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How national and local writers and oddsmakers are picking the NBA Finals between the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel logo Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 5 days ago Christopher Kuhagen, Jim Owczarski, Lori Nickel and Ben Steele, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The Milwaukee Bucks haven't won an NBA title in 50 years and the Phoenix Suns have never won the ultimate prize. 

So which long-suffering franchise will end the drought and raise the Larry O'Brien Trophy?

The oddsmakers and prognosticators like the Western Conference champion Phoenix Suns, but the status of Giannis Antetokounmpo's knee injury — he was listed as doubtful for Game 1 on Monday but was upgraded to questionable on Tuesday — could change the outlook. Before Antetokounmpo went down, the Bucks were the betting favorite at the Westgate Superbook to win the NBA Finals. But that has now flipped.

a close up of Mike Budenholzer: Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer laughs during a practice session at the Phoenix Suns Arena in Phoenix on Monday. © Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY NETWORK Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer laughs during a practice session at the Phoenix Suns Arena in Phoenix on Monday.

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The Suns, who have home-court advantage in the best-of-seven series, are the favorite (between five and 6 points from most sports betting sites) for Game 1. 

Here are the odds and what others are predicting for the series, including our beat reporters. 

Fivethirtyeight

According to the statistical analysis website, the Suns have a 69% chance to win the series, while the Bucks have a 31%. According to a Sports Illustrated story, on Jan. 31, fivethirtyeight gave the Suns a 1% chance to win the NBA title and the Bucks 10%. 

FanDuel Sportsbook

The Suns are -175 favorites to win the NBA title, meaning you must bet $175 to win $100 in profit. The Bucks are +140 underdogs, meaning you would make $140 on a $100 bet.

BETMGM

The Suns are -190 to win the series, with the Bucks +135.

DraftKings Sportsbook

The Suns are favorites at -185. The Bucks are underdogs at +150.

Caesar’s Sports Book

The Suns are favorites at -170, with the Bucks at +150. 

OddsChecker


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The Suns open with -182 odds, or an implied 64.5% chance to win the title. The Bucks open with +165 odds, or 37.7%.  

Over the last 48 hours, 53.7% of bets have been placed on the Bucks, said OddsChecker spokesman Kyle Newman. The Suns, the favorites with bettors over the previous two weeks, have 46.3% of bets placed on them, Newman said.

“This series hinges on the health of Giannis Antetokounmpo," Newman said. "If the two-time MVP is healthy, then it makes sense that bettors are backing the Bucks. If he isn’t, the odds given to the Suns right now aren’t nearly short enough.” 

Sports Betting AG

According to the online sports betting site, Chris Paul is the favorite to win the Finals MVP at +130, followed by Devin Booker +230, Antetokounmpo +325, Khris Middleton +600, Jrue Holiday +1,000, Deandre Ayton +2,500 and Brook Lopez +8,000.

The Ringer

The website's odds machine says the Suns have a 61% chance to win the series. And if they win Game 1, those odds increase to about 70%. If they lose, those odds decrease to about 40%. A Suns in 7 series win is the likeliest odds. 

The site gives a percentage for the different scenarios: Suns in 4 is at 10%, Suns in 5 at 18%, Suns in 6 at 16% and Suns in 7 at 17%.

It's unlikely the Bucks win the series early, the site says, with a Bucks sweep at just 3% and a five-game series win at just 8%. The percentages get better for a Bucks series win in six (14%) or seven (13%). 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Jim Owczarski: Fans of throwback, defensive-minded basketball are going to love this series as the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks love to play defense and create offense off of that. There are two centers who mix it up in the paint. Then there are the high-scoring wing players. The storylines abound, too, from Suns veteran point guard Chris Paul playing in his first final, the health of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s left knee, the rising profiles of series MVP candidates Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday to Suns forward Torrey Craig being guaranteed a championship ring having played for the Bucks earlier in the year. The two games between the teams this season were won by the Suns by a total of two points, with Antetokounmpo missing a buzzer-beater in Phoenix and Booker hitting the game-winning free throw on a controversial foul call at the end overtime in Milwaukee. Expect similar drama in this series, though the Suns must go into the series with an edge based on the uncertainty of Antetokounmpo’s ability to play at his traditional level. These teams are evenly matched across the board, featuring stars and role players with similar skill sets. To that end, home court could be the difference for the Western Conference champion. Prediction: Suns in seven games

