|Moneyline||+145 / -177|
|Time||Sunday, 8 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Saturday and via DraftKings|
Down 0-2, the Milwaukee Bucks return home in familiar territory. They were in this same predicament against the Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Despite Giannis Antetokounmpo making his return for the first two games and playing well, the Bucks got minimal production from their supporting cast and continued their road struggles.
The Suns were masterful in their consecutive home wins. Every time the Bucks tried to mount a comeback, on cue, Devin Booker would respond with a 3-pointer. Mikal Bridges had a career game with 27 points and came through with so many crucial baskets.
The line is currently Bucks -4 after closing Game 2 as 4.5-point underdogs. Is this insane 8.5-point swing justified? The Suns have outclassed the Bucks in the first two games. However, the Bucks are a completely different team at home and will need to play with a sense of urgency to prevent falling into the dreaded 0-3 hole. Can the Bucks bounce back or will the Suns continue their dominating play? Let’s break down this pivotal Game 3.
Suns May Regress From Deep
The Suns have been a well-oiled machine and look like the more complete team. Each of their role players such as Bridges, Deandre Ayton and Jae Crowder stepped up in Game 2. Cameron Johnson was able to bring in 18 productive minutes off the bench with two 3-pointers.
Torrey Craig, one of the Suns’ key bench players, suffered an injury in the second half. He is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game, so keep your eye on his status using our Bet Labs Insider tool. Dario Saric is already out for the remainder of the postseason, so if Craig is not at full strength, the Suns will be forced to shorten their rotation and rely more on their starters.
The Suns were on fire from behind the arc in Game 2. They went 20-for-40 (50%) from 3. Shooting variance? Perhaps, but they are still an above-average 3-point shooting team. They were seventh in 3-point percentage (37.8%) in the regular season, and they are taking advantage of a Bucks team that is susceptible to giving up 3’s. That level of shooting may not be sustainable, but don’t sell them short on their 3-point shooting ability.
The Suns may be unstoppable at home, but they do well on the road as well. The raucous crowd at the Talking Stick Resort Arena gave them a significant home advantage in Games 1 and 2. They are 6-2 straight up and 6-2 against the spread on the road in this postseason. The Suns are 9-3 ATS this season as road underdogs, per the Sports Data Query Language database. The home and away splits do not seem to effect the Suns.
Bucks Should Benefit From Home Cooking
The Bucks are 7-1 straight up at home in this postseason. They are only 5-6 on the road in the playoffs. There is a stark difference between their performance at home and on the road. This has been appropriately weighted and factored into the spread.
Antetokounmpo can’t do it all. His 42-point performance in Game 2 was incredible, attacking the basket with fierce dunks, a couple of turnaround fadeaways and a few highlight blocks. He looks healthy, strong and should keep dominating with the support of his home crowd. However, when Pat Connaughton is your second-best player on offense like he was in Game 2, you are in big trouble.
The Bucks’ secondary stars did not deliver. Khris Middleton completely disappeared in Game 2, scoring 11 points off 5-for-16 shooting. Jrue Holiday hasn’t fared much better. He continued his struggles on offense. He went 7-for-21 from the field for 17 points. His misses included so many easy bunnies at the rim, and his jump shots were way off. He brought the energy on the defensive end, but the Bucks really need him to step up his scoring. Here are their home and away splits this postseason:
- Home: 24 points per game, 51% field goal percentage, 43% 3-point percentage, 2.5 turnovers per game
- Away: 22.3 points per game, 40% field goal percentage, 28% 3-point percentage, 3.8 turnovers per game
- Home: 19.4 points per game, 45% field goal percentage, 30% 3-point percentage
- Away: 15.6 points per game, 39% field goal percentage, 26% 3-point percentage
Some home cooking should fare better for the Bucks. They were aggressive all game and outscored the Suns in the paint 54 to 28. It would have been even more if Holiday could make his lay-ups, that margin would’ve been even wider.
The Bucks are 29-12-2 (71%) 1st Half ATS as home favorites this season, per our Bet Labs tool. They are 6-0-2 1st Half ATS in this spot in the postseason. I’ve been successfully riding this angle for a few games now, so why fix something that is not broken?
Home teams down 0-2 have gone 71-39-2 (65%) 1st Half ATS in Game 3 since the 2002-2003 season, per our Bet Labs tool. This system is active as a play on the Bucks. Teams that have their backs against the wall in this desperation, must-win scenario usually come out strong and succeed in this first-half spot.
This game also fits the Zig Zag theory. First-half favorites of 2.5 or more points in Games 2-5 off a playoff series loss are 152-113-7 (57%) ATS since the 2004-2005 season, per our Bet Labs tool. This is active on the Bucks, who I expect to bounce back strong.
I expect the Bucks to come out aggressive, just like they did in Game 2. I have less trust and confidence for the Bucks to cover the full game. The Suns have proven to make the proper half time adjustments and have really thrived in the third quarter, so my recommendation is to play the Bucks first half at -3.5.
The books have priced this extremely well that the Bucks will have to have a two-possession lead in order to cover this spread. However, with the Bucks’ success at home, their motivation to avoid an 0-3 hole and some shooting regression by the Suns, I am comfortably backing the Bucks covering this first-half spread.
Pick: Bucks 1H -3.5 (no more than -3.5)