No matter what the result of the NBA Finals, it will be a feel-good story. Chris Paul is trying to win his first title by leading a young team to the promised land. Conversely, former MVP Giannis Antetokoumpo, considered one of the game’s best players, is also seeking his first championship.
There is uncertainty regarding The Greek Freak’s availability due to a hyperextended knee suffered in the Eastern Conference finals vs Atlanta. He is expected to miss at least one game, but there are no guarantees that he’ll get any court time.
Online betting markets have the Suns as raging hot favorites to win the franchise’s first NBA title.
Who Looked More Impressive?
There is heated debate in the NBA community about who looked more impressive in the conference finals. The Bucks needed six games to get past the inexperienced Hawks, but they won the last two games without Antetokounmpo.
Phoenix got past the Los Angeles Clippers in six, but the Clippers were without Kawhi Leonard, so we think the teams are evenly matched in this department.
If anything, we give the slight edge to the Suns, who showcased offensive and defensive prowess. They limited the Clippers to only 80 points in Game 4 and they closed the series by scoring 130. That’s not easy to do and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Bucks / NBA fans, after the Giannis Antetokounmpo update: pic.twitter.com/CBU8C9mPOW
— Maybe: Doran Dragić (@DP_Lavezzi22) June 30, 2021
However, a case can be made for the Bucks, who scored 123 and 118 points in the absence of Antetokounmpo. There has been talk that the Bucks are better without the Greek national, but we can’t believe our ears.
“What a roller coaster of emotions,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer told NBA.com after Saturday’s 118-107 clincher. “Just impressed with the resilience of the group, the character of the group. They just have a focus and an edge that puts us in a good place, puts us in an opportunity to keep playing.”
Despite winning the last two games without him, the Bucks will find it tough to win the NBA championship without Antetokounmpo. He not only provides a steady 28.1 points per game, but he would make it tough for the Phoenix guards to get anywhere near the rim.
Antetokounmpo is having an effect on the sidelines. If he doesn’t play, he can spur on his Bucks from the bench.
“It’s because he’s been there every step of the way. Even when he’s been sitting on the bench, he’s been active, he’s been vocal, which is something I’ve seen him really grow in over the last three years,” teammate Pat Connaughton said. “He’s not just been vocal individually but he’s been vocal collectively to everybody before the games, during practice, plane rides, whatever it might be.”
NBA betting markets don’t expect Antetokounmpo to play anytime soon. Had he been expected to play, bettors should have expected a reverse market. Instead, the Suns are -200 to win and the Bucks are outsiders at +170.
Time for Paul to Shine
It has been a long time coming for Paul, but he has finally made the NBA finals. After 16 seasons, one of the best point guard generals to play the game gets his chance to win the chip.
Winning isn’t inevitable, especially given the lack of playoffs experience for the Suns. However, there is a sense of destiny for Phoenix this season.
— NBA Retweet (@RTNBA) July 2, 2021
Paul didn’t go chasing a title with the big-market teams. Instead, he picked a team he knew had plenty of young and talented players. Pressure doesn’t typically get to Paul, whose legacy will be determined by how he performs over the next two weeks.
We are confident he will live up to expectations and guide the Suns, but he can’t control how the likes of Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton handle the pressure. Booker is susceptible to getting hot under the collar, but he averages 25.6 points and the confident player has earned his dues in the NBA.
Ayton has thrived under the guidance of Paul.
“I love CP, man. Like I said, that’s really the only teammate that really pushes me. Like a big bro type push. Knowing what I got and that I ain’t never thought that I had,” Ayton told NBC Sports.
“I think he was the best thing that happened to my career. I can say that every day. Just is really a dude who pays attention to detail. It’s not how you say it, it’s what he’s saying… I never know a guy who cares so much about basketball and competing at everything. And it’s contagious and that’s what he built in me as well and just having him as a teammate and the experience that he’s went through and teaching me the little things has helped me and it’s working.”
Ayton is averaging 10.5 rebounds and the maturity is clear to see. He had no leadership on the court before Paul came to Phoenix, so not only is Paul elevating his own game, but also of those around him.
Bucks vs Suns Series Betting Trends
The Suns and Bucks played twice in the regular season, and although the Suns went 2-0, there was not much separating the teams.
Phoenix won the first meeting at home 125-124 before winning the second matchup 128-127 on the road. With only two points separating them, bettors should expect another close series.
However, the Bucks are only 1-6 against the spread in the last seven meetings. Failing to cover the spread has plagued the Bucks against Phoenix, so they will need to cover a positive spread when they play at Fiserv Forum.
They are also 3-9 ATS in the last 12 games as an underdog. Expect bookmakers to have Milwaukee as underdogs until Antetokounmpo returns.
The Suns are 11-4 ATS in the last 15 playoff games as a favorite.
We are comfortable picking the Phoenix Suns regardless of whether Antetokoumpo plays or not. He is a vital part of the Bucks, but our confidence is with the Suns.
They don’t have the same size as the Bucks, but they are more mobile and the defense is underrated. The Suns also won both regular-season meetings, so that will give them confidence in this best-of-seven series.
Having home-court advantage is another positive. The Bucks were only 20-16 on the road.
With the Bucks potentially without their best player for multiple games, we can’t overlook betting on the Suns.