The Milwaukee Bucks are going to face a far tougher playoff test than the first round when they take on the Miami Heat, starting with Monday's Game 1 of the conference semifinals.
Milwaukee eased past the Magic in five games, but the Heat swept Indiana in their opening series. Can they capitalize on the circumstances of playing on a neutral court, or will the Bucks further underscore their superiority?
Continue on for the rest of abe Insights' Heat-Bucks betting preview, which has analysis for the main betting lines, the best odds across all the major sportsbooks, advanced stats and more for what should be a fascinating matchup.
Date: Monday, August 31
Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Heat 33%; Bucks 69%
Spread: MIL -5.5
Moneyline: MIA +200; MIL -220
A strained right hamstring may keep Bucks starting point guard Eric Bledsoe out of action, as he's listed as questionable with the injury. Bledsoe is averaging 11.6 points, 6.6 assists and 1.4 steals per game in the postseason.
Thankfully for the underdog Heat, they don't have any major injuries to speak of, and considering the NBA is a matchup league, their personnel is suited to giving the East's No. 1 seed all it can handle.
77.5 vs. 75.3: Milwaukee and Miami ranked first and third respectively in defensive rebounding percentage in the regular season. These squads crash the glass among the NBA's best despite being largely without traditional big men.
35.5 vs. 34.7: There's no questioning the Deer have an elite defense, yet they ranked just 15th in 3-point field goal percentage allowed. Although the Heat's latter figure in this stat duel isn't a big gap, that adds up during an entire season, and was good for sixth in the NBA.
44.1 vs. 38.7: Where the Bucks were exceptional on defense is in allowing the fewest points in the paint per game, which is the second number here. However, Miami didn't slack in this area either, ranking in the league's top five.
What should scare the Bucks even more about the Heat is that in addition to the disparity in 3FG% defense, Miami shot the second-best percent from beyond the arc in 2019-20. Due to Giannis Antetokounmpo dominating the ball and not being a good outside shooter, Milwaukee ranked just 18th in that category.
Pro basketball is becoming less about positions; more about dynamic ball handlers and having a plethora of shooters. Teams that can accomplish this with as much size as possible are generally better off. Well, the Heat have all those ingredients, and superior perimeter shooting.
The Magic were on of the league's worst at defending the 3-point line. It's encouraging Giannis has hit treys at a 38.5% clip over the last five games, yet that optimism should be tempered with the fact that he'll be facing much more contested looks going forward.
Jimmy Butler gives Miami someone it can turn to late if a basket is necessary. In the meantime, coach Erik Spoelstra's squad has so many underrated weapons and dead-eye shooters that it's hard to account for any individual one of them. For Milwaukee, there's a lot more individual pressure on Khris Middleton to be the Robin to Giannis' Batman.
Middleton's shooting splits in Round 1 were 36.1/37.5/64.7 after coming off a near-50-40-90 campaign, as he was almost six points below his regular-season scoring average. If the two-time All-Star can't answer the bell, the Bucks could be in trouble.
The home team won all three times when these teams met during the regular season, but Miami held the 2-1 advantage overall. It only works to the Heat's advantage that Milwaukee can't play at home.
Spread bets should favor the Bucks, but more action should go on Miami to pull the upset due to the superior payout. "Should" doesn't mean will, though, because bettors may gravitate to Milwaukee's moneyline if they want to parlay this contest with other games.
As for the point total, both these teams have the athleticism to run and rack up numerous possessions. Between that and the Heat's elite outside shooting, bettors should slightly favor the Over.
Note: Odds current as of 1:30 p.m. ET on Monday, August 31.
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