NBA Finals Game 5 Betting Preview: Does Phoenix Have an Edge in the First Half?

Action Network NBA contributor Austin Wang gives his detailed thoughts, plus his top pick, for Saturday's Game 5 NBA Finals showdown.

Bucks vs. Suns Game 5 Odds

Bucks Odds +3.5
Suns Odds -3.5
Moneyline +145 / -165
Over/Under 218
Time 9 p.m. ET
Odds as of Saturday via DraftKings.

We’ve got a series.

After returning home down 0-2, the Milwaukee Bucks reeled off two victories in a row to tie the NBA Finals up at 2-2. The Bucks dominated Game 3 with a 20 point victory, but Game 4 was a slugfest that really highlighted the resiliency and grit of this team.

After trailing for the entire game, Milwaukee fought back late in the fourth quarter to steal this game. Khris Middleton was incredible in Game 4 as he led the Bucks with 40 points. Giannis Antetokounmpo had a heroic, game-saving highlight block on a Deandre Ayton alley-oop attempt. The Bucks continued to show their home dominance as they have all season.

On the other side, the Phoenix Suns had a terrible meltdown in Game 4 and wasted away a brilliant 42-point performance from Devin Booker. The standout shooting guard didn’t get much help from his teammates, especially Chris Paul. The veteran point guard has accumulated an uncharacteristic 15 turnovers in the previous three games.

The line has shifted back another eight points peaking at Suns -4 at this point, so sportsbooks are valuing the home-court advantage around that number. Phoenix was masterful in its consecutive home wins in Games 1 and 2.

So, can the Suns rekindle the magic or will the Bucks overcome their poor road performances and steal this game away from home? Let’s dive into this high-stakes Game 5 showdown.

Milwaukee Deliver Huge Game 4 Win Despite Woes

It’s unreal. The Bucks only shot 40.2% from the field and still won a NBA Finals game. Hustle players like Bobby Portis and P.J. Tucker really feed off the energy of their home crowd. That’s exactly how Milwaukee won the game: pure hustle. The Bucks secured 17 offensive rebounds as team and secured plenty of second-chance opportunities to keep them in the game.

The Bucks are a different club on the road. Milwaukee is a mediocre 25-22 straight up (SU) away from home this season, including the playoffs, and only 19-27-1 against the spread (ATS), per the Sports Data Query Language database. Not all of those contests were against a team like Phoenix either.

As I mentioned in the Game 3 guide, the Bucks’ secondary stars — Middleton and Jrue Holiday — didn’t deliver in games 1 and 2. I expected them to play much better at home. Each of them took turns having good outings, but can they continue this level of play on the road? Here are their updated home/away splits after the Game 4 triumph:

Khris Middleton

  • Home: 25 points per game; 50% field-goal percentage; 43% 3-point percentage; and, 2.3 turnovers per game
  • Away: 22.3 points per game; 40% field-goal percentage; 28% 3-point percentage; and, 3.8 turnovers per game

Jrue Holiday

  • Home: 18.9 points per game; 44% field-goal percentage; and, 29% 3-point percentage
  • Away: 15.6 points per game; 39% field-goal percentage; 26% 3-point percentage.

Suffice it to say, I’m not optimistic on their outlook. The Bucks will need a big game from one of those two in order to take down the Suns.

Phoenix Backers Looking for Wagering Redemption

It’s unfortunate if you were holding a Phoenix Game 4 ticket. The Suns’ meltdown loss is a candidate for one of this season’s worst bad beats. The Suns were in a position to cover the spread for the entire duration of the game besides the final 20 seconds.

Booker was scorching hot from the floor, shooting 17-of-28 from the field that came via mostly tough, well-defended fadeaway jumpers. However, his foul trouble was the main talking point of the game. He had to sit crucial minutes in the fourth quarter. That definitely affected the flow of the game, as well as his approach on defense, as the Bucks made their comeback.

The Suns are a dominant home team. They’re 33-8 straight up and 27-14 (65.9%) ATS season-to-date as home favorites, per the Sports Data Query Language database. They are 8-1 straight up and 7-2 this postseason in that same scenario. Also, the home team has won and covered each game this series.

The Zig Zag Theory is also active on this game as well.  Favorites of four or more points in games 2-5 off a series loss have gone 173-122-7 (58.6%) ATS since the 2002-2003 season, per the SDQL database. I expect the Suns to come out aggressive, just like they did in their first two home games.

Finally, Phoenix is 17-8-1 (68%) ATS following a loss this season, per the SDQL database. This was active on the Suns in the previous game and they were well on their way to a victory before the Bucks came storming back. This is active on Phoenix again, which has proved to be resilient after a loss.

Bucks-Suns Pick

I think Paul and the Suns redeem themselves at home after the humiliating Game 4 loss.

Paul has gotten a fair share of criticism for his disappearing act over the last couple of contests. This is his chance to rewrite his legacy in a career that has been outstanding, but marred by postseason injuries and struggles.

He overcame a shoulder injury in the first round against the Los Angeles Lakers. He overcame a positive COVID-19 test against the LA Clippers. Finally, now after a string of bad games, the media and fans are crucifying him. I see a focused and determined Paul bounce-back in Game 5 in the desert, where the Suns have been flawless this season.

The public is pounding the Suns and I agree. However, I am a bit wary of the full game spread, as I see the -4 as a fair line and the Bucks could keep it close and get the cover. Instead, I recommend betting the Suns first-half spread of -2 as my top pick.

As I highlighted in my Game 1 preview, Phoenix is 28-13 ATS (68%) in the first half as the home favorite, per our Bet Labs tool.

The Suns set the tone early most of the time, and I think they will do the same in this game. I believe Phoenix will come out fired up in front of its raucous home crowd and get off to an excellent start.

Pick: Suns 1H -2 (-110)

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