The Phoenix Suns are two wins away from securing their first NBA title in franchise history.
The Suns rolled through the first two games of the 2021 NBA Finals, but now the series flips to Milwaukee, where the Bucks are 4.5-point favorites for Game 3 (check real-time odds here).
Can the Suns pull off the sweep? Or will the Bucks’ keep their championship hopes alive for at least two more games? Our analysts are split — they breakdown how they’re betting Sunday’s game below, complete with arguments for each angle.
2021 NBA Finals Odds & Game 3 Picks
|Click on a pick to skip ahead|
|Raheem Palmer||Suns +150||PointsBet|
|Brandon Anderson||Suns Sweep +450||PointsBet|
|Joe Dellera||Bucks 1H/Full Game Parlay||FanDuel|
|Roberto Arguello||Brook Lopez Over 5.5 Rebounds -115||DraftKings|
Suns ML +150
Raheem Palmer: Outside of poor shooting variance, the Bucks played about as well as they could have possibly played in Game 2: They got 42 points from Giannis Antetokounmpo, got to the line 23 times while limiting the Suns to just 14 trips, had fewer turnovers, dominated the offensive glass (18-11), outscored the Suns in the paint (54-28), and generated more fast-break points (17-7).
The Bucks essentially did everything right except put the ball in the basket.
We may look back on Game 2 for years to come and perhaps reach the conclusion that it decided this series.
The offensive performances of Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday were a big reason the Bucks didn’t win the pivotal matchup. Middleton scored just 11 points, shooting 5-of-16 (31.3%) from the field, while Holiday was 7-of-21 (33.3%) for 17 points. While both should shoot better at home, it’s concerning that the Suns proved they can beat the Bucks even when they shoot the ball well as they did in Game 1, going 16-of-36 (44.4%) from behind the arc.
The Bucks haven’t found any answers for this Suns offense, which has an Offensive Rating of a whopping 118 throughout this series. The Suns simply have too many answers for anything the Bucks send at them.
The Suns have two players in Chris Paul and Devin Booker who can annihilate switches as they’re both in the 90th-percentile in midrange shooting percentage. They have three-and-d wings like Jae Crowder who our very own Brandon Anderson believed had Finals MVP potential similar to Danny Green in 2013 or Andre Iguodala in 2015. They have Mikal Bridges, who is shooting 50% from behind the arc in this series. They also have Deandre Ayton, who is averaging 22 points and 19 rebounds in this series.
This team is firing on all cylinders, and I have trouble seeing how the Bucks keep up. They’ve had their hot shooting game and still lost by 13. They had their dominant perfjoamcne from Giannis and still lost by 10.
Can the Bucks put it all together now? I’m not buying it.
In a few days, the “Suns In 4” guy will be doing interviews with nearly every sports station. Andy Warhol once said, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” Well, unfortunately for the Bucks, his fame might last a little longer.
Give me the Suns ML +150 and “Suns in 4.”
Suns Sweep +450
So which Finals game is more representative of where this series is heading? That’s the big question for bettors right now.
In Game 1, the Suns felt comfortably in control throughout. Milwaukee felt like it had no defensive answers, and Phoenix meticulously picked the Bucks apart, with Chris Paul and Devin Booker taking turns against what had been a very good defense.
Then the Bucks adjusted in Game 2. Jrue Holiday spent far more time defending CP3, Milwaukee stayed big longer and made it work on defense, and the Bucks played a far better game. Milwaukee had horrendous shooting luck — its own 2s and 3s, plus the Suns hitting a barrage of tough shots all game — or this series might well be 1-1.
If Game 2 is closer to what this series will become, then it makes sense that the Bucks are favored in Game 3, now that they’ve returned home where they should get a boost and perhaps better shooting from the role players. But Game 2 also took a truly heroic performance from Giannis Antetokounmpo just for the Bucks to (barely) hang within single digits all game. And the Suns still don’t feel like they’ve played their best “A” game yet.
I’m not sure that the Bucks are completely outmanned, but the Suns do look better. The question is to what magnitude.
Game 3 could go any number of directions, but will probably be close late with the Bucks fighting for their season. Phoenix is probably too good to get blown out, so now Milwaukee is relying on Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton to close the deal late with the season on the line against a team that’s been awesome closing opponents out, featuring one of the all-time great clutch players in Chris Paul.
