It can’t get much worse for the Milwaukee Bucks to start the 2020-21 season. The Bucks just lost by 30 points to the New York Knicks after being 12.5-point favorites. To be faaaaaaair, the Knicks are much improved from last season under coach Tom Thibodeau. Still, this is the reigning two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. The supposed favorite to come out of the East.
In order to get to .500 early in the season, the Bucks will have to go through the team that eliminated them in the 2020 postseason — the Miami Heat. Problem for the Heat is there’s a good chance Jimmy Butler is sidelined for the game. The Heat are coming off a win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Christmas Day. Miami has the depth to withstand the loss of Butler in the short-term. Will the Heat be able to beat the Bucks again? Well, we’ll have to wait until 7:30 p.m. ET on TNT to see.
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Miami Heat, 7:30 p.m. ET TNT
ATS Pick: Bucks -5.5
Something’s gotta give. That’s a good movie staring Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton (it also has Keanu Reeves, Jon Favreau and Amanda Peet). Anyway, the Bucks need to figure out their defensive struggles early in the season. Milwaukee ranks 21st in the NBA win defensive efficiency early on and all three of their games are against opponents who rank in the bottom half of the NBA in offensive efficiency. Milwaukee also arguably got better on defense by dealing Eric Bledsoe for Jrue Holiday.
This is a desperation game for the Bucks against a team most likely missing their best player, not to mention the revenge spot after last season’s second round. This feels like a game we’re going to see the MVP look like the MVP for the first time all season — on both ends of the court. Remember, Giannis was Defensive Player of the Year last season. So far he’s making voters regret giving him that award over Rudy Gobert and Anthony Davis. This season has been a bit nutty and we’ve seen some good teams lose by a lot. I think Miami gets down early and won’t be able to stop Giannis and Khris Middleton without Butler.
Player Prop: Khris Middleton O2.5 3-Pointers (+104)
This line will likely flip at some point today. Middleton — not Giannis — has been the Bucks’ go-to scorer early on in the season. In terms of 3-pointers, Middleton has attempted at least 6 shots from beyond the arc in each of the first three games. In two of three, he’s made 3 or more of those shots. The Heat will likely be without their best wing defender in Butler. The Milwaukee revenge narrative is also sort of a thing. The pace of this game should be up given the Bucks’ lack of defense and the Heat being without Butler.
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