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Welcome to the Thursday, May 23 edition of the NBA Best Bets column. Here, I’ll strive to identify one NBA bet for Thursday’s Raptors-Bucks playoff matchup I feel has profit potential at DraftKings SportsbookFanDuel Sportsbook888 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.

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Postseason record:

ATS Leans/Picks: 7-3 (.700)
Moneyline: 3-2 (.600)
Over/Under: 2-4 (.333)

Conference finals series results:

  • May 15: Bucks 108, Raptors 100 (Fiserv Forum)
  • May 17: Bucks 125, Raptors 103 (Fiserv Forum)
  • May 19: Raptors 118, Bucks 112 (2 OT) (Scotiabank Arena)
  • May 21: Raptors 120, Bucks 102 (Scotiabank Arena)

5/23/19 NBA Betting Pick:

Toronto Raptors (58-24 reg. season, 10-6 postseason) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (60-22 reg. season, 10-3 postseason)

DraftKings Sportsbook Odds: Bucks -7 (o/u: 216.5)
FanDuel Sportsbook Odds: Bucks -7 (o/u: 217.0)
888 Sportsbook Odds: Bucks -7 (o/u: 216.5)
BetStars Sportsbook Odds: Bucks -7 (o/u: 217.0)


The Breakdown

On Tuesday, for the second time in as many games, the Raptors defied the odds. Their Game 4 win certainly unfolded in a lot more surprising fashion than their narrow Game 3 double-overtime triumph. In the latter contest, the Bucks were a play or two away from taking control in the extra periods but couldn’t get the job done. However, they certainly gave Toronto all they could handle on its home court. That set up a Game 4 in which Milwaukee boasted plenty of confidence.

Yet that confidence ultimately proved misplaced. That also goes for those who saw the Bucks setting the ship back on their course. I laid out the case for why I felt that was the likeliest outcome and was as surprised as anyone to see Milwaukee look like anything but the team with the NBA’s best regular-season record. That was particularly true during the second half. The game unfolded in rather unusual fashion, considering the Big Three of Giannis AntetokounmpoKhris MiddletonEric Bledsoe were a lot more efficient than Game 3. The talented trio had gone a collective 11-for-48 from the floor in that game.

Middleton and Antetokounmpo drained 20 of 32 attempts in Game 4. Middleton logged an especially impressive 11-for-15 tally. And Bledsoe’s struggles continued. He went just 2-for-7 from the floor and ultimately logged just 20 minutes. But the under-the-radar clunker of the night — one that potentially played as large a role in Milwaukee’s surprising defeat as any — was the normally reliable Malcolm Brogdon‘s abysmal 18.2 percent showing (2-for-11) in 28 minutes off the bench.

Brogdon’s ineptitude was in sharp contrast to his stellar efforts in Games 1 and 2 in Milwaukee. He’d also shot a rock-solid 47.1 percent in Game 3. And his struggles robbed the Bucks of a valued source of second-unit offense. That’s a component that could certainly have played an integral role in keeping the game from slipping away in the second half. Instead, Ersan Ilyasova‘s modest seven points paced the Milwaukee bench. And given Bledsoe’s underwhelming numbers and limited minutes, the Bucks mainly became an unbalanced two-man show in the form of Antetokounmpo (25 points, 10 rebounds) and Middleton (30 points).

That hasn’t been the recipe for winning basketball for Milwaukee this season. Yet it would seem that returning to Fiserv Forum could certainly be the cure for what ails them. The point spreads have varied widely for the last three games in this series. The most telling example might be Game 5. Despite the 18-point loss by the Bucks on Thursday, Milwaukee has gained five points in its projected margin of victory from that of Game 4.

The Bucks’ home metrics this season and postseason lend credence to that line movement. Milwaukee is allowing a stingy 106.5 points per home game while yielding the lowest shooting percentage (42.7) there. Then, no team has been more offensively prolific at home than the Bucks. Their 119.1 points per home game rank at the top of the NBA. Both ends of the equation were proven out again in the first two games of this series. While Milwaukee averaged 116.5 points in those contests, they limited Toronto to 101.5.

Finally, another factor I’ve been waiting to emerge and simply hasn’t yet is the greater wear and tear on the Raptors’ bodies. As detailed in our Game 4 preview, Kawhi Leonard and company have put in a lot more cumulative floor time this postseason than their opponents. Toronto was at least partly fueled by some home-court adrenaline the last two games. And the comfortable Game 4 victory did give Leonard and Pascal Siakam a much-needed drop in minutes. However, what’s sure to be a rabid road environment Thursday could help manifest some of that disparity in energy reserves between the two teams.

By The Numbers

The Raptors are 45-52-1 (45.8 percent) overall against the spread this season, including 8-8 (50.0 percent) this postseason. That includes a 21-26-1 (44.7 percent) mark versus the number as a road team. Toronto is also 27-33-1 (45.0 percent) against the spread in games they’ve played with one day of rest this season and postseason and 32-36 (47.1) versus the number in conference games.

Then, the Bucks are 57-34-4 (NBA-best 62.6 percent) overall against the spread this season, including 10-3 (NBA-best 76.9 percent) this postseason. That includes a 29-17-2 mark (NBA-best 63.0 percent) versus the number as a home team and 28-16-2 (63.6 percent) as a home favorite specifically. The Bucks are 35-18-1 (NBA-best 66.0 percent) against the spread in games they’ve played with one day of rest this season and postseason. Then, Milwaukee is also 19-5 (NBA-best 79.2 percent) against the spread after a loss and 42-20-3 (NBA-best 67.7 percent) versus the number in conference games this season and postseason.


The Final Word

This series admittedly threw us a couple of curve balls in the last two games. But, I believe normalcy returns as the scene shifts back to Milwaukee. The Bucks were still nowhere close to full efficiency in Game 4, which led to them losing in back-to-back games for only the second time all season (including the postseason). However, the oddsmakers seem to think their home floor should spark another 180. I tend to agree. The spread here is elevated, but I see Milwaukee doing enough separating, even if it’s late, to get back on the winning side of the number.

The Lean: Bucks -7

The Pick: Bucks moneyline