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Every team has played their first games of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. For the most part, the first game shook out how everyone expected. The Bucks won in an overtime thriller. The Nets, 76ers, Trailblazers, and Suns all easily took care of business. The Mavericks, Grizzlies, and Hawks all had great upsets. I can’t write or give my opinion about the Knicks-Hawks series as I’m a die-hard Knicks fan, so I’m a little biased. My daughter might still be traumatized after I was screaming at Trae Young for two straight hours. The fact that the Knicks are +194 to win the series after losing by two is ridiculous. Anyway, here are the series that I can think rationally about.
Heats vs. Bucks
After winning Game One 109-107 in overtime, the Bucks are the big favorite at -500. The Heat to win the series is now up to +360. FanDuel Sportsbook believes that the Bucks will win in five games, as the Bucks winning 4-1 has the worst odds at +220. I don’t believe that the Bucks are going to dominate this series. These two teams match up very well; even though the Bucks added Jrue Holiday this year, these teams are very similar to what matched up in the playoffs last year. Everybody remembers the Heat upsetting the Bucks in five games last year. I don’t think that the Heat will upset the Bucks again, but I don’t think they are gonna lose in five games.
The Heat looked exhausted from last year’s playoff run; they started off the season horribly, and many were wondering if last year was a fluke for Miami. They turned it around in the second half of the season, and they finished 40-32 for the 6th seed.
For the last two years, the Bucks have been the No. 1 seed in the East, but they couldn’t get it done in the playoffs. This year, they didn’t finish with the No. 1 seed. Instead, they finished 3rd in the East, going 46-26.
Milwaukee and Miami play a very different offense, but are both great defensive teams. The Heat finished with the 17th offensive rating, 16th in FG%, 19th in 3P%, and 29th in pace. The Bucks have a much better offense, and play at a blistering speed compared to the Heat; the Bucks finished 1st ppg, 5th offensive rating, 3rd in FG%, 4th in 3P%, and 3rd in pace. What makes Miami have a chance in this series is their defense; they finished with the 8th defensive rating, 5th in ppg allowed, 9th in steals, and 6th in FG% allowed. With defensive studs Jrue Holiday and Giannis, the Bucks’ defense is nothing to sneeze at; they finished 10th in defensive rating, 22nd ppg allowed, 5th FG% allowed, and 29th in 3P% allowed. Being 29th in 3P% allowed is going to be a problem for Milwaukee, since they have to face Duncan Robinson, who shot 7-13 from deep in Game One.
I don’t think that the Heat can have the same magic that they did last year. Along with the sports books, I see the Bucks winning this series. To try and find some value, I’m going to pick how long this series go. I like the Bucks in 6 at +380, or the Bucks in 7 at +450.
Trailblazers vs. Nuggets
The Blazers won Game One 123-109, and now they are the favorite to win this series at -340. The Nuggets to win the series is now up to +260. The Jamal Murray injury killed the Nuggets’ Finals hope. After Denver traded for Aaron Gordon, they were one of the favorites to come out of the West. Well, then Murray tore his ACL, and the Nuggets quickly missed their number two scorer. Denver’s matchup against Portland is a nightmare for this Nuggets team, and unfortunately the books and I believe the Nuggets have no chance.
From top to bottom, the West was, of course, very tight. The top nine teams were all above .500, and the 5th to the 7th seeds all ended with a 42-30 record. The only thing to determine who was to be seeded where was tie breakers. The Blazers were one of those teams that finished with a 42-30 record, but because of tie breakers, they ended with the 6th seed. The Blazers, like always, were rattled with injuries with CJ, and Nurkic missing time this season. Dame Lillard carried the team on his back, as Portland bounced from the 3rd seed to the 6th seed all year long. Dame was in the MVP race all year long, but the team they are facing has the MVP in Jokic. Even after Murray went down, the team was able to go 13-5 and secure the 3rd seed with a 47-25 record.
The Blazers are a one-sided basketball team. Their offense is great, but they have no defense. They finished 2nd in offensive rating, 5th ppg, 2nd 3PM, 6th in 3P%. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since they have one of the best backcourts in CJ and Dame. The Nuggets are also a great offensive team; all of these stats are from when they had Murray for most of the season. They finished with the 7th offensive rating, 8th ppg, 4th in FG%, and 8th in 3P%. Remember, they will be missing Murray, who averaged 21.2 points, 47.7% from the field, and 40.8% from deep. The Blazers’ defense is bad; they finished 29th in defensive rating, 23rd ppg allowed, and 25th in FG% allowed. The Nuggets, who are a more well-rounded team, finished 12th in defensive rating, 19th FG% allowed, and 11th 3P% allowed.
FanDuel Sportsbook believes that Portland will win this series in six games, since it has the worst odds at +300. I also believe the sportsbook that the Blazers will win in six. Denver is a great team, but they can’t match up with Portland’s backcourt. I can see the MVP getting hot for a couple of games and willing his team to succeed for at least two games. But all I can see for the Nuggets is them sneaking two games away from the Blazers.