Welcome to the Saturday, May 25 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 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.
Regular season series results:
- Oct 29: Bucks 124, Raptors 109 (Fiserv Forum)
- Dec 9: Bucks 104, Raptors 99 (Scotiabank Arena)
- Jan 5: Raptors 123, Bucks 116 (Fiserv Forum)
- Jan 31: Bucks 105, Raptors 92 (Scotiabank Arena)
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)
- May 23: Raptors 105, Bucks 99 (Fiserv Forum)
5/25/19 NBA Betting Pick:
Toronto Raptors (58-24 reg. season, 11-6 postseason) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (60-22 reg. season, 10-4 postseason)
DraftKings Sportsbook Odds: Raptors -2.5 (o/u: 211,5)
FanDuel Sportsbook Odds: Raptors -2.5 (o/u: 211.5)
888 Sportsbook Odds: Raptors -2.5 (o/u: 211.5)
BetStars Sportsbook Odds: Raptors -2.5 (o/u: 212)
The Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo have been humbled over the duration of this series. On Thursday, they lost a third straight game for the first time all season. They now face elimination at Scotiabank Arena, where the Raptors went 32-9 during the regular season.
To begin with the stars, Antetokounmpo was held to 12 points in Game 3 and posted a -19 in Game 4. He was better in Game 5 but now has 14 turnovers to just 18 assists over his last three appearances. He is also shooting 7-for-22 in the half court when being guarded by Kawhi Leonard during that span.
When Kawhi Leonard guards him, The Greek Freak scores only 15.6 points per 100 possessions. In Game 5, Leonard guarded on 37 possessions, holding the MVP candidate to 10 points while the Bucks posted a rough 72.9 offensive rating as a unit.
Toronto HC Nick Nurse has devised a prudent plan to contain Giannis and has the personnel to execute with a rangy and physical front line. It’s up to the Bucks’ supporting cast to step up down the stretch if the Raptors continue to pack the paint.
For one, Eric Bledsoe came into Game 5 averaging just 8.3 PPG in the series, then finally contributed with 20 points. But Khris Middleton managed just 6 points on 2-for-9 FG shooting. Middleton should be fine going forward, but it’s worth noting Bledsoe shot just 5-for-23 in the two previous Toronto-hosted games this series.
Then, Malcolm Brogdon is rounding back into form, and Brook Lopez has been a reliable option in this matchup. However, Nikola Mirotic is 3-for-18 from deep over his last three appearances and was a nonfactor in 9 minutes off the bench Thursday.
The Bucks were 22-1 after a loss entering this series and had lost two straight only once all year. They also had never lost with a lead entering the fourth and were a league-best 33-8 at home. Still, this is a team with limited experience in late-round playoff games. That seemed to play a factor down the stretch of close losses in Game 3 and Game 5.
Now, Leonard is quietly asserting his status as the best player in the world. He handed out a career-high nine assists and all nine led to made 3-pointers in Game 6. He also scored 15 points in the fourth quarter and contained Antetokounmpo.
Unlike Giannis, Leonard is forcing help away from the painted area. That’s opening up lanes for 3-point shooters or for Pascal Siakam to slash to the hoop.
With Brogdon starting, Nurse quickly went with Fred VanVleet off the bench to match up. VanVleet was the story in Game 6, drilling seven treys en route to 21 key points off the bench. He may or may not start for the struggling Danny Green but is clearly playing inspired ball.
The Bucks’ acclaimed bench managed just 15 points (George Hill scored 12) in Game 5 and has been outscored by the Raptors bench, 84-38, over the past two games.
Norman Powell has also been playing well off the bench, and Serge Ibaka is a reliable playoff veteran. Along with Marc Gasol, Ibaka gives the Raptors an edge in terms of playoff experience and toughness.
The Bucks have also missed 25 FTs over their last three losses. Toronto shot 25-for-31 from the FT line in Milwaukee on Thursday and has only missed 14 FTs during that span, which indicates that superior playoff acumen.
Kyle Lowry‘s left thumb may require surgery after the season, but he’s battling through it admirably and gives the Raptors another threat beyond the arc. Fittingly, tonight’s contest will once again hinge on big shots from the perimeter. The Bucks shot 10-for-31 (32.3%) from three, and Toronto shot 18-for-43 (41.8%) in Game 5.
The Raptors held opponents to 35.4% 3-point shooting at home, and the Bucks ranked 22nd in 3-point defense while coughing up 13.1 makes per game this season.
The Final Word
On Thursday, Toronto became the first team in NBA history to win a playoff game despite making 13 or fewer 2-point shots.
The Raptors won thanks to clutch 3-pointers but also because they have the right defensive game plan to overcome a rare off night in the paint.
The Raptors (-2.5 on DraftKings Sportsbook) have covered in six of their last eight home games and are seeing over 60% of bets, forcing the line up from -1 where it opened.
Yet the Bucks are 20-8-1 ATS in their last 29 road games and lead the league with a 9-4 as road underdogs. The underdog is also 9-3 ATS in the last 12 meetings between these teams. This is an opportunity to take the Bucks (+116 on FanDuel Sportsbook) on the moneyline in a series that could still go either way.
The public also forced the point total down a point to 211.5 on most books. We’re still leaning Under (212 on BetStarsNJ) since 11 of Toronto’s 17 playoff games have gone under the total this year.
The Lean: Bucks moneyline
The Pick: Under 211.5