Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:58 AM

G4 - Bucks at Raptors

Playoff Results | Expert Picks

Eastern Conference Finals – Game 4 (Bucks lead 2-1)
Milwaukee at Toronto (TNT, 8:35 p.m. ET)

The Raptors needed 58 minutes and a huge night from Kawhi Leonard to capture a 118-112 double-overtime victory over the Bucks in Game 3 on Sunday. With the win, Toronto cut Milwaukee’s lead in the Eastern Conference Finals to 2-1.

Leonard played a game-high 52 minutes and finished with 36 points, nine rebounds and five assists while shooting 11-of-25 from the field. Also logging 50-plus minutes for Toronto was Pascal Siakam, who had the opportunity to end the game in regulation but he missed two free throws and Milwaukee forced the extra session with a game-tying shot.

Toronto covered Game 3 as a 2 ½-point favorite and it’s fair to say that the right team won. The Bucks couldn’t buy a shot from the field (37.3%) and they also struggled from the free throw line (66.7%). Milwaukee did have the chance to steal the win in overtime but the shots continued to miss and the club didn’t receive a great offense effort from its best player, Giannis Antetokounmpo. This year’s likely league MVP finished with 12 points on 5-of-16 shooting and he fouled out in the second overtime.

NBA expert Tony Mejia of analyzed the performance of the Bucks All-Star in Game 3 and others on both squads.

He said, “Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 23 rebounds but missed 11 of his 16 shots and has to get used to playing decoy the rest of the way if Kawhi Leonard will continue to serve as the primary defender against him. Toronto’s defensive game plan has centered on making sure Antentokounmpo sees multiple bodies whenever he faces up to drive towards the rim and has really cut off his opportunities in transition, so others have to emerge. It says a lot about how difficult it is to stop the Bucks that Game 3 went to double-overtime despite the starting backcourt of Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton combining to finish 6-for-32 by each missing 13 of their 16 shots, shooting just 2-for-12 from beyond the arc.”

While the starting backcourt of the Bucks struggled for 20 total points, head coach Mike Budenholzer got a huge lift from their backups. George Hill (24) and Malcolm Brogdon (20) combined for 44 points off the bench and will likely see more minutes if the starters can’t connect again.

The shooting woes were contagious at the Scotiabank Arena for both teams as Toronto has more misses than makes.

Mejia explained, “Danny Green continues to struggle for Toronto and he missed eight of his nine shots in Game 3, so it’s hard to forecast a second consecutive ‘over’ in this series considering multiple overtime periods were required to eclipse the posted total on Sunday night and both teams are gaining increased familiarity with one another. Unless word comes down that Toronto head coach Nick Nurse is contemplating a lineup change and set to utilize Norman Powell in the starting five, riding the ‘under’ seems like the way to go.”

I felt that Nurse and the Raptors needed to muck it up in Game 3 and capture a low-scoring win and they accomplished that objective for the most part. Unfortunately for Toronto, the oddsmakers don’t believe the club can produce that effort again on Tuesday.

Milwaukee opened as a one-point road favorite and the number has risen to -2 ½ as of Tuesday morning. NBA handicapper Kevin Rogers of talks about the rarity of this number.

He said, “The Raptors are listed as home underdogs for the first time this season and they haven’t received points at Scotiabank Arena since a 108-105 win against Houston on March 9, 2018 as three-point ‘dogs. Toronto was last a playoff home ‘dog in Game 4 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals against Cleveland and it lost 109-102 when receiving seven points.”

Rogers also noted how the point-spread hasn’t mattered for Milwaukee. “The Bucks failed to cover in these playoffs for only the second time in 12 games even though they stretched the Raptors to double-overtime in Game 3. Milwaukee has covered in all 10 playoff wins, including a 2-0 ATS mark as a road favorite in the opening round against Detroit.”

Overall, the Bucks are 4-1 both SU and ATS on the road in this year’s playoffs and the ‘over’ has gone 4-1 in those games. Including Sunday’s win, Toronto has gone 9-4 SU and 7-6 ATS at home in this year’s playoffs.

It certainly wouldn’t be surprising to see Toronto even up the series but Milwaukee has shown incredible bounce-back numbers and you can see why it’s a serious threat to win this year’s NBA Finals.

During the regular season, the Bucks posted the best overall record and they accomplished that feat by staying away from losing skids. They only dropped back-to-back games once this season and they’re a league-best 21-1 (95%) after a loss. What’s more impressive is they went 18-4 (81%) against the spread in those games. After losing Game 1 of the second round to the Celtics by 22 points (112-90), Milwaukee rebounded for a 123-102 win and cover in Game 2.

As Mejia mentioned above, bettors on the ‘under’ were squeezed on Sunday as the game went to double-overtime and that was the first time that the ‘over’ cashed in this series.

The Game 4 total opened as high as 220 and most books are now holding 216 and I agree with the move down.

Milwaukee’s offense, which hasn’t been clicking lately, always has the ability to help you cash ‘over’ tickets but Toronto’s attack makes you pump the brakes. The Raptors have scored over 100 points in all three games of this series but it’s been a major struggle to get there. The club is shooting 39 percent from the field and the lack of scoring depth outside of Leonard has been noticeable since the second round versus Philadelphia. Barring another marathon, Toronto’s Team Total Under (106 ½) seems more than doable.

Despite cutting into the series deficit, the Raptors are still 9/2 odds (Bet $100 to win $450) on the series while the Bucks are healthy 1/6 favorites (Bet $100 to win $16).

Make a note that Golden State clinched a spot in the NBA Finals again it’s listed as a 1/2 favorite (Bet $100 to win $50) to pull off the 3-peat. Milwaukee is +170 while Toronto is a 20/1 choice and bettors should be aware that the two clubs in the Eastern Conference will have homecourt advantage in the upcoming series.

Game 5 of this best-of-seven matchup will take place on Thursday from the Fiserv Forum.

Chris David can be reached at [email protected]

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