There should be more drama and excitement on the NBA landscape Thursday, with two playoff games on the intriguing slate.
The Brooklyn Nets look to take a commanding 3-0 lead over the Milwaukee Bucks when these combatants square off in Wisconsin. Currently, Milwaukee is a four-point favorite over Brooklyn in the game, which is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. ET tip.
In the nightcap, the Utah Jazz host the Los Angeles Clippers. The Jazz, behind standout Donovan Mitchell, took a 1-0 series lead last time these sides met.
Our Action Network basketball analysts have three picks for you, so let’s see what might be in store in this contests.
NBA Odds & Picks
Brooklyn Nets vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Raheem Palmer: I was dead wrong about this series, but I can quickly acknowledge I made a mistake. The Eastern Conference semifinal matchup between the Brooklyn Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks was supposed to be the de facto NBA Finals.
However, it has been anything but that so far. And despite losing their best playmaker in James Harden one minute into the series and the Nets haven’t missed a beat.
To quote the late Notorious BIG, this series is simply “separating the weak from the obsolete, it’s hard to creep them Brooklyn Streets.” That’s not an exaggeration either as the Nets are just that much better than the Bucks, outscoring the Bucks by a whopping 47 points through the first two games.
The final score of Game 1 was actually misleading, considering they led by 19 points before the Bucks’ bench made a run in garbage time.
Kevin Durant is averaging 30.5 points, seven rebounds and 4.5 assists on 55.8% shooting, plus he’s hitting at 50% from behind the arc. The combination of Durant and Kyrie Irving is hard enough to stop on its own, but it’s clear there’s a major discrepancy in the bench units between these two teams as the Nets are deeper.
Given how limited Giannis Antetokounmpo is as a scorer, with no reliable jump shot, this team is struggling to score one-on-one against Brooklyn’s switching defense. The Bucks have just a 97.8 Offensive Rating throughout this series and while I expect them to eventually shoot the ball better at home, Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday simply aren’t going to keep up with the Nets’ offensive firepower.
Durant, Irving and role players who can space the floor and hit the three are just too much for a Bucks team that gives up the fifth highest frequency of opponent 3-point attempts (38.9%), while ranking 29th in opponent 3-point percentage at 39.3 percent.
I had high hopes for this series, but the Bucks look finished even if their threes start falling at home. I think oddsmakers are giving Milwaukee too much respect here ,as my model makes this a Pick’em game.
I’ll back the Nets on the moneyline at +140 odds.
Brooklyn Nets vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Brandon Anderson: I think this one is a wrap. We waited all year for this series, and I really thought it got ruined on the first play of it when James Harden went down injured. Yet, Brooklyn didn’t even need him against Milwaukee.
The Bucks have looked absolutely lost, and I’m not convinced they can even win a game at this point. This team looks absolutely shell-shocked and overrun. And it’s not even the defense that’s worrisome. It’s the putrid offense that isn’t moving the ball, finding good shots and doing anything at all against a very beatable defense.
Normally, this is a spot where I’d recommend caution, with the favorite going up 2-0 at home and everyone declaring the series over. In some ways, this reminds me of the 2012 San Antonio Spurs who looked absolutely invincible and were up 2-0 on the Oklahoma City Thunder, but never won another game that year once Oklahoma City figured them out.
The difference this time? I am not seeing any adjustment, and Milwaukee isn’t figuring anything out on its sideline.
Bottom line, this thing is a wrap. Maybe the Bucks get one last home win, but I think the Nets win at least one of these two and then finish things off in Game 5 if necessary.
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Utah Jazz
Kenny Ducey: I’m going to die on this hill. I’m going to die continuing to back the Los Angeles Clippers, game in and game out. Simply put, looking at how they performed in Game 1, they had no business winning, yet they not only took a huge lead, but later on were a 3-pointer away from forcing overtime.
What we saw in Game 1 was a continuation of a bad habit for the Utah Jazz, and that is poor defensive play. The Jazz allowed 117.2 points per 100 possessions to the Clippers after posting a 115 defensive rating against a very averaged Grizzlies offtnes. Utah has some serious issues on that end of the floor, and things aren’t going to get any easier.
Given the monster series they both had just a week ago, it’s reasonable to expect Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to significantly improve upon a combined 43 points on 13-of-36 shooting from the field.
With such a bad night from both, it’s mind-boggling how Utah didn’t cover, even without Mike Conley in the lineup. It’s true that the Jazz did shoot 34% from three, and have some upward mobility of their own, but consider the fact that the Clippers have been playing great three-point defense all season long and may not allow that number to grow all that much.
This is the night where the series turns and the Clippers get a game on the road. At least one of their stars will see some positive regression, and the bench and role players should continue to give Ty Lue fantastic minutes. How good was Boogie Cousins in four minutes?
Give that guy more time and win the championship. Give the Clippers three points and regret it.
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