We made it to Game 6, and the Milwaukee Bucks are returning home with a chance to clinch an NBA title.
The Bucks have reeled off three straight victories after falling in an 0-2 hole, and they just played their best game of the Finals, overcoming an early 16-point deficit and punctuating their win with a Jrue Holiday steal and alley-oop for the ages to Giannis Antetokounmpo.
It’s win or go home for Phoenix, so there’s no holding back now. If the Suns don’t win Tuesday, there’s no tomorrow. Expect both teams to play balls to the wall in what could be the last game of the season. That means huge minutes for starters and key rotation players on either team.
If this is the end, what a season it’s been here in this props column. We went 257-208-13 in the regular season with a 20.3% return on investment. And like the Bucks and Suns, we stepped our game for the playoffs at 61-32 so far, a 65.6% hit rate with a sparkling 26.0% ROI. We’ve hit 57.0% of our picks for the season and are up +118.6 units on the year. A $100 bettor would be up $11,860 on the season. It’s been a heck of a ride — so if this is really the end, let’s go out on a high note.
NBA Finals Player Props & Picks
Khris Middleton, Over 4.5 Assists (-152)
|Bucks vs. Suns||Bucks -5|
|Time | TV||9 p.m. ET | ABC|
As much slander as Khris Middleton routinely gets from the media — myself fairly included — the man has had a heck of an NBA Finals.
He scored 40 key points in a big Game 4 win and has been clutch down the stretch in each of Milwaukee’s wins. He’s now averaging 25.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 5.4 assists in the Finals, and that puts him on a heck of a list:
Khris Middleton can become the 20th player in Finals history to average 25-5-5.
It’s a list reserved exclusively for MVPs, HOFers, and No.1 options.
— Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13) July 19, 2021
I’m still not totally confident in Middleton’s shot-making because it can run so hot and cold, but I do like the way he’s being used as a playmaker. Middleton sits at 5.1 assists per game for the playoffs, and he’s gone over 4.5 dimes in 14-of-22 playoff games, hitting this prop 64% of the time.
That’s up even further over the past 10 games, with Middleton up to 6.2 APG and over 4.5 in eight of those 10 — and the only two times he went under, he missed by a single assist. In fact, he’s had at least four assists in 15 straight games right now, which means that floor puts us only one dime away from an over.
The film matches the numbers. Middleton is handling more with everything on the line, and that pick-and-roll combo with Giannis Antetokounmpo has been deadly. It’s something Milwaukee is going to more than ever.
Middleton was quieter as a passer in Game 5, but he averaged 11 potential assists per game over the first four Finals games. He’s also played at least 41 minutes in every Finals game.
I trust the trends to continue, so I’ll bank on the over — even with steep juice at -152 that implies a 60% hit rate. Middleton has been hitting the over far more often than that. I’ll play the over to -175 if necessary.
Bobby Portis, Over 7.5 Points (-105)
The Props Tool loved Bobby Portis in Game 5, and it’s even more in love in Game 6. The Props Tool might love Portis almost as much as Milwaukee fans, and those Fiserv fans love Portis. The place goes ballistic every time Portis checks in, and he matches their passion with his energy.
Early in the Finals, it looked like this just might not be a Portis series. He got abused defensively in Game 1 and barely played in Game 2, but he’s been much better in Milwaukee’s three wins.
The Bucks found something by pairing Portis with Antetokounmpo, with Bobby’s shooting threat opening up the offense and spacing things out for Giannis to attack the rim. Milwaukee is desperate for offense, and Brook Lopez and P.J. Tucker aren’t doing the trick, so Portis has become very important.
Portis is almost always productive when he’s actually on the court. Outside of the Brooklyn series — a bad matchup for him — and the two games he started against Atlanta with Antetokounmpo out, he’s averaging 8.8 points in under 17 minutes per game. That’s even including those two quiet Finals games.
Portis’ minutes are back up the last three games, and so are the shot attempts. He’s taken at least six shots in all three and gone over 7.5 points in two of them, the only under coming when he went 1-of-6 from the field. Portis is also stretching the defense, hitting at least one 3-pointer in 4-of-5 Finals games. If he does that again, we only need two more buckets.
The Props Tool loves every Portis over, but his rebounds and assists haven’t been reliable. I trust him as a scorer, even in what should be a chippy game. When Portis plays over 16 minutes this season, he’s gone over 7.5 points in 45-of-54 games, hitting the over 80% of the time, including 10-of-14 in the playoffs.
We’re projecting Milwaukee’s favorite sixth man at 9.5 points, and I’ll play this over to -130 and expect a big game in front of a raucous home crowd.
P.J. Tucker, Under 4.5 Points (-115)
As Portis’ role has increased throughout the series, P.J. Tucker’s has been minimized. Still, Tucker has been a vital player for the Bucks this postseason because of his tough, physical wing defense.
Milwaukee never would have survived Kevin Durant without Tucker at least keeping him in check. But the Suns don’t really have a big usage wing for Tucker to defend, and since he offers so little offensively, that has left Tucker on the bench at times.
Tucker has started every game since the start of the Brooklyn series, so he’s still starting. But Tucker played 33 and 35 minutes the first two games of the series, and the Bucks lost both, with Tucker a minus-19 in the two games combined. He dropped below 30 minutes in Game 3, dropped further in Game 4, and played only 24 minutes in Game 5, his lowest total in 17 games.
It’s not just the minutes that are disappearing. Tucker has never exactly been a scorer, but he’s barely even doing anything on offense lately. Tucker has taken only three shots the last two games combined. He went scoreless in Game 4 and had a single 3-pointer in Game 5.
This line feels uncomfortably low, but don’t let the number throw you. Tucker has played under 27 minutes in 26 games this year for the Bucks, and he’s gone under 4.5 points in 22 of them, hitting our under 85% of the time. In fact, three of those four overs came by a single point. The only other game was an eight-point explosion, his one game with multiple 3-pointers.
Tucker is averaging under 2.5 points in those lower-minute games. He’s literally averaging less than one 3-pointer. I don’t see a great role for Tucker right now, especially with Portis and Pat Connaughton playing so well, so I have to fade the veteran. I’ll play the under to -130.
But you know what? P.J. Tucker might be an NBA champion by night’s end, either way.