Welcome to the Friday, May 17 edition of the NBA Best Bets column. Here, I’ll strive to identify one NBA bet for Friday’s Raptors-Bucks playoff matchup I feel has profit potential at DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook, 888 Sportsbook, and BetStars Sportsbook.
Depending on the circumstance, I’ll hone in on moneylines, point spreads, or projected totals. Sometimes I may even touch on multiple metrics. Then, I’ll take you on a fairly deep dive as to why.
Please note we’ll be referencing only legal, regulated sportsbook betting odds and totals here at PlayPicks. A “pick” is a wager that, as of the time of this writing, we feel confident recommending. A “lean” is a wager we favor over the other side. This play could end up on our card with the release of additional information.
ATS Leans/Picks: 6-1 (.857)
Moneyline: 2-0 (.1000)
Over/Under: 2-4 (.333)
Conference finals series results:
- May 15: Bucks 108, Raptors 100 (Fiserv Forum)
5/17/19 NBA Betting Pick:
Toronto Raptors (58-24 reg. season, 8-5 postseason) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (60-22 reg. season, 9-1 postseason)
The Bucks came into Wednesday’s Game 1 refreshed physically after a week off. Yet a layoff of that duration can also leave a team a little too refreshed mentally. In the first quarter, Milwaukee played like a team that had been given the wrong tip-off time. The Raptors mostly dominated on both ends of the floor to take a 34-23 lead. The light seemed to go on for the Bucks in the second quarter when they put a three-point dent into their deficit.
Toronto stubbornly held their advantage during the third quarter, however, making it appear a second consecutive Game 1 upset loss for Milwaukee could be in the cards. However, the hosts ultimately squashed that possibility by putting together a fourth quarter that embodied how they performed on their home floor of Fiserv Forum for the majority of the season. The Bucks outscored the Raptors by a 32-17 margin, forcing misses on Toronto’s final eight shots in the process.
Save for Brook Lopez (career-playoff-high 29 points), who rebounded from a forgettable series of games against the Celtics in the semifinal round, none of the other Bucks looked to be anywhere near peak form offensively. That even included Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was just 7-for-16 from the floor but salvaged his final line with a 9-for-12 tally from the charity stripe. Milwaukee shot just 39.8 percent overall. No member of the starting five except Lopez shot anywhere close to 50.0 percent.
Notably, coach Mike Budenholzer opted to bring two-guard Malcolm Brogdon off the bench in Game 1. The decision was understandable when factoring in that Brogdon logged only 17 minutes of court time in Game 5 versus the Celtics. That game had represented his first action since March 15 due to a foot injury. Thus, Budenholzer kept his emerging third-year player out of the grind of the starting lineup for at least one more game. However, he still afforded him 27 minutes, seemingly a dress rehearsal for first-unit play.
The bad news on the Raptors’ side of the equation is that they hit Milwaukee with plenty through three quarters and still couldn’t fell the Eastern Conference juggernaut. If the Bucks’ track record at home this season is any indication, it’s only going to get more difficult for Toronto in Game 2. For one, Milwaukee’s shooting struggles aren’t likely to continue to the same extent. After all, Milwaukee came into Game 1 shooting 48.0 percent overall at Fiserv in the regular season and postseason.
Then, Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton had considerably more offensive success against Toronto in the regular season than in Game 1. The Greek Freak drained 58.5 percent of his attempts in three regular-season meetings with the Raptors. Meanwhile, Middleton posted a 47.6 percent success rate across four encounters. Wednesday, they shot 43.8 and 33.3 percent, respectively. And Eric Bledsoe, who’d shot a respectable 44.7 percent versus the Raps during the regular campaign, posted an abysmal 25.0 percent figure in Game 1.
Finally, it’s worth noting that despite their success through three quarters Wednesday, the Raptors were far from efficient offensively. They shot just 37.0 percent in their own right. Kawhi Leonard, who was held to 42.6 percent shooting by the Bucks in the regular season, was just 10-for-26 from the floor Wednesday. Then, Pascal Siakam drained only six of 20 attempts, which included a 2-for-9 tally from distance. Without better accuracy from the two cornerstones of their offense, Toronto’s chances of hanging close in Game 2, much less notching a victory, are slim.
Yes, Kyle Lowry did put together an excellent performance in Game 1 with 30 points on 66.7 percent shooting. However, that’s likely an outlier considering the veteran point guard posted an unsightly 23.3 percent success rate in three regular-season games against Milwaukee. Additionally, the Bucks come into Game 2 tied for the fourth-lowest offensive efficiency rating (23.9) allowed to point guards, and they’re yielding the lowest shooting percentage (40.4) to the position in the NBA factoring in the postseason.
By The Numbers
The Raptors are 43-51-1 (45.7 percent) overall against the spread this season, including 6-7 (46.1 percent) this postseason. That includes a 21-25-1 (45.7 percent) mark versus the number as a road team. Toronto is also 25-32-1 (43.9 percent) versus the number in games they’ve played with one day of rest this season and postseason.
The Bucks are 56-32-4 (NBA-best 63.6 percent) overall against the spread this season, including 9-1 (NBA-best 90.0 percent) this postseason. That includes a 28-17-2 mark (62.2 percent) versus the number as a home team and a 27-16-2 tally (62.8 percent) as a home favorite in particular. The Bucks are also 34-16-1 (68.0 percent) in games they’ve played with one day of rest this season and postseason. Milwaukee is also 37-27-4 (57.8 percent) against the spread in games following a win and 41-18-3 (NBA-best 69.5 percent) versus the number in conference games this season and postseason.
The Final Word
The Raptors put a good scare into what appeared to be a sluggish Bucks squad in Game 1, but predictably, the team with the fresher legs prevailed in the end. Milwaukee should have full focus now that they’ve swept the cobwebs out. That should lead to a less nerve-racking and more decisive win overall. The spread has bumped up only a half-point over Wednesday’s. I see Milwaukee having enough to cover it on their way to a 2-0 series lead.
The Picks: Bucks -6.5, Bucks moneyline