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Thursday Picks Preview Article


Man Crush on Kyle Guy
Basketball Betting Analysis: Our Top NBA picks for June 10

Brooklyn Nets vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Thursday, June 10, 2021 at 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN) at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee

Not Missing James Harden

After Net star James Harden was ruled out for Game 2 of this series between Milwaukee and Brooklyn, the NBA odds had the Nets favored by two points instead of four.

Sports betting sites closed with the Bucks as favorites.

Far from justifying this change in spread and this line movement, Game 2's result was the product of an overwhelming advantage that the Nets maintained without Harden. They won 125-86.

Problems with Milwaukee's Team Defense

There is one aspect of Game 2 that I expect to resurface in Game 3. That aspect is Brookyln's offensive supremacy.

This supremacy can be described from two perspectives: one perspective is the individual ability of Net players, especially their two stars, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. The other perspective is the team advantage.

Brookyln's team advantage on offense is not possible without Milwaukee's defensive problems.

Under Mike Budenholzer, the Bucks are known for their drop coverage against ball screens.

Drop coverage, though, has long been exposed as a problem for the Buck defense.

During the regular season, Milwaukee tried adjusting its ball-screen coverage by adding new facets into its scheme. The Bucks tried switching, trapping, and so forth.

These attempted adjustments were all to no avail on Milwaukee's part. The Bucks remain most comfortable executing their drop coverage.

Milwaukee's preferred ball screen coverage scheme is also what Net players prefer to encounter when they are on offense.

Facing drop coverage, the Nets face minimal obstacles. They can do what they want offensively because they are not pressured. Since June 5, when their series with Milwaukee began, their assist-to-turnover ratio is second-best among this year's remaining playoff teams.

They are beating the Bucks with strong ball movement that is generating propitious looks and uncontested shot attempts, which explain why the Net offense is so efficient and productive in this series.

Individual Stars

In these playoffs, Brooklyn has drastically upped the frequency of its isolation plays relative to its regular season isolation play frequency.

Irving and Durant can both score by themselves. They are two Net stars who are able to break down Buck defenders off the dribble.

Largely because of them, the Nets are amassing almost eight more points off iso plays than any other team throughout these entire playoffs.

Durant has strong handles and incredible footwork for a man of his size. After scoring 29 points in Game 1, he produced 32 points in Game 2.

On defense, the Bucks have tried to give Durant different looks and they've assigned their most strongly reputed individual defenders to him. But they have no answer.

Irving, too, is too much to handle with his elite handles.


In addition to the propitious looks and uncontested shot attempts that KD and Irving are creating for themselves, other Net players are getting involved.

Through two games, Brookyln is averaging 19 wide open threes per game.

Critically, the guys who are best at shooting threes are the ones benefitting from the team ball movement and from the attention that Irving and KD attract to themselves.

Joe Harris, especially, is a characteristic sharpshooter who is averaging more three-point attempts this series than he averaged during the regular season.

I expect these advantages for Brooklyn to consider not just because of the Bucks' schematic issues.

But their individual defenders -- many of whom were relatively recent and obviously ill-advised signings -- lack the tools to offer meaningful resistance.

The Bucks also miss an under-appreciated three-and-D guy in Donte DiVincenzo, who could help hold the defense together as a 'glue guy,' but will miss the remainder of the playoffs.

Bucks' Three-Pointers

Although not as many as Brookyln, the Bucks are also accruing some open and wide open three-point attempts.

Through two games, they are underachieving massively in their conversion rates relative to their regular season averages. They've converted 3.5 of 14 open three-point attempts and 2.5 of 10.5 wide open ones.

Home is the perfect place for the Bucks to experience statistical progression in their three-point shooting.

This season, playoffs included, Milwaukee is shooting three-percent better at home than on the road.

I like the "over" In this game not just because of Brooklyn's individual and team offensive advantages but also because the Bucks will help out with more three-pointers.

Brooklyn's Defensive Edge

In addition to its offensive supremacy and to the fact that it is underrated by NBA Oddsmakers without Harden, I like Brookyln because of its defense edge.

Through two games in this series, the Nets' defensive rating is 23.6 points better than Milwaukee.

In addition to shooting a lot of threes, the Bucks like to score inside.

But the Nets are forcing Milwaukee to take more mid-range shots, which Milwaukee does not want to do.

They are offering strong deterrence at the rim with bigs like Blake Griffin, KD, and Nicolas Claxton.

All of these bigs have stepped up tremendously on defense as evident in their vastly improved and, in this series, superb defensive ratings.

When the Bucks try to score inside, they primarily want to do so with perennial MVP candidate Giannis.

But consider one play where Giannis tries to spin inside and Net defender Bruce Brown disturbs Giannis by digging.

When Giannis kicks the ball to the perimeter, Brown recovers to contest the shooter.

Brown appears to be acting rapidly. But the more accurate conclusion is that Milwaukee's offense gets bogged down by relying heavily on Giannis inside -- that is, when Giannis isn't attempting a foolish, early shot clock three.


I also like the Nets tonight because of the following trend:

Since the 2016-2017 season, home teams in the playoffs are covering the spread at a 36.4-percent rate in the game following a double-digit defeat.

I think Milwaukee will score more on offense, but its defensive problems will hinder the Bucks from coming remotely close to covering the spread tonight.

Best Bets: Nets +3.5 at -108 with Heritage & Nets/Bucks Over 234 at -108 with Heritage

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