The Milwaukee Bucks had been the NBA’s best team for 7 months, beginning with a 7-0 start, a 60-win regular season and a 9-1 record through two rounds of the postseason.
They looked unbeatable while disposing of the Toronto Raptors in Games 1 and 2 by a combined 30 points and appeared on their way to their first NBA Finals appearance in more than 40 years. Then the Raptors reminded Mike Budenholzer’s bunch it wasn’t going to be that easy.
Toronto held serve at home with wins in Games 3 and 4 and then earned perhaps their biggest win in franchise history on Thursday night, going on the road and upsetting the NBA’s best home team in a 105-99 Game 5 victory.
The win puts Toronto one win away from their first NBA Finals appearance, and where NBA betting all but wrote them off after Game 2, the Raptors are now heavy favorites at -240 to advance past the Bucks.
Bucks ‘Aren’t Gonna Fold’
They’ve been the frontrunners in the East all season long but the Bucks now face +195 odds of winning Games 6 and 7. But there’s still hope and they may actually be good value at this point. Let’s consider first that the Bucks took Toronto to double-overtime in Game 3, and then led by as many as 12 midway through the third quarter of Game 5.
Though they didn’t close, the Bucks easily could have won both those games. Antetokounmpo disappeared late in the Game 5 loss but we’ll finally get to see what the likely regular season MVP looks like with his back against the wall.
One year ago, LeBron James led the Cavaliers back from a 3-2 deficit in the East Finals by averaging 41.5 points, 13.0 rebounds and 9.0 assists. Kawhi Leonard may be having the best series but Giannis is still the most dominant player in the league when he’s on his A game.
The spotlight is on him, and we’re betting on him reasserting himself as the MVP. As he said after Game 5, “we aren’t gonna fold.”
Bucks’ Shots Have to Fall Eventually
The cold spell the Bucks’ shooters are going through is simply wild. They were top-10 in 3-point field goal percentage during the regular season and yet have gone seven straight games shooting below 33% from deep, including 31.8% in Games 3, 4 and 5 combined.
But at some point their prolific shooting needs to return, right? This great a team can’t be so cold for this long. One of their biggest strengths has suddenly become a weakness but we’re betting on the law of averages balancing out.
One Game Changes The Series
It’s interesting how quickly narratives can shift during the postseason. The Bucks are in trouble. They need two straight wins over a Raptors team that smells blood in the water in order to advance.
But the Bucks are just 2.5-point underdogs in Game 6, and it wouldn’t feel like all that much of an upset if they win that game. If they’re able to extend the series with a win in Toronto, something they did twice during the regular season, they’d all of a sudden be a home victory in Game 7 away from advancing.
Odds would shift significantly in their favor and they would become the favorites. We’ve loved the Bucks all season. A little adversity won’t change that. Bet the Bucks at +195 to come back and advance to the Finals.