Bucks-Suns NBA Finals Game 6 picks, betting odds: Why Milwaukee is primed to clinch the title at home

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You know the old axiom that a playoff series doesn’t truly begin until a home team loses? Well, at this stage, a home loss doesn’t signal the beginning of a series. Most of the time, it signals the end. Milwaukee and Phoenix each protected their home courts in the first four games of the series, but Milwaukee’s Game 5 victory went a long way in securing the NBA championship for the Bucks. 

As Bill Simmons noted on his most recent podcast, teams are 10-1 with a chance to clinch the championship on their home floor in Game 6 of the Finals since the NBA-ABA merger. Most recently, the 2008 Celtics waxed the Lakers by 39 points to win it all, but even if you exclude that game, the nine other wins were decided by an average of 8.7 points per game. That points not only to a Bucks win, but a Bucks cover on a five-point spread. 

But if the Suns do manage to pull off the Game 6 upset, the odds swing drastically back in their favor. Home teams win roughly 80 percent of Game 7’s. The Bucks defied those odds to beat the Nets in the second round, but it took a historic degree of shooting variance for Milwaukee to win Game 5 on the road. In the first four games of the Finals, the Bucks shot 29.5 percent on tightly covered field goals (by NBA.com’s 2-4 feet definition), 39.2 percent on open shots and 37.8 percent on wide-open shots. In Game 5, those numbers rose to 50 percent, 71.4 percent and 56.3 percent, respectively. They still only won by four points. This is their moment. Win Game 6 at home and they can avoid the minefield of a road Game 7. If you think Phoenix can win Game 6, avoid the game bets and head straight to the series price. One of these teams is probably winning the title on its home floor. I may have tipped my pick, but let’s dive into today’s best bets. 

All lines via William Hill Sportsbook

Milwaukee Bucks vs. Phoenix Suns

Featured Game | Milwaukee Bucks vs. Phoenix Suns

I think I’ve made it clear that I plan to pick the Bucks, but I want to make the devil’s advocate case for Phoenix:

  • Milwaukee almost certainly isn’t shooting as well as it did in Game 5 again. The Suns also shot extremely well, but as a jumper-heavy offense playing against a defense best-suited for extreme rim-protection, that is to be expected. Devin Booker might not score 40 again, but with Chris Paul getting sacrificed at the altar of Jrue Holiday, his high volume makes sense. Paul shot 60 percent from the field in Game 5, by the way. If he can scale up slightly just to take a bit of pressure off of Booker, they should be able to score enough to win. 
  • Milwaukee’s unrealistic plus-12 rebounding and turnover margins from Game 4 didn’t hold up in Game 5. Milwaukee won the Game 5 rebounding battle by two and committed three more turnovers that the Suns in that win. That’s closer to the norm of this series. If Milwaukee’s shooting regresses, the Bucks will need to dominate on the boards and in terms of turnovers to win the game. 
  • Phoenix had the NBA’s best road record. The Suns closed out all three of their earlier series victories on the road. If anyone is equipped to pull it off, it’s them. 

All of this is to say, no, it’s not over over. The Suns were far better than the Bucks in the first two games. The Bucks won Games 4 and 5 in ways that might not be sustainable. This isn’t a slam dunk. 

So aside from the history of home teams in Game 6s, why else am I leaning Milwaukee? A few reasons. First of all: Milwaukee only needed to shoot as well as it did in the half-court because Phoenix did too. If the Suns are missing, that’s more transition opportunities for the Bucks. They probably are going to miss more because the Bucks took away Phoenix’s favorite shots in Game 5. The Suns attempted the fourth-most corner 3’s in the NBA in the regular season (9.6 per game) and made the second-highest percentage of them (43.8). But the Suns attempted only two of them in Game 5 as Milwaukee finally struck the right balance with its help defense. Phoenix is distressingly average on other 3-pointers, so if the shot profile in Game 6 doesn’t change, the Suns are going to miss more jumpers. Even if they don’t, nothing about 13-of-19 on 3’s is sustainable. 

And then there’s the Giannis problem. Phoenix let Milwaukee shoot in Game 5 and it killed them. There’s an argument to be made in favor of sticking with that approach considering Milwaukee’s spotty shooting history in the postseason, but it takes so little for that approach to snowball in a road Finals clincher. It only takes a couple of Pat Connaughton 3’s to get the crowd rocking and shake your own confidence. More likely, they’re going to divert at least some amount of their defensive resources back out, and if that’s the case, Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to have an even easier time getting to the rim. That would be my bolder Game 6 prediction. The Bucks are my choice to win, but Antetokounmpo will also have a monster game in the process to solidify the Finals MVP award. The pick: Bucks -5

If you expect the Bucks to win, consider how the last few minutes might play out. With nothing left to lose, wouldn’t the Suns be likelier to intentionally foul longer than a team otherwise might in a game that is essentially lost? Obviously, that creates artificial scoring inflation, but it also stops the clock frequently. I’m expecting some very busy garbage time if the win is somewhat comfortable on Milwaukee’s end, and that should help the game hit the over. The pick: Over 222

We robbed Vegas in this column with Reggie Jackson’s point total for two solid weeks, and now, we’re taking the same approach with Pat Connaughton’s points-rebounds-assists prop. The line is at 14.5 for Game 6. He had 20 in Game 5, 21 in Game 4 and 22 in Game 2. It turns out even role players can put up numbers when they’re playing 30 minutes consistently. The pick: Connaughton over 14.5 points, rebounds and assists combined. 

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