under 218.5