Sunday's Game 4 playoff game features the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks traveling to Chicago to play the Bulls.
Milwaukee is up 2-1 in the series. However, the Bulls suffered a beatdown at home in the last game, which sets up a critical match that could be the swing game on how this series ultimately plays out.
Oddsmakers at Spreads.ca have installed the Bucks as -4.5 point favorites with the total of 218.5 up from Bucks -2.5 and a total of 223 in Game 3.
Has the market overcorrected for what we saw in Game 3, or is it correct in its assessment of this series?
We shall see.
Will the Bucks defence be the difference in Game 4?
From the Action Network:
No Middleton? No problem!
After struggling in Games 1 and 2 and losing Middleton to an MCL sprain when he sipped on a drive to the basket in the fourth quarter of Game 2, many fans, analysts and bettors alike assumed the Milwaukee Bucks were in trouble.
Former Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich once said, “Never underestimate the heart of a champion,” and the Bucks proved that on Friday night with their biggest win of the series, a 111-81 beatdown in a game which was never in doubt.
Much of the talk coming into this game surrounded who would step up in the absence of Middleton. The Bucks responded by posting their best Offensive Rating of the series, scoring 116 points per 100 possessions.
Bobby Portis started in place of Middleton and put up 18 points on 7-of-14 (50%) shooting along with 16 rebounds. Grayson Allen was also a key contributor off the bench, scoring 22 points on 8-of-12 (66.7%) shooting, including 5-of-7 (71.4%) from downtown.
Jrue Holiday also responded with his best game of the series, scoring 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting with six assists and six rebounds while Giannis Antetokounmpo added 18 points of 7-of-12 shooting, seven rebounds and nine assists. Neither played more than 29 minutes, which is a testament to how much this game got out of hand.
The Bucks have the upper hand here as this is a team which can still outshoot the Bulls from behind the arc, creating a math problem against a Bulls team which takes the majority of their shots from midrange.
Still, the Bucks offense is prone to getting bogged down. Fortunately for the Bucks, their defense has consistently shown up against the Bulls outside of Game 2, in which the Bulls shot nearly 50% from the field. With the Bucks holding the Bulls to Offensive Ratings of 86.5 and 84.6 in Games 1 and 3, it’s clear that Game 2 was an outlier, and we can expect the Bucks to win with their defense just as much as their offense.
So – will the Bulls bounce back and even the series?
More from the Action Network:
In Game 2, we saw the Big Three of DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic play like stars. Unfortunately for the Chicago Bulls, that wasn’t the case in Game 3 when they scored a combined 45 points on 18-of-39 shooting, a far cry from Game 2 where this trio scored a combined 85 points.
Even more troubling, DeRozan had just nine shot attempts in Game 3 while going 3-of-5 from the free throw line. Nonetheless, it’s clear the Bulls can’t win unless he’s playing like a superstar, but his postseason history doesn’t suggest his Game 2 performance was sustainable.
3-point shooting remains an issue for the Bulls both in frequency and accuracy as they shot just 9-of-34 (26.5%) from behind the arc in Game 3, and they’re just 28-of-96 (29.2%) for the series. This is particularly problematic against a Bucks defense which tends to give up open 3s. The Bulls aren’t built to capitalize on it as they took the lowest percentage of 3-point field goals (30.4%) in the regular season this year.
As a whole, the offense is struggling to score consistently, and even with their offensive surge in Game 2, the Bulls have an Offensive Rating of just 93.7 in this series, and they’ve shot under 40% in two out of the three games.
The Bulls still don’t have an answer for Antetokounmpo inside, but their Game 3 performance can be corrected with better effort. They were dominated in every facet of the game including offensive rebounds, fast break points, points in the paint and second chance points.
So, what's the pick?
Oddsmakers have adjusted the side and total from what we saw in Game 3. The Bucks have held the Bulls to just 93.7 points per 100 possessions in this series, which is the worst mark among all 16 playoff teams. Those numbers include a Game 2 outburst where DeRozan, LaVine and Vucevic couldn’t miss.
Nonetheless, it’s tough to back the Bulls in this spot. The Bucks had their best offensive performance in Game 3, but we can't trust them without Middleton enough to back them on the road with an inflated number.
The real value for me remains on the total because of the Bulls’ struggles on the offensive end of the floor in addition to a slower pace with the Bucks starting Portis in Middleton’s place.
Let's go Under 218.5 even with oddsmakers dropping this total from what we saw in Game 3.
The Pick: Under 218.5
Tip-off in Chicago takes place at noon.