Are the Milwaukee Bucks as good as they looked when sweeping the Detroit Pistons?
Getting a proper read on the Bucks could be key to having a profitable NBA postseason. They are current favorites to win the Eastern Conferences as a red-hot #1 seed. Barring injuries, they have the talent to give likely Western Conference winner Golden State a run for its money in the finals.
Betting markets have clearly underpriced Milwaukee throughout the 2018-19 campaign: Big (and fast) Bucks Make Big Bucks
Regular Season: 47-31-4 against the spread (60% cover rate)
Playoffs: 4-0 against the spread (by 23, 6, 7, and 11 points)
That’s 51-31-4 this year. Even after you factor in the standard 10% vigorish (bettors must risk $11 to win $10 on every bet, or anything in that ratio), that’s a record of 51 wins, 34.1 losses, and four pushes…for a profit of almost 16 betting units. Clearly the best point spread record in the league, even though oddsmakers usually shade against “great” teams because that’s who the public wants to bet.
The public was paying more attention to other teams. Frankly, sharps (professional bettors) were as well. EVERYONE underestimated the talent level on the Bucks…and their ability to run up the score with a fast-paced attack.
What has to be remembered, though is that Detroit really wasn’t a playoff caliber team when the postseason began. The Pistons snuck into the #8 seed in the East despite losing seven of their last 11 regular season games. With Blake Griffin badly hobbled by an injury, they were no match for the Bucks.
The Boston Celtics have a much better chance of matching up, coming off a four-game sweep of the Indiana Pacers…as will whoever Milwaukee would face in the Eastern Finals if it advances.
How will bettors be able to tell if Milwaukee is “for real,” or just a bully that can run away and hide from also-rans? These are the categories sharps will be looking at early in the Boston series:
*Defensive Efficiency: can the Bucks guard BOTH the rim and the arc? That’s easier to do against a mediocrity like Detroit (which shot 42%, 40%, 43%, and 42% on two-pointers in the first round). Boston will work the ball around to find open looks.
*Turnover Prevention: Milwaukee can get sloppy at speed. The Bucks actually lost the turnover category in three of four games to Detroit, despite winning all blowouts. Against a more savvy playoff opponent, that could mean 3-5 additional giveaways per game. If Milwaukee’s youth brigade decides to force too much under pressure, even more.
*Poise Late in Close Games: Milwaukee hasn’t played a close game that mattered in a few weeks. Now, they have to deal with the brains of Boston head coach Brad Stevens. We’re about to find out if the Bucks can be outsmarted.
The Westgate in Las Vegas opened Milwaukee as a -250 favorite over Boston even before the Bucks had finished off the Pistons. Boston returns +200 if you bet them to spring the full series upset.
If you’re hoping to make money betting the NBA postseason from now through the championship round, recognizing Milwaukee’s strengths and weaknesses in “playoff style” basketball will be a critical key. Will the money train keep chugging along? Or, will the market finally overact after months of underrating this juggernaut?
*Denver and San Antonio will play Game Six of their Western Conference series Thursday night in Alamo City. Betting markets are rating home court advantage more strongly in this series than the others. Denver has been a favorite of -5.5 to -7 points at altitude, while San Antonio was -4 or -4.5 in its first two home games. Something to monitor in the next round for whoever advances.
*The Westgate’s futures odds to win the league title for competitors besides Denver and San Antonio: Golden State 5/8 (-160), Milwaukee 5/1, Houston 6/1, Toronto 8/1, Boston 16/1, Philadelphia 30/1, and Portland 30/1. We’ll update these for you throughout the postseason.
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