No. 3 Milwaukee Bucks vs. No. 2 Phoenix Suns
Line: Milwaukee -5
Where: Fiserv Forum
When: Tuesday, 7/20 at 9:00 p.m. ET
No team has won four straight games after going down 2-0 in the NBA Finals since 2006, when Miami bested Dallas and took home the title.
Milwaukee will be looking to become the next team to complete that feat when it hosts Phoenix in Game 6 on Tuesday night. The Bucks erased a 16-point deficit in Game 5, coming up with clutch plays down the stretch to move within one game of the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Oddsmakers opened Milwaukee as a 4.5-point favorite and set the total at 223. The early betting action has been on the team with all of the momentum, pushing the consensus number to -5. Tonight’s total has dipped to 222 points at most shops, as of late this morning.
Not only do the Bucks have momentum in the series, but they have been nearly unbeatable at home. They have gone 17-1 in their last 18 home games, including a pair of wins earlier in this series, with the lone defeat coming against the Atlanta Hawks in the East finals.
Milwaukee closed as a 4.5-point favorite in both Games 3 and Game 4, so this number seems unlikely to climb any higher than -5. The home team has been favored between four or five points in every game so far.
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 32 points on Saturday. He finished an alley oop from Jrue Holiday in the final seconds to make for another iconic moment. Antetokounmpo shot just 4 of 11 from the free throw line, but his big play down the stretch made up for it.
Holiday has been a key part of the turnaround in this series, scoring 27 points and dishing out 13 assists in Game 5. Khris Middleton added 29 points, making them the first trio to each shoot 50% or better and score at least 25 points in an NBA Finals game since 1985.
Phoenix has to find a way to slow them down on Tuesday. Devin Booker scored 40 points for the second consecutive game, but his team was unable to hold on to their big first-half lead. The Suns were down by 14 points in the fourth quarter before coming back and having a chance to win at the end.
They shot 68.4% from beyond the arc, but they were out-rebounded and gave up 21 points in transition. Chris Paul scored 21 points on 9 of 15 shooting and tallied 11 assists.
Both teams have been profitable during the playoffs. Phoenix is 12-6 against-the-spread in its last 18 games, while Milwaukee is 5-2 ATS in its last seven games. The Bucks are 6-2 in their last eight home games against the Suns.
The total has gone ‘over’ in five of the last seven games for each of these teams. Phoenix is 8-4 in its last 12 road games, but it will have to overcome Milwaukee’s momentum and strong home court advantage on Tuesday.
The pick: Phoenix +5
I was never going to feel comfortable laying 4-5 points with the favorite down the stretch in this series. Neither team has a roster that has experience playing in this type of position, so variance feels like more of a factor than usual. That handicap played out on Saturday, as Phoenix was unable to build on its big first-half lead. Milwaukee has taken some early steam for this potential close-out game, but I expect the professional bettors to keep the line at -5 or lower. There will not be anyone on the court with more experience than Chris Paul on Tuesday night. I know he has not played particularly well, but I do expect him to have his team ready to go. Milwaukee seemed almost overly celebratory after winning Game 5, which gives me pause for concern. I expect Phoenix to be the more focused team coming into this one. Much like in Game 5, this feels like a toss-up, so my money is on the road ‘dog getting five points.