Lori Nickel: Striking the right balance between scoring points in the paint and from three-point range will be Milwaukee’s greatest challenge, but by no means should the Bucks abandon any shot now, not even with the Suns perimeter defense. “They guard the ball very well; they guard the three pretty well too,” said Holiday. This stage is not about athletics; it’s about seizing the momentum; forcing a lead; and stealing one of two in Phoenix. “Stats go out the window,” said Middleton, and so should unrealistic expectations about perfection. Playing loose and free, ignoring the ridiculous claims about being dumb because they’re false, and expecting contributions from absolutely everyone is what got Milwaukee here and it’s what will run the Suns’ defense ragged. Prediction: Bucks in six 

Ben Steele: For all the talk about the lack of star power in the later rounds of the NBA playoffs, this is a compelling matchup in the Finals. Paul is one of the all-time great point guards and can burnish his legacy with his first championship. But the Bucks can counter Paul with a defensive ace in Holiday.  Middleton has been clutch this postseason for Milwaukee, but if he gets going Phoenix has options to throw on him like the lengthy Mikal Bridges, the versatile Torrey Craig or a bigger defender like Jae Crowder. The battle down low is also intriguing with the Bucks' wily veteran Brook Lopez vs. the Suns' ascendant Deandre Ayton. The question looming over the series is if Antetokounmpo will play and, if he does, how effective will he be due to lingering effects of his knee injury. The Bucks' defense will have its hands full with pick-and-roll maestro Paul, who likes to control the pace and doesn't turn the ball over often, and a knockdown shooter like Booker, so Milwaukee's defensive rotations will need to be crisp and that will be tough if Antetokounmpo is out or limited. Home-court advantage and a bit more depth tip the scales in favor of Phoenix. Prediction: Suns in six. 

AZ Central

The Suns are more complete when it comes to overall talent, depth, coaching and chemistry, but the Bucks are more seasoned overall in terms of playoff experience. However, Phoenix has gone through the defending NBA champions (Los Angeles Lakers), the NBA MVP (Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic) and the Clippers, who won the regular-season series over them. Also the Suns, who had the NBA's best road record, closed out all three rounds away from home. Combine that with Paul being just four wins way from finally winning an NBA title in his 16th season, Antetokounmpo likely missing the start of the series and not being 100% if and when he returns, and Phoenix having home-court advantage with a fan base so hungry for a championship, the Suns won’t be denied. Prediction: Suns in seven.

Sporting News

The Sporting News' Jordan Greer, an NBA editor, said "the Giannis question makes this series extremely difficult to predict. Winning two games against the Hawks without Antetokounmpo is a much different challenge than taking down a Suns squad that has talent at every position and is led by a terrific coach in Monty Williams. Even if Antetokounmpo does take the floor, the bet here is that Phoenix, the most consistent team throughout the NBA regular season and playoffs, will capture the Larry O'Brien trophy." He likes the Suns in six.

ESPN

Nearly all of the 16 people who predicted the series for ESPN think the series will go six or seven games. But 13 of them say the Suns will win the series with six predicting Booker will capture the Finals MVP and six Paul (one prognosticator didn't list his MVP). Two who predict the Bucks will win think they'll do it in six games (Milwaukee fans will love that!) and the other says they'll do it in seven games. Middleton got two Finals MVP predictions and Antetokounmpo one.

CBS Sports

Like with ESPN, the majority here went with the Suns. Five of the eight people making picks went with Phoenix in either six or seven games. Most said Antetokounmpo's injury status gives them pause about Milwaukee. One person picking the Bucks is more confident. "Giannis Antetokounmpo will be back, and I gain more confidence in Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday every game. They're both so good, and Brook Lopez is playing lights out. This is going to be an awesome series. Paul and Giannis are both on a mission. Middleton and Booker are eerily similar players. Deandre Ayton and Brook Lopez could be a wash. Both defenses are tremendous. I actually trust Phoenix to shoot better. But I just have a feeling about the Bucks," wrote Brad Botkin, who predicts the Bucks will win the series in seven games.

TNT

After the Bucks won the Eastern Conference finals, the TNT studio analysts offered their predictions for the NBA Finals. Charles Barkley went against his former team and continued to roll with the Bucks as did Shaquille O'Neal and Ernie Johnson. Kenny Smith picked the Suns.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: How national and local writers and oddsmakers are picking the NBA Finals between the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns

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