The Suns, who won the Western Conference title, are six-point favorites in the opener against the Eastern Conference champions, with the total currently sitting around 219 points at various sportsbooks. Game time is set for 9 p.m. ET, with the showdown airing live on ABC.
Our NBA analysts didn’t hold back for Game 1 when it comes to their top picks, delivering six best bets for the contest. Let’s take a look at their selections.
NBA Odds & Picks
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|Bucks vs. Suns Prop|
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|Bucks vs. Suns Total|
|Bucks vs. Suns Total|
|Bucks vs. Suns Prop|
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Bucks vs. Suns
|Pick||P.J. Tucker Over 6.5 Rebounds (+114)|
|Tipoff||9 p.m. ET|
Roberto Arguello: P.J. Tucker will see a smaller defender on him for the majority of the series, as the Suns hope to hide players like Chris Paul and Cam Payne on him. The Hawks did this with Trae Young and Lou Williams, basically daring the Bucks to involve Tucker in their offense to try and take advantage of their worst defenders.
While Tucker only took more than seven shots once against Atlanta, he was more aggressive as a rebounder and pinched in from the corners to utilize his size advantage over smaller, thinner defenders. He grabbed at least seven rebounds in five of six games against the Hawks, including 11 and eight in the last two without star Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Tucker is a veteran who knows his role is to play great defense and affect the game with hustle plays like rebounds that will prove valuable here. I like the value on Tucker to get at least seven rebounds whether Antetokounmpo plays or not, but I like the value a lot more if Antetokounmpo remains out.
Milwaukee effectively shortened its rotation to just six players (including Antetokounmpo) in its most desperate moments against the Brooklyn Nets, and Tucker’s defensive versatility will remain valuable with Donte DiVincenzo sidelined. He averaged 31 minutes per game against the Nets, plus 32 minutes per game against the Hawks.
While Atlanta had two centers in Clint Capela and Onyeka Okongwu ,who are both long and athletic rebounders, the Suns don’t have the same size and athleticism with their backup centers (Dario Šarić and Frank Kaminsky) and Tucker’s rebounding should benefit from this situation.
Take over 6.5 rebounds at +114 odds, with value down to -130 on DraftKings. Additionally, if Antetokounmpo is ruled out before the game starts, I like the value on Tucker to record 8+ rebounds at +178 on FanDuel, with value down to +135 odds.
Brandon Anderson: I like the Suns in the series. I LOVE the Suns in Game 1.
Phoenix has every advantage right now. It needs to come out and set the tone early. As much as people have dogged Phoenix’s path to the Finals because of the opposition’s missing stars , the Suns still beat the West favorites, the league MVP and the resilient Clippers and emerged relatively unscathed.
What exactly have the Bucks proven? Milwaukee dispatched of a Miami Heat team that was never very good, then trailed 3-2 against a one-man Brooklyn team missing two stars before barely eking out a win. Then the Bucks lucked into Atlanta, a team that wasn’t even a playoff lock a couple months ago and had four of its five starters hurt or missing in the series.
Are we sure Atlanta was a better opponent for Milwaukee than Denver was for Phoenix? Because I’m not and the Suns swept the Nuggets with ease, while the Bucks lost a game to a Trae Young-less Hawks squad. They also had to grit out a couple wins late to escape.
I think this is a serious step up in competition for a Bucks team that hasn’t really exorcised its demons yet, and one that has been pretty terrible in all three Game 1s this postseason. All the worse that it looks like Giannis Antetokounmpo probably won’t play, plus this is on the road.
Phoenix is a better defense than Milwaukee has faced in a month — by a wide margin — and even with the host struggling to score at times, it’s still the best offense Milwaukee has faced. This is a level up for the Bucks, and I think it could take some time to adjust.
Add in a huge rest advantage for Phoenix, off five full days versus just two for Milwaukee, plus the cumulative effect from a second-round fight for the Bucks, and that has given the Suns a massive early advantage.
Don’t forget that Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Cameron Payne had some injury issues last round, but just had a week to get right. The Suns are remarkably healthy at this stage, while the Bucks are likely down two starters in the opener and one being the MVP as well.
I like Phoenix in the series, because it should have a big edge early on. I expect the Suns to take that advantage and set the tone early, with a confident win.
