2021 NBA Finals odds and series predictions: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Phoenix Suns

Giannis Antetokounpo Milwaukee Bucks vs. Phoenix Suns
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Ricky Dimon

NBA

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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

The Phoenix Suns have no need to apologize for finding themselves in the NBA Finals. After all, they have been one of the best teams—maybe the best team—in the entire league since day one of the regular season. And, oh yeah, they were also the best team in the pre-playoff bubble last summer. That being said, it is true that the Suns have enjoyed a favorable road through the postseason. The Lakers’ Anthony Davis missed much of the first round, the Nuggets were without Jamal Murray in the Western Conference semifinals, and Kawhi Leonard of the Clippers missed all of the Western Conference Finals.

Now Phoenix has reached the last hurdle, and guess what… the Eastern Conference champion Milwaukee Bucks could be down two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Due to a hyperextended knee last week, the Greek Freak missed the last two games of the conference finals against Atlanta. His status is unclear; therefore he is without question the big wild card of the upcoming NBA Finals, which begin on Tuesday night in the desert.

NBA Finals series odds

Phoenix Suns: -200
Milwaukee Bucks: +165

The Suns have been off since last Wednesday, when they eliminated the Clippers. They are well-rested and also healthy — and they have home-court advantage. The Bucks have none of those things. They battled past Atlanta this past Saturday and Antetokounmpo is obviously a question mark. It only makes sense that Phoenix is a considerable favorite.

Milwaukee Bucks vs. Phoenix Suns preview

Milwaukee Bucks

The good news for Milwaukee is that it cannot be discounted even without Antetokounmpo. Head coach Mike Budenholzer’s team just beat Atlanta in two consecutive contests despite missing one of the most dominant players in the NBA. The Bucks remain formidable down low with Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis, both of whom stepped up in a big way against the Hawks. In the backcourt, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday have been outstanding basically all season long. They were especially impressive in the Eastern Conference Finals. Like Phoenix, it has to be said that Milwaukee—the Antetokounmpo injury notwithstanding—has been somewhat fortuitous in these playoffs. Kyrie Irving missed most of the East semis for Brooklyn and Trae Young was sidelined from two games in the finals.

Phoenix Suns

Since trailing the Lakers 2-1 in the first round, the Suns are 11-2 overall. They finished off L.A. in six, swept Denver, and took care of the Clippers in six. Despite the fact that the opposition has been depleted, Phoenix has been the most impressive squad from start to finish in this postseason. Chris Paul, who missed the first two games of the West finals because of COVID-19, has taken this team to the next level—from good to great. Devin Booker has emerged as a star and Deandre Ayton can hold his own down low with Lopez and Portis, unlike Atlanta’s big men. Head coach Monty Williams’ club also boasts plenty of depth in the form of Jae Crowder, Mikal Bridges, Cameron Payne, and others.

Head-to-head season series

To say that the two Milwaukee-Phoenix matchups in the regular season did not disappoint would be a gross understatement. In the first meeting on Feb. 10, the Suns treated their home crowd to a 125-124 victory. Antetokoumpo scored 47 points but missed the potential game-winner at the end of regulation. On April 19, Phoenix went on the road and prevailed 128-127 in overtime. Four Suns starters scored at least 20 points, which was enough to overcome at least 25 scored by Antetokounmpo, Middleton, and Holiday.

NBA Finals verdict

If the Bucks are without the Greek Freak for some or all of the NBA Finals, I’m backing the Suns. If he returns for the whole thing… I’m still backing the Suns. Paul is simply too good of a floor general; the way he is running the offense and distributing the ball to Booker and Ayton is impressive. Crowder and Payne have been great in the playoffs, too. Given that the Suns also have the home-court edge, I can’t pick against them. If Antetokounmpo is healthy, though, the Bucks are good enough to take this series the distance.

Pick: Suns in 7

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