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GAMBLING AGAINST GREATNESS: ROCKETS LOOK TO END THUNDER WHILE HEAT TRY TO CHALLENGE THE BUCKS

@thewillbaldwin

Well, it was inevitable I would eventually start writing about sports gambling. Much to the chagrin of my mom and dad, I’ve been reading and analyzing lines since I was a kid.

It’s always fascinated me an entire sporting event can be defined by five and a half points in let’s say tonight’s Bucks Heat game. 48 minutes, two teams, lots at stake and yet, the numbers have found a way to produce the final outcome with startling consistency before it even begins.

You’d think we’d be smart enough at this point to recognize the numbers are smarter than us. There’s an old saying in Vegas, “they don’t build casinos because the house loses money” and yet here we are, trying to outsmart the math.

What could possibly go wrong?

Miami Heat vs Milwaukee Bucks

Line: Milwaukee -5.5

Pick: Bucks -5.5

No team has gone through more in the last week than the Milwaukee Bucks. After being the team that watched Jacob Blake’s video happen in their back yard, it only made sense they would be the one’s to initiate the boycotting.

This even ignores the fact that backup guard Sterling Brown is a victim of police brutality and is currently in the process of pursuing legal action against the Milwaukee Police Department.

Here’s the thing though, despite all of the mental struggles of the past week, they never wanted to leave the bubble. This team knows they have a chance to win a title and they’ve been waiting all season to re-deem themselves in a big playoff setting.

Enter the Miami Heat and the big playoff setting Giannis and the Bucks have been desiring.

The Heat are a trendy pick to win this series (I even wrote about why the Bucks should fear them back in March) but the Bucks have been the best team in the NBA this season for a reason. They are a tenacious defensive squad with far and away the best player in this series (and maybe the league).

Sure Miami has Duncan Robinson and a host of other three-point bombers to exploit Milwaukee’s defence that heavily favours the opponent shooting from deep. The elephant in the Heat’s room everyone seems to forget to discuss though is this team is overrated defensively.

Everyone will say they have the Giannis stopper and maybe Bam Adebayo will be that someday soon but right now it’s a little early to ask him to stop the MVP. This isn’t a guy with Kawhi’s pedigree like last season’s Raptors.

I firmly believe Miami wins a game or two and pushes Milwaukee a bit, don’t get me wrong. Monday though will be a statement win for the Bucks that announces to the NBA they are the contenders we’ve thought all season long.

Look for Khris Middleton and the Bucks supporting cast to exploit the at times questionable Miami defensive rotations that have quietly plagued them this season. Remember last year when they blitzed the Raptors in game one? I expect a repeat of something similar tonight.

Houston Rockets vs Oklahoma City Thunder

Line: Houston -5.5

Pick: Rockets -5.5

In all honesty, picking two favourites of five or more points is far from ideal on the same night. With that in mind, this game is the one I’m more confident in.

Game five saw the return of Russell Westbrook, he didn’t play well. The Rockets also lost the free throw battle by five and shot a far from exhilarating 39% from three.

Still though, they blew the Thunder out and the reason why is pretty simple: the Rockets are the better team.

James Harden last game showed he has figured out the Lu Dort matchup, scoring with surprising ease while on the other end Mike D’Antoni exposed Billy Donovan. Dort took nine threes in the game, missing all of them as he was left comically wide open.

As Barkley said at halftime, “open for a reason”. You’d think Donovan would adjust but that has proven time and again to not be his strength as an NBA coach. He’s much more of a big picture guy than a short term switch guy.

He needs to take a page out of the Rockets book and remove Steven Adams from the game. Houston traded Clint Capela this season so it could have non-shooter Westbrook on the floor in space that wouldn’t of existed with Capela in the game.

The same goes for Adams and Dort. Adams is a net negative defensively and offensively by standing in the dunker spot, he is effectively eliminating a chance for Dort to drive on a late close out created by him being left open. With Adams off the floor, Dort could theoretically have the space to drive (something he excelled at in college) or play in the dunker spot.

I’ve thought about this a lot. I’ve also thought a lot about how Donovan sucks at adjusting game to game which is why Houston is going to win this series tonight.

When you’re the lesser team, your coach has to finesses his way into matchups that can manufacture your way into levelling the playing field. Through five games Donovan has yet to show an ability to do that so why would he tonight?

Further more (and more importantly to the spread) the Rockets wins are all blowouts. I expect Chris Paul and the squad to keep it competitive until the half but in the third quarter Houston will blow it wide open (much like game five) and advance to the second round showdown with the Lakers.

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