The Atlanta Hawks will take on the visiting Milwaukee Bucks in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday night.
After opening as five-point underdogs, the Hawks have been bet down to +4½ (odds following a blowout loss in Milwaukee in Game Two. Both teams have covered in the spread in their series wins and have done so in contrasting fashions, with Game One hitting the over and Game Two the under. The over/under for Sunday’s matchup has been set at 224 with -110 odds on either side.
Why was Game Two So Lopsided?
Friday’s game was one of the best that Milwaukee has had from the three-point line, though they still did not meet their season standard of 38.9 percent shooting. The Bucks also came out extremely aggressive and put Giannis Antetokounmpo in position to succeed inside the painted area instead of relying on him to create off the dribble as he did for most of Game One.
Milwaukee’s plan for Antetokounmpo seemed to have been unearthed in the fourth quarter of Game One, when he ended up on the receiving end of two easy alley-oop dunks.
The Bucks also got their second consecutive solid outing from Jrue Holiday, who had 22 points and seven assists. Holiday had struggled mightily against the Brooklyn Nets in the round prior, though he seems to be back to his usual self.
The Hawks struggled to make open shots on the other end as Trae Young was rendered ineffective as a scorer and playmaker for the first time in the playoffs.
“I’ve got to do better, and I will be better next game,” said Young after the blowout loss.
Young was 6 of 16 from the field and 1 of 8 from three. He finished with 15 points and three assists, both of which were his lowest playoff totals in his young career.
Game Two was over by halftime. The Hawks fell behind by 32 points and ultimately finished the game shooting 41.5 percent on field goals and 25 percent on threes.
Game Three Betting Analysis
It is highly unlikely that the Bucks will produce a performance like the one they did on Friday. Milwaukee is a proud team and it was fitting that it would respond to an embarrassing loss to open the series with a dominant display in their next game, but the Bucks have always been able to do that. Despite a Game Seven overtime win against an injury-riddled Nets team, what remains to be seen is if Milwaukee can cope with expectations and deliver throughout an entire postseason.
The Hawks have proven throughout the playoffs that they play teams close, whether they are favored or not, as seen in multiple double-digit comebacks against higher-seeded opponents.
They have not won a game by double-digit points since the first round against the New York Knicks. With that being said, and even excluding the 34-point annihilation, they have lost four games by an average of 12 points.
The major takeaway from the Hawks’ postseason performances this season is that they have better value on the sportsbook money line (+165 for Game Three). When they lose, they usually lose convincingly, but when they win, it is close. Giving 4½ points to a team that has lost every game by a five-point minimum margin this postseason does not help much.
Based on the same logic, Milwaukee would be a much better candidate to cover the -4½-point spread, especially with the poor return of a -190 money line. Only one of Milwaukee’s games in the postseason has been decided by fewer than four points. That was in an 86-83 battle with Brooklyn. The Hawks do not have the personnel to match up with Antetokounmpo and company having another defensive duel is unlikely.
It might not have the return of the Hawks on the money line, but the Bucks should be able to take Game Three relatively comfortably. Atlanta lost Game Three and Game Six at home against the Philadelphia 76ers in the previous round and won Game One on the road.
The Bucks, and the Greek Freak in particular, seem to realize that this is their best chance to capture an NBA Championship, and their star has been performing at an incredibly high level. Atlanta could very well take Game Four, but they should go down swinging in Game Three.