The #5 Miami Heat are one game away from sweeping the #1 Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Bucks, down 0-3 against the Heat, are in deep trouble because Giannis “Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo might miss Game 4 due to a sprained ankle injury.
The Miami Heat won seven-straight postseason games. They swept their opening-round series against the #4 Indiana Pacers.
At the Circa Sports Book in Las Vegas, the Bucks opened as a +1 underdog against the Heat in Game 4. The line moved to +2 once the Bucks officially listed the Greek Freak as questionable with the ankle injury.
|#1 Milwaukee Bucks (0-3) vs #5 Miami Heat (3-0)|
- Tip-Off: 12:30pm PT
- Point Spread: MIA -2
- Total: 219 o/u
- Money Line: MIL +115 /MIA -130
The Heat are huge -1667 odds favorites to win the series according to DraftKings. The Bucks are +820 underdogs to pull off a ridiculous comeback to win four games in a row and win the series in seven games.
William Hill updated its NBA futures, and the Miami Heat jumped to 4/1 odds to win the NBA championship. The Bucks plummeted to 25/1 odds to win the title, as their championship aspirations are quickly dwindling.
A Freak Fades in Orlando
The Greek Freak suffered a sprained right ankle injury in the first half of Game 3’s loss to the Heat. He gutted through the pain and narrowly missed a triple-double with 21 points, 16 rebounds, and nine assists.
“He’s a guy who’s going to fight through everything,” said Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer. “He’s out there competing and giving us everything he’s got.”
Antetokounmpo averaged 22.6 points per game in this series, which is down from his 29.5 ppg average during the regular season. Against the Heat, he’s been plagued by abysmal free-throw shooting, hitting only 53.6% from the charity stripe.
The Freak never really had a good outside touch, but he’s hitting only 13.3% of his shots from beyond the arc. In Game 3, he shot blanks with an 0-for-7 clip.
The Greek Freak already won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year and he’s the favorite to win the MVP for the second season in a row. Despite the awards and accolades, he’s yet to demonstrate finishing power. He’s yet to take over a game in the fourth quarter like Kawhi Leonard, Jamal Murray, or Jimmy Butler.
The Greek Freak disappeared when the Bucks blew multiple second-half leads in the last two games. On the other side of the court, the Heat leaned on Butler in crunch time, and the veteran came through in the clutch.
“They were more disciplined than us, we lost the lead, and weren’t able to keep our composure,” said Antetokounmpo. “We played well for three quarters, we just got to be able to do that for four quarters.”
Bench Crickets, Budenholzer Pivot?
Coach Budenholzer has been reluctant to alter his game plan. It’s one thing to stick to your philosophy during a tumultuous time, but it’s an entirely different beast to collapse due to your inability to pivot on the fly and make much-needed adjustments.
“Bud Ball does not work in the postseason,” hinted John Hollinger from The Athletic, in a recent column about the Miami Heat exploiting the Bucks’ multiple flaws.
Then again, it’s not Budenholzer’s fault no one other that Khris Middleton has been putting fear in the eyes of Miami’s defenders. Brook Lopez is the team’s third-best scorer in the postseason averaging 16.1 ppg. Eric Bledsoe missed Game 1 with a hamstring injury, but he scored only eight points in Game 3, or half of his regular-season average.
The Bucks supposedly made offseason roster moves to bolster their bench with deadly sharpshooters. Budenholzer would love to ride the hot hand to the Finals, but he hasn’t found a reliable sniper yet. Kyle Korver averages 5.3 ppg this series and scored zero points in Game 3. Ersan Ilyasova has yet to appear in the semifinals.
Meanwhile, Pat Connaughton scored just four points the entire series (0-for-5 from downtown), and barely saw court time in Game 3. Donte DiVincenzo finally generated some offense off the bench with 10 points in Game 3, but he scored just one point in the first two games.
Down 0-3 and in a do-or-die situation, will Budenholzer juggle the roster to help the Bucks avoid an embarrassing sweep?
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