I’m not daunted by the six-point spread. In Phoenix’s 12 postseason wins thus far, the Suns have only failed to win by six or more twice. I’ll play Suns -6 and expect a Game 1 victory.
Matt Moore: The Bucks play faster without Giannis Antetokounmpo. However, their defense remains stingy. These two teams are No. 1 and No. 2 in the playoffs in opponent field-goal percentage at the rim. The Suns are also No. 1 at opponent jumper field-goal percentage. They are also No. 3 at opponent 3-point percentage.
I like the Bucks’ team total under as well, but I do think there’s a chance their really messes with the Suns’ offense. Bear in mind Phoenix had trouble with the Los Angeles Clippers’ defense. It’s easy to ascribe that to simply the Clippers’ switch-all scheme, but the Milwaukee will absolutely go to that at times as well.
Ultimately, I think this will be more of a defensive series than an offensive one, which leads me to the under. I like it to 216 points, though the number is moving the opposite direction instead.
Raheem Palmer: With Chris Paul at the helm, the Phoenix Suns were 11th in pace among all 16 playoff teams at just 96.29 possessions a game. When handicapping totals, the amount of possessions in the game is paramount toward figuring out the final score. There can only be so many points if there’s a limited amount of possessions.
While the Suns are a very efficient offense, they haven’t faced a defense nearly as good as the Milwaukee Bucks, who are first in Defensive Rating allowing just 105 points per 100 possessions in this postseason. They have a guard in Jrue Holiday, who can make life Hell for either Paul or Devin Booker, which should cause problems for the Suns’ offense.
The Bucks have struggled offensively during their postseason run. Nothing has been pretty in regard to the them, as they’re just 11th in Offensive Rating during the playoffs and scoring only 111.2 points per 100 possessions.
Without Giannis Antetokounmpo, this team doesn’t score at the rim nearly as efficiently, so I’m expecting the Bucks to struggle without the two-time MVP of the league.
With a slow-paced game between solid defenses and a struggling offense, you have the recipe for a low-scoring contest. Add in the nerves from many of these players making their first NBA Finals appearance and this game should go under the total of 219.5 points.
My model makes this total 217, so there’s a small edge here.
|Pick||Jrue Holiday — Over 37.5 PTS + RBS + ASTS (-120)|
Kenny Ducey: Without Giannis Antetokounmpo in the lineup, Jrue Holiday has unquestionably been the go-to guy. He might not fill up the points column like Khris Middleton, but he’s been incredibly involved since Antetokounmpo went down with a usage rate of 30.5% in the Bucks’ Game 6 win over Atlanta.
He’s averaged 26 points and 11 assists over the two games, but most impressively collected 15 rebounds, taking full advantage of some of the available boards out there with the “Greek Freak” sidelined.
I think his ability to make plays for the Bucks has been the biggest reason they’ve looked so good without Antetokounmpo. It has helped rescue an offense that was simply lost running the same sets for Antetokounmpo under head coach Mike Budenholzer. His vision has allowed for two incredible scoring nights, which he himself has been a part of.
The bottom line here is I think Holiday could flirt with a triple-double and should have a floor of 22 points, making the over on his points, rebounds and assists a solid way to get in on the action.
Joe Dellera: Game 1 of the NBA Finals is here and the Bucks are likely going to start the series off without two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Suns have a significant rest advantage, but this line simply feels too high.
It has felt as if the Suns rolled through the postseason. And while the Bucks labored the last two rounds, but the Suns have posted a point differential of just 0.3 points better than the Bucks throughout the postseason, per Cleaning the Glass. Both of these teams have struggled to consistently score and have top playoff defenses (Bucks are second; Suns sit in fourth).
Milwaukee’s expected allowed eFG% during the playoffs of 52.8% is third best and closely mimics its actual allowed eFG% of 51.8%, per Cleaning the Glass.
As for Phoenix, it has an allowed eFG% of 50.1% (second best in the playoffs), but its expected allowed eFG% of 55.3% is the worst of all the teams to make the postseason. There’s clear room for regression against the Bucks, who are the best team the Suns will have faced this entire postseason run.
In a battle of defenses, I like the Bucks and I’ll grab the points.