After a blowout victory in Game 2 to salvage something out of home court advantage, a lot of bettors aren’t sure what to expect from the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 3. The Bucks finally had a big offensive explosion on Friday night and looked like the team we all sort of expected to see in the postseason. It may have been the version of the Atlanta Hawks some people expected in this series as well.
Milwaukee is -4.5 with a total of 224.5 at BetUS Sportsbook for the late 8:30 p.m. ET tip-off tonight down in Atlanta. Are the Bucks getting too much respect after what seems to be an out-of-body experience in Game 2?
Let’s find out.
Even with Friday’s 125-point effort factored into the equation, the Bucks have averaged under 110 points per game in the playoffs. That isn’t great for a team that led the NBA in points per game during the regular season with over 120. The Bucks just have not shot the basketball well, particularly from three in the playoffs.
In Game 2, the Bucks shot over 52% from the floor and 36.6% from three. They got out to such a huge lead thanks to a 43-17 second quarter that a lot of key guys barely played for either side in the second half. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 25 points to lead the way, but only played 29:06 in the game. Jrue Holliday was the only Buck over 30 minutes.
Khris Middleton was much better in G2 than he was in Game 1 and Milwaukee shot nearly 56% from three in the first half and nearly 65% from the floor. It was unlike anything we have seen from the Bucks in the playoffs, where they are shooting 45.8% from the field overall and 30.9% from three.
The reserves played a good bit of the second half, but the starters also came back to earth offensively. Milwaukee shot 39.6% in the second half and made just 5-of-23 threes. That felt a lot more like what we’ve seen all postseason long. The first half couldn’t have gone any better. The second half felt like status quo. Where does that leave us for Game 3?
To draw a parallel to the NHL Playoffs, the New York Islanders lost 8-0 in Game 5 to the Tampa Bay Lightning. They went back home and won Game 6. Losing in heartbreaking fashion in overtime or on a buzzer-beater or something like that can really throw a team for a mental loop. Getting blown out? It’s a lot easier to get rid of those games.
For the Hawks, Milwaukee did something in the first half of Game 2 that they haven’t done in any game otherwise in the postseason. There is no reason to dwell on that. Furthermore, it got everybody a little bit of rest, as Trae Young played just 8:12 of the second half. It was just one of those days where every shot seemed to fall for Milwaukee and not enough shots fell for the Hawks.
The one reason for concern is that it was a pretty terrible game for Young. He had 13 first half points on 5-of-12 shooting, but was only 1-of-7 from three. He had eight first-half turnovers and the Bucks made Atlanta pay for most of their 13 total turnovers in the first half. While Young hasn’t been the most efficient scorer this postseason, he has mostly taken care of the basketball.
So a lot of strange and odd factors came together in a perfect storm for Milwaukee to jump out to that Game 2 lead and to put the game in cruise control in the second half. Will either side have issues making adjustments in Game 3? Probably, and if you can pick the team, you should have a winning bet.
Bucks vs. Hawks Free Pick
In looking at Game 3, it is hard to figure out what will happen. The Hawks won Game 1, but Trae Young was much more efficient offensively than he had been in previous games. The Bucks won Game 2, but their first half was something we haven’t remotely seen from them in the playoffs.
The total is where I’ll look to go today and that will be the under. The Game 2 blowout was played at a slower pace, but we haven’t seen a lot of fouls so far in this series and these two offenses have been low efficiency groups in the playoffs.
Pick: Under 224.5