This article is part of our Handicapping the NBA series.
The NBA postseason continues Tuesday night with yet another two-game slate. As has been the case throughout Round 2, the Bucks and Heat will play the early game (6:30 p.m. ET), with the Lakers and Rockets featured in the nightcap.
Let's take a look at some of the betting angles for Tuesday night's slate, as well as survey the current futures market for the remainder of the Playoffs.
All odds via the DraftKings Sportsbook.
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Miami Heat
Before diving in, we have to acknowledge the elephant in the room that is Giannis Antetokounmpo's ankle injury. The Bucks have listed the soon-to-be-two-time-MVP as questionable, and there's a good chance he'll end up as a game-time decision after re-injuring his ankle early in Game 4.
With Antetokounmpo's status in the balance, Miami is a 4.0-point favorite and -180 on the moneyline. Even though Antetokounmpo only played 11 minutes in Game 4, Milwaukee probably doesn't win without his 19 points and four rebounds. Prior to rolling the ankle, Antetokounmpo looked to be in full-on attack mode to a much greater degree than we saw through the first three games. The question is whether he'll be physically capable of returning to that level if he's ultimately cleared to play.
Without Antetokounmpo for most of the game, Khris Middleton stepped up and had his best overall game of the postseason, finishing with 36 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Middleton has proven capable of big playoff performances in the past, but asking him to replicate that level of difficult shot-making after playing 48 minutes Sunday is a tall order.
Milwaukee does have some room to improve from a shooting perspective (11-35 3PT in Game 4), but if Giannis is out or limited, creating open looks against the Heat's defense will prove difficult.
The pick: Heat -4.0
In terms of player props, I like Bam Adebayo to go over 16.5 points – a number he's topped in four of eight playoff games thus far. Adebayo is coming off of a 26-point, 12-rebound, eight-assist performance, and he had 20 points and 16 boards in Game 3. For the series, Adebayo is 21-of-23 at the free throw line. If Antetokounmpo sits, I like the over even more. I also like Adebayo to go over 32.5 points + rebounds + assists, a number he's comfortably hit in three of four games thus far.
Jimmy Butler's point total (22.5) is probably a stay-away for me, though he has developed a distinct pattern thus far in the playoffs. Beginning with Game 1 against Indiana, Butler has gone over 22.5 points in every-other game. After scoring 17 points in Game 4, that would dictate that he's due for at least 23 on Tuesday night.
On the Bucks' side, so much hinges on Antetokounmpo's status – he currently has no individual props – but I do like Khris Middleton to go over 25.5 points. With or without Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee will need another big night from its other All-Star, who's averaging 26.3 points per game for the series. If Middleton can get to the line like he did in Game 4 (9-9 FT) and Game 2 (11-12 FT), he should hit that number relatively comfortably. In Games 1 and 3 of the series, however, Middleton had just two total free throw attempts. Nonetheless, he still got to 28 points in Game 1.
One team prop I like is the over on 55.0 combined points in the first quarter. The two teams went over on that number with relative ease in three of four games, with Game 4 being the lone exception. If you like Miami to jump on a potentially Giannis-less Bucks team, as it did Sunday, I wouldn't necessarily shy away from Heat -6.0 (+230) after the first quarter.
LA Lakers vs. Houston Rockets
Game 1 of this series was a classic feel-out game for LeBron James, who mostly sat back and facilitated while his supporting cast offered little resistance in what turned into a blowout win for Houston. Game 2 was similar to the Portland series, with both James and Anthony Davis coming out with tangibly more aggression. But even after the Lakers jumped out to a 21-point lead early in the second quarter, the Rockets shot their way back into the game, going on a 15-2 run to begin the third.
Through two games, Houston has looked like the better team for the largest chunk of game time. It hasn't been a massive gap, but the Rockets controlled Game 1 from start to finish and were in position to steal Game 2, had it not been for some untimely giveaways down the stretch.
In Game 2, the Rockets hit 22 three-pointers, including 19 from their starting five, and shot 41.5 percent from beyond the arc. Entering Sunday, Houston was 19-1 on the season when shooting at least 39 percent from three, and 13-2 when hitting at least 20 three-pointers. In other words: the Lakers are playing with fire.
Chances are, some regression could be coming for players like Eric Gordon and Robert Covington, who combined for 10 makes in Game 2, but the Rockets will continue to fire away – especially if the Lakers are content to continue their zone-and-trap approach on James Harden.
