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GAMBLING AGAINST GREATNESS: HEAT LOOK TO PUT AN END TO THE BUCKS WHILE THE ROCKETS AND LAKERS LOOK FOR SERIES CONTROL

@TheWillBaldwin

Miami Heat vs Milwaukee Bucks

Line: Miami -4.5

Pick: Heat -4.5

If Sunday was the opening statement from the Milwaukee Bucks to their star Giannis Antetokounmpo in their argument for why he should stay in 2021, it was a good one.

Without Giannis even on the court after he left the game with another ankle injury, the Bucks managed to stave off elimination and force a game five down 3-0. Many, myself included, thought when Giannis left the game, they would roll over and take the broom from the Heat.

Instead, Khris Middleton actually looked like the All-NBA player he was all season, Eric Bledsoe finally played with aggression and George Hill made some timely shots he usually doesn’t. All in all, it was the type of performance from the non-Giannis Bucks that had to leave Milwaukee fans happy but frustrated.

Why couldn’t this of come in game one or two when they still had a chance to win the series?

No team has come back from three games to none in NBA history and I expect that fact to still be true by the end of tonight. Sunday was fun, Milwaukee fought hard but much like Golden State last year when they lost Kevin Durant in game five of the NBA Finals, they almost willed themselves to a win they didn’t deserve.

Now it’s time for the better team to assert itself once more.

Jimmy Butler was just 6/15 in game three, expect that to change. The same should be said for Goran Dragic who should 5/17 from the field.

This Miami team is loaded with young talent like Bam Adebayo, who may have played the best game of his career on Sunday and who will undoubtedly continue to cause major problems for Milwaukee. Other young pieces Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson continued to shine in the playoff spotlight in game three.

There is no doubt in my mind for the next ten plus years, they are the kind of guys who will make every team that passed up on them regret it each and every day.

In all honesty, that type of mindset is the story of this Miami team. Jae Crowder has played on like 37 teams, Andre Iguodala almost didn’t play this year because he couldn’t find a home and it seems like damn near half the rest of this roster is undrafted. They play with the aggression and fervour of their best player, Jimmy Butler.

Teams like that don’t squander many opportunities which is why I expect them to finish off the Bucks tonight and send the number one seed home to an offseason full of questions.

Los Angeles Lakers vs Houston Rockets

Line: Lakers -5

Pick: Rockets +5

In last game’s preview, I already outlined why the Rockets can’t get blown out so I won’t bore you with the details (but if you clicked the link I wouldn’t be crushed).

What’s most funny though, is you saw my theory play out in live action the day I wrote that. The Lakers led by as many as 21 and yet the Rockets found a way to lead heading into the fourth because, they will always be in every single game.

The question for Houston is pretty simple, did James Harden and Russell Westbrook combined outmatch Anthony Davis and LeBron James combined? Houston’s bet is that more often than not in the playoffs, the answer will be yes. Obviously on Sunday it wasn’t.

Which brings up the real concern for the Rockets in this series. They need Russell Westbrook to play like he did in the second half of the regular season.

Unfortunately for Russ and the Rockets, since his quad injury he has really struggled to re-gain his rhythm and explosiveness. There is no doubt coming back from an injury is hard enough in regular circumstances in this league but to do it in the heat of playoff basketball makes it that much harder.

What Houston needs isn’t necessarily for Russ to splash his jumpshots. All they need from him is a slightly better version of the game one he played that saw him score 24 points along with nine rebounds and six assists.

In that game though, he also had five turnovers which is the real problem. You cannot give this Lakers team an opportunity for easy buckets in transition. Their half court offence has still been a major struggle in this series and if the Rockets can keep LeBron and Co. from being showtime, they have a real chance in this series.

Tonight, I expect a close Lakers win since the better team almost always wins game three in a series tied at one and so far I just haven’t seen enough to think Houston is the better team. I think the Lakers really found something in how they kept Anthony Davis on the move in game two and if they get a decent shooting performance from one of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Danny Green or Kyle Kuzma, it should be enough.

As we know though, the Rockets don’t get blown out which is why once again this line is too big. Lakers win, Rockets cover.

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