Injuries have played a critical role in this year’s NBA playoffs. Last year’s NBA Finals combatants, Phoenix and Milwaukee, now must overcome the loss of key scorers. The Suns will be without leading scorer Devin Booker for an indefinite period of time with a right hamstring strain. Milwaukee forward Khris Middleton left Game 3 with a sprained MCL, and is now out for the remainder of the series.
The loss of Middleton opens the door for a Chicago team that has suddenly found success against the Bucks. The Bulls entered this series having lost 16 of their prior 17 matchups with the Bucks. However, after a close Game 1 loss and a shocking 114-110 Game 2 upset, the Bulls now have tremendous momentum returning home on Friday Night.
Can the Bulls grab a 2-1 series lead with home court advantage, or will the defending champions rally for a critical road win without their second-leading scorer? Let’s take a close look at where bettors should place their money tonight in game that still has Milwaukee favored by three points.
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Bulls vs. Bucks Betting Odds
*Lines accurate at the time of publication.
Bucks vs. Bulls Best Bets
Bulls +3 vs. Bucks (-110, PointsBet)
The absence of Middleton will hurt Milwaukee, especially in late-game scoring situations. The Bucks are just 7-9 without Khris Middleton this season, and just 5-4 in games where Giannis Antetokounmpo also played.
The natural instinct is that Antetokounmpo would see a boost in production, but teams have been effective at slowing his output without Middleton. In the nine games without Middleton, Antetokounmpo’s numbers have dropped to just 26.6 points, 12.1 rebounds, and 6.3 assists. The Bucks will need supplemental role players to have huge games, but the Bulls have been very effective at slowing the high-scoring Bucks in the first two games of this series. Forward Bobby Portis also left Game 2 with an eye injury, but is expected to play.
Chicago’s defense has been greatly improved in this series, holding Milwaukee to just 40.3% and 46% from the field in the first two road games. Veteran Alex Caruso has played a key role in defending Antetokounmpo while contributing nine point and 10 assists in the key Game 2 victory.
Chicago’s offense has also started to click, with Demarr DeRozan posting a game-high 41 points on an efficient 16 of 31 from the field, while also shooting a perfect 9 of 9 from the free throw line. In Game 2, Milwaukee gave Chicago center Nikola Vucevic space on the perimeter, and the 7-footer burned the Bucks for 4 of 8 from 3P ranges. Guard Zach LaVine has also started to return to his normal level of production after nursing a knee injury. LaVine averaged 25.5 PPG in two regular-season games against the Bucks this season, and has scored 18 or more points in 10 of his last 12 games.
The Bucks will need a big game from Antetokounmpo tonight, and the Bulls have shown no indication they will allow that to happen. Caruso has been an invaluable part of the starting lineup, and the DeRozan/Vucevic/LaVine trio is a difficult matchup for a Middleton-less Bucks team.
I’m grabbing the three points with the home underdog Bulls, in a game they could absolutely win.
Risk: 1.10 units on PointsBet to win 1 unit. (Bet up to -120)
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Bulls vs. Bucks Game Total Under 222.5 Points (-110, DraftKings)
They key to analyzing this game total is to project based off how the Bucks have fared without Middleton. In the nine games Milwaukee has played without Middleton, the under has hit 78 percent (7 of 9) of the time. Milwaukee plays slower and does not have the scoring upside without their regular starting lineup.
Chicago has kept the scoring low in the first two games of the series, and I project another low-scoring battle tonight. The Bulls have only averaged 108 PPG in their last three contests, and the Bulls have hit the under in 66 percent of their last 21 games.
The unders have dominated these playoff series, and the lack of Middleton really hurts the Milwaukee scoring scheme. We are rolling with a third consecutive under between these two proximal rivals.
Risk: 1.10 units on DraftKings to win 1 unit. (Bet up to -120)
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