Milwaukee vs Miami: Round 1, Free Picks, Odds & Predictions

Milwaukee Bucks vs Miami Heat - 2021 NBA Playoffs Round 1
Milwaukee vs. Miami, Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, May 22, Fiserv Forum

Khris Middleton provided the overtime heroics to lead the Milwaukee Bucks past the Miami Heat in the first game of their first round series on Saturday. It was a pretty even game for all 53 minutes as neither team by more than eight and the lead changed 17 times with 16 ties. The Heat were able to stay in the game by shooting 40 percent from 3-point range and holding the Bucks to just 16.1 percent from behind the arc, but it was not enough. The tension of Game 1 should make Monday’s Game 2 must-see television with only a day of rest between the two games.

Game 2 (Milwaukee Bucks lead 1-0)

May 24, 7:30 p.m., Fiserv Forum

If you were looking for exciting basketball on Saturday, it certainly found it in Milwaukee for Game 1 between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Miami Heat. Jimmy Butler netted a floater at the buzzer to send the game into overtime then Khris Middleton knocked down a 19-footer with half a second on the clock to secure the victory for Milwaukee. Middleton led all scorers with 27 points, one ahead of teammate Giannis Antentokounmpo, while Goran Dragic led Miami with 25 points, one more than Duncan Robinson. Dragic and Robinson were a big reason why Miami was competitive in the game, sinking a combined 12 of 23 shots from behind the arc as part of Miami’s 40-percent shooting day from 3-point range.

 The Heat were able to take advantage of Milwaukee’s lackadaisical defense on the perimeter by making 20 of their 50 shots from behind the arc. The Bucks entered the NBA playoffs as the second-worst 3-point defense in the league by allowing nearly 39 percent from behind the arc. The question for Miami in this series is going to be how consistent it can be with their perimeter shooting. Robinson made seven of his 13 shots from behind the arc in the Game 1 loss and Dragic was 5 for 10, and the challenge is now how they can match that going forward. The good news for Miami is any dropoff in the 3-point shooting should be offset by an improved shooting performance from Butler, who made just four of his 22 shots in the game. Butler finished with 17 points, but it was clear he and Bam Adebayo, who was 4-of-15 from the floor, were affected by Milwaukee’s length on the interior. If the Heat can’t get good clean looks around the rim, they will need to stay hot from deep to stay in this series.

Milwaukee knew this series wasn’t going to be easy, but Miami was ready to go from the outset in Game 1 and the Bucks weren’t. Miami came out and scored nine of the first 11 points and it wasn’t until there was less than four minutes left in the first half that the Bucks claimed their first lead. The Bucks did at least have three players finish with 20 points as Jrue Holliday added exactly 20 in the victory, but the unheralded star of the game was Brooks Lopez and his 18 points and eight rebounds. Lopez played a major role in disrupting Adebayo and Butler, and help the Bucks dominate in the paint with a 56-24 edge in points in the lane. He also grabbed three offensive rebounds and Antetokounmpo grabbed six as Milwaukee added 19 second-chance points by cleaning up their own misses.

It seems likely Game 2 will have similar vibes to Game 1, so Monday’s game should be equally close from start to finish. Milwaukee opened as 4.5-point favorites at the top sports betting sites in New Jersey, and I am just not buying a spread that large. Robinson has matured as a shooter this season and become more consistent, so I believe he will be able to have a major impact for the Heat from behind the arc. However, Milwaukee’s dominance of the paint stands out because those are the type of baskets that tend to be more consistent than jump shots. It’s going to be very difficult for the Heat to win if they cannot get more production on the interior from Adebayo or Butler. After a low-scoring battle in Game 1, the defensive energy will only be more prolific in Game 2, so I’m betting on the Bucks to win parlayed with under 221.5 total points for +205 odds on the top NBA betting sites in New Jersey. In addition, I’m going to go out on a limb and say Middleton again leads the game in scoring at +500 odds from the New Jersey basketball betting sites.

