Bucks vs. Heat Game 4: Giannis' Status Is Key to Milwaukee's Chances

Action Network contributor Chris Baker breaks down the Bucks vs. Heat Game 4 NBA Playoffs matchup on Monday night.

Bucks vs. Heat Odds

Bucks Odds -7
Heat Odds +7
Over/Under 219.5
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Milwaukee Bucks must earn a road victory in Miami to avoid going down 3-1 in their first-round series against the never-say-die Heat. Injuries have completely changed the complexion of this series, specifically Giannis Antetokounmpo’s bruised back that has kept him out of all but 10 minutes of the first three games. Jimmy Butler is also dealing with a back issue that could limit his impact in Game 4.

Can Antetokounmpo return to the floor and help his team tie up this series, or will Butler fight through his own injury to build give the Heat a decisive edge? Let’s break down the matchup heading into Monday’s pivotal game and find the best bet for Bucks vs. Heat.

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Milwaukee Bucks

Game 3 was was not a fluke loss for the Bucks, it was a massive wake-up call. The Bucks were thoroughly outplayed in all aspects of the game from the opening tip. Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is officially listed as questionable tonight, is expected to play through his lower-back contusion, according to media reports as this game is essentially a must-win.

The Bucks will obviously look much better on both ends if he’s back in the lineup. Offensively, expect them to penetrate the paint far more frequently. Antetokounmpo is the strongest driver in the NBA and the Heat really don’t have anyone that can feasibly match up with him outside of Bam Adebayo. The Bucks Offensive Rim Rate, Free Throw Attempt Rate, and Offensive Rebound Rate should sky-rocket if Antetokounmpo is indeed back on the floor.

Those have all been major areas of concern for their offense during this series, as they have had below-average free throw attempt rates and offensive-rebound rates all season-long. The free throws have been especially drastic, ranking in the fourth percentile and first percentile of offensive free throw attempt rate across the past two games. Antetokounmpo can rectify many of these issues, as he is a master at attacking the rim and drawing fouls.

Another area that he would remedy is the Bucks’ inability to consistently get transition opportunities. The Bucks have ranked below the 40th percentile in transition rate in each game this series and most recently posted a poor 9.5% transition rate (sixth percentile) in Game 3. Antetokounmpo is the best transition player in the NBA, so expect the Bucks to pick up the pace here in Game 4.

The Heat also should regress from their unbelievable shooting through three games. Any sort of negative regression in the shooting department will lead to much more transition opportunities for the Bucks with long rebounds off of misses. Antetokounmpo is the key to solving a lot of the Bucks’ current issues and if he is anywhere near 100% the Bucks should bounce back in this spot.

Miami Heat

The Heat have shot lights out in this series thus far, shooting above 60% effectively from the field in every game. They’ve also cleared the 40% mark from beyond the arc in each game, shooting 60%, 41%, and 51.7% in Games 1,2, and 3. They’ve shot above average from every area of the floor in every game according to Cleaning the Glass.

It has been an unprecedented three-game shooting stretch in comparison to their regular season performance, but I would anticipate massive regression given Antetokounmpo’s potential and the reality that Butler is still likely banged up after Game 3. Butler took a hard fall and left the game with a massive heating-pad on his lower back. He is listed as questionable tonight, but even if he is good to go you’d have to feel good about the Bucks’ chances if Butler plays but isn’t fully healthy.

He is such a massive part of the Heat offense and if there is any sort of pain/soreness that slows him down it could spell doom for this team. He’s averaging 30 points on 60% from the field and 6.0 assists, so the Heat better hope he is good to go. The Heat are dangerously short of reliable playmakers — after Butler it is pretty much just Kyle Lowry and Gabe Vincent at the guard spots. Victor Oladipo tore his patellar tendon so he will be out for the season, joining Tyler Herro who is already out for the season with a hand injury. This Heat team absolutely needs Butler to be success, but I am not sure he will be the same dominant version of himself here.

Bucks-Heat Pick

Given the questionable status of Butler, and the likelihood that he isn’t 100%, I will have to go with the Bucks here at -5.5.

I truly think Antetokounmpo fixes a lot of their offensive issues and if he’s good to go, we’ll see the Bucks get out more in transition as the Heat begin to regress offensively. That offensive regression will lead to more misses and these misses will lead to transition opportunities for the Bucks.

I also think that all of the urgency and motivation will be with the Bucks from the jump as they desperately try and avoid going down 3-1 in this series. I grabbed the Bucks at -5.5, but with Antetokounmpo expected to return I like this line up to -7.