- The NBA Finals will begin on Tuesday, July 6 in Phoenix with Game 1 at 9:05 PM Eastern.
- Phoenix is favored in Game 1 and to win the NBA Championship.
- Game 2 of the NBA Finals is on Thursday, July 8.
The NBA Finals will get underway on Tuesday night as the Phoenix Suns hosts the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 1 of their best of 7 series. The Suns reached the NBA Finals by beating the LA Clippers to win the Western Conference in six games. The Bucks also needed six games to dispatch their Eastern Conference Finals challenger, the Atlanta Hawks. Milwaukee will be going for their second NBA Championship in franchise history with the other coming in 1971. The Suns have never won the NBA title. Game 1 of the NBA Finals will begin at 9:05 PM Eastern/6:05 PM Pacific and will be broadcast on ABC in the US.
While the Suns are relatively injury free there’s a big question about the health of the Bucks’ franchise superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. He was injured late in Game 4 after an awkward landing resulted in a hyperextended knee. There was concern that he could have also suffered structural damage and possibly torn ligaments but a MRI indicated none. There is still no timeline for Antetokounmpo to return though the general recovery time for a ‘mild’ hyperextension is typically two to four weeks. He missed Games 5 and 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals although there were unconfirmed reports that he would have been cleared to play in Game 7 had it been necessary. At this point, his status for the finals is undetermined. Milwaukee head coach Mike Budenholzer didn’t reveal much to the media saying that it’s a ‘day to day situation’. Don Best’s injury report says simply that ‘it is undetermined if he will be available for Game 1 of the NBA Finals’.
Bookmakers emphasized the value of Antetokounmpo to the Bucks’ championship chances in the Eastern Conference Finals and that dynamic is once again at play here. The Phoenix Suns are a -5.5 favorite across the betting board at most major sportsbooks in Nevada, Colorado and offshore. TwinSpires has the Suns listed as a -6 point favorite. The total on the game is 217 with a few sportsbooks at 217.5 including the South Point in Las Vegas, BetMGM in Colorado and BetOnline.ag offshore. The series price has Phoenix installed as a -183 point favorite to win the championship at BetOnline.ag. Takeback on Milwaukee is +163.
All you have to do to understand the importance of Antetokounmpo to the Bucks is take a look at the betting line for Game 1 compared to the two previous meetings between the teams in the regular season. When Milwaukee played at Phoenix on February 10, 2021 the Bucks were -3.5 road favorites. The Suns were afforded more respect as the season progressed and in the rematch at Milwaukee on April 19 the Bucks were -3 point home favorites. The Suns won and covered both games this season. Given the -5.5 price on Game 1 it looks as if bookmakers are still attaching a 5.5 or 6 point line value to Antetokounmpo as they did in Games 5 and 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
In an article posted earlier this weekend we took a look at the performance of NBA teams against the pointspread. The Suns are the league’s top performer against the number to date (regular season and playoffs) earning +16.7 units for bettors. Phoenix also has the NBA’s best ATS performance at home going 33-11 SU and 28-16 ATS (63.6%) for +10.4 units. The Bucks, conversely, have been a loser against the pointspread this year with an overall ATS record of 42-47-0 for a -8.6 unit loss. They’re the second worst NBA team against the spread on the road going 19-26 ATS for a -9.6 unit loss.
Phoenix won and covered both games against Milwaukee this season and have really had the Bucks’ number over the past three seasons. Overall, Phoenix is 5-1 both straight up and against the spread in that timeframe including a 3-0 SU/ATS mark at home. 4 of the 6 games went ‘Over’ the total including 2 of 3 in Phoenix. Both matchups this year went over the total. Milwaukee has been a road underdog only four times this season going 1-3 SU/ATS. They were a woeful 10-20 ATS (33.3%) against Western Conference opponents in the regular season. Phoenix is 31-8 SU/26-13 ATS (66.7%) as a home favorite this season. They had a record of 21-9 SU/18-11-1 (62.1%) against the Eastern Conference during the regular season.