From a best-of-seven to a best-of-three, the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks return to the Valley for Game 5 on Saturday night with the series knotted at two games apiece. Milwaukee stifled Phoenix at the Fiserv Forum in Game 4 to cash the under in the totals as well.
The NBA’s Vegas odds have adjusted and now have the total for Saturday games is 218 points, the lowest it’s been this series. As the series gets deeper, the teams become more defense-oriented. But a return to Phoenix may be what resurrects the Suns’ once-glowing offense.
Bucks: Road Blues
The Bucks need their fans, especially on defense. There’s a reason why Milwaukee’s defensive rating jumps nearly 12 points when playing at home versus the road. Milwaukee has been able to neutralize teams with its passionate fans cheering to fuel them.
On the road, however, Milwaukee’s 112 defensive rating is merely okay. If we remove the Miami Heat series, this drops to 116.6 for Milwaukee. The biggest culprit here is the Bucks’ three-point defense. Milwaukee is allowing teams to shoot more than 15 threes at over 39 percent on the road versus just 9.4 threes at 29.4 percent at home.
Phoenix hit 31 threes in the two games at home versus just 16 at Fiserv Forum. Additionally, Milwaukee forced just 21 turnovers in Games 1 and 2, but 31 in Games 3 and 4, including 17 in Wednesday’s win. While Milwaukee now has the momentum, it needs to channel that same focus from playing at home. Otherwise, it’s showtime for Phoenix.
Suns: Home Fueled
Like the Bucks, the Suns also get extra sauce when playing at home, though their prowess comes more on the offensive end. Since its series against Denver, Phoenix is ranked second in offensive rating (118.1), first in turnover percentage (TOV%) (10.2%), and first in assist-to-turnover ratio (AST/TO) (2.51) when at home.
The emphasis is on the latter two stats here: efficiency. Phoenix’s superpower comes from its ability to outlast other teams by taking care of the ball and making the right plays. The Suns may still be shooting well on the road, but their TOV% and AST/TO take a dip.
This is why Phoenix is averaging a 118.1 offensive rating at home versus just 110.6 on the road. The online sportsbook has the totals set low, but if the Suns return to form, they will score closer to their 116-point average at home.
Pick: Let’s Dance
While the biggest moments of this series have been dictated by defensive stops, namely Giannis Antetokounmpo’s breathtaking swat of Deandre Ayton’s alley-oop, there is still plenty of offense to be had.
Phoenix has played sloppy in the last two games, turning the ball over and firing bricks from downtown to average just 101.5 points. But it still shot nearly 50 precent from the field and got to the line as many times as Game 2.
The crafty Suns find ways to score and they should be able to shoot better from three and have a more efficient game. Milwaukee’s offense continues to be inconsistent, especially on the road. But cracking 100 points shouldn’t be a problem. There is enough going here to see both teams combine to score over 218 points.
Pick: Over 218 points
Bonus Pick: Still the MVP
The Finals MVP odds shifted toward Antetokounmpo thanks to his monstrous performances. But the Suns are still favored to win the title at -160 and getting Paul back to his original MVP price at +175 is a boon at this time.
If you’re backing the Suns and regret not taking Paul before the series started, consider this your second chance.