BET ON MILWAUKEE BUCKS TO WIN

Game 3

May 28, 8:30 p.m., American Airlines Arena

 

 

Game 4

May 30, 7 p.m., American Airlines Arena

 

 

Game 5

June 1, TBD, Fiserv Forum

 

Game 6

June 3, TBD, American Airlines Arena

 

 

Game 7

June 5, TBD, Fiserv Forum

 

 

Game 1

May 22, 2 p.m., Fiserv Forum

This series certainly doesn’t have the feel of a first-round series, but the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat will do battle in the conference quarterfinals. Miami didn’t look the part of the defending Eastern Conference champions early in the season and found themselves in the middle of the pack for most of the year. Milwaukee had to tinker with its lineup after consecutive postseason disappointments and they didn’t have the same dominant regular season of years past. However, the Bucks have always been focused on the NBA playoffs and proving themselves as a true contender to come out of the Eastern Conference, and the Heat are trying to affirm that they are still a force in the conference as well.

The Heat lost their opening game of the season and didn’t crack .500 until March 11 when their record was 19-18. However, Miami immediately went on a long losing streak and it took a tremendous effort in the final 16 games of the season to climb out of that hole. The Heat won 12 of their last 16 games, but one of those four losses was a 14-point setback to the Bucks in Milwaukee. Similar to last season, no one is counting on the Heat to be able to play consistently well enough to defeat the Bucks, but that chip on their shoulder helped Miami surge in the postseason in the bubble. This is obviously a new year, but one thing has not changed for the Heat, and that is the importance of the role players around Jimmy Butler. Miami knows what it can expect from Butler on a nightly basis, and there are going to be games where he carries the team himself. The Heat should also feel comfortable in knowing what to expect from Bam Adebayo, who averaged a career-best 18.7 points per game this season but just nine rebounds. What will make the Heat successful in this series, though, is the consistency of Goran Dragic, Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson around Adebayo and Butler.

In the no surprise category, no team scored as many points as the Bucks this year, who led the NBA by averaging more than 120 points per game. That total obviously starts with two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and his 28.1 points per game as well as Khris Middleton dropping 20.4 points per contest. But the Bucks are also getting significant contributions from Jrue Holiday, who is averaging 17.7 points per game, and that third scorer makes all the difference for this team. All three of those stars are also excellent distributors and all average at least five assists per game as well. Where the Bucks have a chance to really stand out, though, is on the glass where they rank second in defensive rebounds and fourth in total rebounds per game. Milwaukee has five players averaging at least five rebounds per game, led by Antetokounmpo’s 11 per contest, and that team-first attitude to attack missed shots is an important edge over the second-worst rebounding team in the league.

As much as I don’t want to fall into the trap of counting out the Heat, I honestly don’t like this matchup for Miami. The Bucks are the second-best team at defending 2-point shots and the second-worst defending 3-point shots. Miami has some good shooters, but betting on Herro and Robinson to be consistent from behind the arc is a difficult ask. The top sports betting sites in New Jersey have made Milwaukee the clear favorite, but not the overwhelming one like in many other series. I keep waffling between the Bucks winning this series in five or six games, but I’m going to settle on Milwaukee in five for +280 odds, though you’ll get better odds by picking the Bucks in six games for +400 odds.

Focusing in on Game 1 on Saturday, the top NBA betting sites in New Jersey have installed the Bucks as five-point favorites. If the first game was in Miami, I’d think this was more logical, but the Heat struggled last week in Milwaukee against the Bucks, who won eight of their last 10 games in the regular season. I’m going to be a little more kind to the Bucks and bet on Milwaukee to win laying 7.5 points for +150 odds after it shellacked the Heat in two of the three meetings this season. On the individual level, I’m looking at the New Jersey basketball betting sites’ odds on Brooks Lopez’s rebounding totals for Game 1. Lopez draws a tough matchup in Adebayo, but he’s grabbed at least six boards in five of his last six games, including eight in that meeting against Miami last week. I’m betting on Lopez to grab at least six rebounds in a Milwaukee victory for +285 odds.

BET ON MILWAUKEE BUCKS TO WIN

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Josh Walfish is an award-winning journalist who has been covering college and professional sports in the United States. He holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University and his work has appeared in the Miami Herald, Chicago Sun-Times and Providence Journal. He most recently chronicled the UMass hockey teams rise to prominence over the last two years for the local newspaper

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