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Basketball Betting Analysis: Our Top NBA Picks for June 7

Milwaukee Bucks vs. Brooklyn Nets
Monday, June 7, 2021 at 7:30 p.m. ET (TNT) at Barclays Center in Brooklyn

James Harden

According to the NBA odds, Brooklyn is favored by two after being favored by four points in its last game.

This new spread is not some kind of “trap” laid by oddsmakers, nor should it lead you to think that the Nets money-line is “easy money” in Game 2.

One reason why neither is the case is the uncertain status of superstar James Harden, who exited Game 1 with a hamstring injury.

After averaging over 27 points and 10 assists in the first round against Boston, Harden asserted himself as arguably the offense’s most important element.

He is a threat from deep, but he also owns a mixture of finesse and physicality that makes him a potent threat driving to the basket.

Besides scoring in isolation plays, his vision and selflessness allow him to get others involved.

In the first round against Boston, Brooklyn’s offensive rating was over 20 points lower when Harden was off the floor.

His significance in that series against the Celtics was likewise transparent in the regular season. In Brooklyn’s two losses against Milwaukee, Harden did not play.

Don’t Place Too Much Importance on Game 1

One might be thinking: well, Harden didn’t play more than a minute in Game 1 and Brooklyn still won. So I must be overstating his significance.

But Net backers had an extra element of insurance besides Harden’s presence: they could count on Milwaukee freezing in the first game of the series.

Consider last year, the Bucks dropped Game 1 against 8-seeded Orlando before beating the Magic four straight times by double digits.

We saw the same thing in the first round of this postseason. Milwaukee nearly lost to Miami — the game went to overtime — although the Bucks are clearly superior to the Heat, whom they defeated three straight times by double digits.

Scoring Inside

In the regular season, Milwaukee was the most efficient team from within five feet of the basket.

Accordingly, the Bucks upped their shot frequency from this range in the opening round against Miami.

They space the floor and open driving lanes for perennial MVP candidate Giannis.

This year, they have upped their offensive rebounding percentage massively.

Physicality and size are two advantages that Milwaukee possesses over the Net defense, as height and weight comparisons suggest.

So expect more second-chance points and points at the basket.

Threes

Against the Nets, Milwaukee settled for too many early-clock, difficult three-point shots, and for too many threes in general.

Besides bafflingly poor shot selection — baffling because the Bucks were doing well inside the arc early on — the Bucks shot 6-of-30 from deep, despite ranking fifth in three-point percentage during the regular season.

The Verdict

Expect more shots for Milwaukee to fall, partly because the Bucks will attack more inside.

After dispatching their Game 1 nerves, the Bucks will outscore a Net team that is decisively less efficient without Harden.

Best Bet: Bucks +2.5 at -110 with Bovada


Denver Nuggets vs. Phoenix Suns
Monday, June 7, 2021 at 10 p.m. ET (TNT) at Phoenix Suns Arena in Phoenix

Stopping Nikola Jokic

Denver’s offensive motor is undoubtedly Nikola Jokic.

In the first round, Jokic led the Nuggets with 33 points per game, nearly 15 more than any of his teammates.

Difficult to limit for just about every defender, Jokic’s general scoring accomplishments are certainly baked into the spread and help explain why the spread is as low as it is.

However, the Suns have a unique antidote on defense.

Center Deandre Ayton was one of two players to limit Jokic to under 40-percent shooting in the regular season.

Ayton is mobile, disciplined against the shot fake, and strong. His mobility makes him comfortable guarding Jokic along the perimeter. His strength allows him to handle Ayton inside.

Stopping Michael Porter Jr.

The Nuggets’ second-most important offensive threat is Michael Porter Jr.

Porter Jr. averaged the second-most points per game in that first round against Portland.

But again, Phoenix possesses a unique defensive weapon.

Video footage reveals the extent to which Porter Jr. relies on his size to score. He’ll score over defenders. He’ll take advantage of his high release in order to prevent his shots from being blocked.

Phoenix has a number of solid wing defenders. One who will be particularly successful against Porter Jr. is Mikal Bridges.

Bridges has earned a reputation for his defense because he regularly guards and finds success against the opponent’s top perimeter threat.

I like Bridges tonight partly because of his length. He owns a tremendous 7’2 wingspan with which he can take away Porter Jr.’s ability to rely on his size.

Sun Guards

Offensively, Phoenix has a strong advantage with its guards.

With Cameron Payne, who played more minutes than expected and averaged 12.5 points and 3.3 assists in the series against the Lakers’ stout defense, the Suns have more depth at the point guard position.

In terms of point guard depth, Denver misses Jamal Murray at the position.

Also, Denver doesn’t have someone who can limit Devin Booker, given Booker’s combo of speed and smoothness, that allows him to be a playmaker inside and beyond the arc.



I talked about the physical advantages that Sun defenders have against Denver’s top scorers. But these advantages don’t exist for Denver defenders on Booker.

Phoenix will continue to up its ball-screen usage in order to hunt for the most ideal match-ups for its guards.

The Verdict

Denver will have to transition into facing a good defense — Phoenix’s defensive rating ranked 23 spots better than Denver’s first round opponent Portland in the regular season.

While Bridges and Ayton limit Porter Jr. and Jokic, Booker will flourish.

Ayton, too, can assert himself inside against a Nugget defense that ranked last-place in the regular season in limiting opposing efficiency at the basket.

Best Bet: Suns -4 at -112 with BetOnline
 

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