No. 3 Milwaukee Bucks vs. No. 2 Brooklyn Nets
Line: Milwaukee -5.5
Where: Fiserv Forum
When: Thursday, 6/17 at 8:30 p.m. ET
Kevin Durant might have put together one of the best individual performances of all-time on Tuesday night, but bettors are not expecting him to repeat that effort in Game 6.
Brooklyn took a 3-2 series lead over Milwaukee behind 49 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists from the two-time NBA Finals MVP. Durant became the first player with at least 45 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists in a playoff game.
The Bucks are now in a position where they have to Thursday night to keep their season alive. Oddsmakers opened Milwaukee at -3.5, but the line has spiked to -5.5 after early betting action and information.
Brooklyn will be without point guard Kyrie Irving once again. Nets coach Steve Nash said Irving will not travel with the team and will continue to get treatment in Brooklyn following his ankle sprain in Game 4.
“The organization is preparing for the possibility that Irving won’t return this series,” sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Durant’s historic outing has put Brooklyn back in a solid position, though. The Nets are +180 favorites to win the title and are -135 to win the Eastern Conference. Milwaukee has fallen to +700 to win the Finals and +350 to win the East.
Not only was Irving out on Tuesday, but James Harden was ineffective in his return from a hamstring injury. He shot just 1 of 10 from the floor, scoring five points in 46 minutes.
Durant took over down the stretch, pouring in 20 points in the fourth quarter. He hit a 3-pointer with 50 seconds left to make it a four-point game. Forward Jeff Green added 27 points (seven 3-pointers) off the bench, helping Brooklyn crawl out of a 17-point hole.
Milwaukee will still have hope heading into Game 6. The Bucks are 4-0 against Brooklyn at home this season and Giannis Antetokounmpo is coming off his third straight game with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds. He was the only player to receive All-NBA first-team votes on all 100 ballots.
The Bucks shot just 42% from the field in the fourth quarter, including a 16% mark from 3-point range. Khris Middleton had 25 points, while Jrue Holiday added 19. Antetokounmpo might take on the challenge of guarding Durant in Game 6 after he torched them on Tuesday.
Milwaukee was a 3.5-point favorite at home in Game 3 before going off as a 2-point ‘dog in Game 4. The line has now shifted by 7.5 points as Brooklyn heads back to Milwaukee without Irving.
The Nets have been an excellent betting option over the last few weeks, going 13-2 against-the-spread in their last 15 games. They are 4-1 ATS in this series. Milwaukee will put its 12-game home winning streak on the line in this game.
The Bucks have gone ‘under’ in six of their last seven games against the Nets. Brooklyn has gone ‘under’ in eight of its last 12 road games, including four of its last five at Milwaukee. Thursday’s total opened at 220.5 and has dipped to 220 as of late Wednesday afternoon.
The pick: Brooklyn +5.5
This pick is going against the zig-zag theory and public perception, but there is too much value to pass here. All of the pressure is on Milwaukee to keep its season alive against a team without one of its stars, and the Bucks have struggled in pressure situations over the last few years. They blew a big second-half lead on Tuesday, so I expect pressure to play a big role if Brooklyn can keep this game close in the early going. I am also not convinced that this line should move from Brooklyn -2 to Brooklyn +5.5 since Game 4, even with Irving’s absence. Durant is the best scorer in the NBA and Antetokounmpo called him the best player in the NBA following Game 5. He should get more help from Harden on Thursday, so I like the Nets as sizeable ‘dogs.