The Suns have around a coin-flip chance of winning Game 3, if not better. And if they do, I think this series is a wrap. Milwaukee would know it was beaten at that point. Bud doesn’t have any brilliant adjustments up his confused sleeves. Antetokounmpo is already playing hurt. There are no solutions on the bench.
If Phoenix goes up 3-0, I think the Bucks go easy in Game 4.
This, then, is a math problem. Most books have the Suns around +150 moneyline for Game 3, implying around a 40% probability of victory. If the Suns do win Game 3, I think they’re favored in Game 4, and there could even be a chance of the Bucks shutting down Giannis to not risk further injury.
A Phoenix sweep is priced at +450 at PointsBet, so that’s like basically parlaying the Game 3 and 4 moneylines. But the key here is that those are not independent events — if Phoenix does win Game 3, you have to believe the Suns are far more likely to win Game 4. At +450, that’s an implied 18.2% chance of a sweep. But with 40% chance to win Game 3, that means the Suns have to only win Game 4 about 47% of the time for that +450 to play in our favor.
And personally, I’d give the Suns closer to a 50% shot in Game 3 and — if they win — more like 65% or higher in a closeout Game 4. That would price a sweep closer to +300, which is likely closer to the odds we’d get parlaying the two moneylines if Phoenix ends up favored in Game 4. And that means there’s some real value at +450.
We’ve been gambling all season, so let’s gamble again. This is my way of betting on a Suns’ Game 3 win, but making it really worth the price of admission.
Bucks 1H/Full Game Parlay +100
Joe Dellera: The Bucks head home down 0-2, but will they make a stand?
The Bucks cannot catch a break. The whistle evened out in Game 2 but then the Suns shot a blistering 50% from 3-point range.
This is ripe for shooting variance to set in.
The Suns have an eFG% of 57.3% compared to an expected of 53.2% against the Bucks, per Cleaning the Glass. Sure they have some sharp shooters who can turn less than ideal looks into makes, but against a staunch Milwaukee defense, Phoenix is due for some regression.
This is a spot to back Milwaukee. Per our Action Labs database, home teams are down 0-2 in the Playoffs are 80-37-1 against the spread (ATS) in the first half, including 6-3 ATS in the Finals. Moreover, these teams are 6-3 straight up on the full game.
Rather than lay the points in either, this is an opportunity to take a double-chance and back the Bucks to win both the first half and the full game based on these trends without sweating a spread.
Brook Lopez Over 5.5 Rebounds -115
Roberto Arguello: The Bucks have played Brook Lopez less frequently this series than they did the rest of the playoffs, but I expect him to get more run in Game 3.
So far in this series, the Bucks have been at their best with their starters on the court. In the 21 minutes that the Bucks starters have played together, they have outscored the Suns by 21 points. In the other 75 minutes of this series, they have been outscored by 32 points.
I'm more upset with Bud now than I was on Thursday. Bucks starters logged 21 Finals minutes and are +9 in them, its by far their best lineup. 9 of those 21 mins have come in 1st quarters. PLAY THE STARTERS.
Brook Lopez appears in 3 of the 4 best Bucks Finals lineups. PLAY BROOK.
— Ti Windisch (@TiWindisch) July 10, 2021
The Bucks are at their best in their base drop defense with Lopez on the court with him playing slightly higher up than normal to prevent the Suns from stepping into comfortable midrange shots. The Bucks did a better job of limiting Lopez’s defensive isolations on Suns’ guards in Game 2 by switching 1-4 (instead of allowing Paul and Booker to isolate against him on switches like they did frequently in Game 1).
Lopez played slightly fewer minutes than normal in Game 2 (28 minutes) as Pat Connaughton started off hot from beyond the arc, and Budenholzer gave Connaughton fourth-quarter minutes instead of Lopez.
I expect Lopez to play more frequently in Game 3 as he plays a key role in anchoring the Bucks’ defense, limiting Ayton’s impact on the glass, and also adding another versatile offensive weapon.
With Lopez switching less frequently and staying more in his drop in Game 2, he increased his rebounds from six in Game 1 to nine in Game 2. Expect him to be a force on the boards in Game 3 and easily grab six boards for this prop to hit.
I love the value on the over 5.5 rebounds at -113 on DraftKings with value up to -150, and I will bet this up to over 6.5 rebounds at -120 or better.