On the other side, the Lakers shot the three fairly well (44.4% 3PT) as a team but had just 27 attempts – barely over half of what Houston tossed up. LeBron James hit only 1-of-5 attempts, while Rajon Rondo and Alex Caruso combined to go 1-of-7. Caruso has been horrific from three since bubble play began, while Rondo should almost never be launching that many. His five attempts in Game 2 were his most in any game this season.
My initial lean is to back the Lakers in anticipation of another strong night for the James-Davis duo, combined with the Rockets missing a few more three-pointers. Even if that is the case, however, some progression has to be expected from Russell Westbrook, who had perhaps the worst playoff game of his career in Game 2. Westbrook isn't the player he once was, but the Lakers can't count on another 10-point, seven-turnover night. With that in mind, I like Houston to get off to a better start in Game 3 and cover the 4.5 points.
The pick: Rockets +4.5
The total for Game 3 is set at 222.5 points. Game 1 went way under that number, while Game 2 finished at 226. Given the level of defenses involved, as well as the pace (96.5), which has remained consistent through two games, I like the under on 222.5 points.
For individual scoring total props, I'm backing James Harden over 30.5 points and LeBron James over 28.5 points. The Lakers spent most of Game 2 aggressively doubling Harden late in the shot clock, forcing him to give up the ball in a four-on-three situation. Harden was more than happy to go along with that plan, especially as the Rockets' role players continued to drain three after three. Even with Harden only attempting 12 shots, he still reached 27 points behind 11 made three throws.
The Lakers will likely stick with that defensive plan against Harden for at least parts of Game 3, but I expect Harden to be more aggressive in avoiding traps and looking to score. Harden has faced every defensive scheme imaginable, and his 12 field goal attempts in Game 2 tied for his fewest in any game this season. Even if the Lakers are again able to do a relatively good job of limiting his penetration, Harden should be able to slither and side-step his way over 30 points.
I'm not quite as confident in James reaching at least 29 points – something he's yet to do in the series. But he looked as spry and confident as ever in Game 2, even after starting the game with a few careless plays. The key for James will be rediscovering his three-point stroke, as he's just 3-of-12 from deep for the series, with a number of those attempts coming from well beyond the arc. When James closed out the Blazers in Round 1 with three consecutive games of 38, 30 and 36 points, respectively, he went a combined 12-of-20 from deep.
James is just +180 to finish with a triple-double, so there's not a ton of value there, though he's probably overdue to record one. James has two triple-doubles through seven playoff games, but he's been a combined three assists away from having two more.
For another Lakers prop, I like Davis to go over 45.5 points + rebounds + assists. Davis has gone over on that number three times in the playoffs, while falling 1.0 stat short in another contest. He's also attempted just 10 free throws through the first two games of the series after averaging 11.2 attempts per game against Portland.
One parlay I like: Rockets and the under, which sits at +380 on the DraftKings Sportsbook.
NBA CHAMPIONSHIP ODDS
|Clippers: +180||Lakers: +275||Celtics: +500||Heat: +500|
|Rockets: +1300||Raptors: +1400||Bucks: +2800||Nuggets: +6600|
DraftKings' updated NBA Championship odds favor the Clippers more than ever, with Kawhi and Company sitting at +180 after going up 2-1 over Denver on Monday night. The Lakers would likely shrink the gap with a win Tuesday.
Oddsmakers are yet to fully throw in the towel on Milwaukee, which is still 28/1 to win the title, despite being behind 3-1 in the series with an injured Antetokounmpo. Denver, meanwhile, is a 66/1 longshot after blowing multiple opportunities in Monday's loss.
NBA FINALS: EXACT MATCHUP
|Heat-Clippers: +310||Celtics-Clippers: +335||Heat-Lakers: +440||Celtics-Lakers: +475||Heat-Rockets: +1300|
|Raptors-Clippers: +1325||Celtics-Rockets: +1400||Raptors-Lakers: +1775||Bucks-Clippers: +2550||Bucks-Lakers: +3400|
|Raptors-Rockets: +4800||Heat-Nuggets: +7200||Celtics-Nuggets: +7700||Bucks-Rockets: +9000||Raptors-Nuggets: +25400|
Heat-Clippers has supplanted Celtics-Clippers as the most likely Finals matchup, while Heat-Lakers and Celtics-Lakers trail close behind.
|Kawhi Leonard: +240||LeBron James: +400||Jimmy Butler: +900||Anthony Davis: +900||Jayson Tatum: +900|
|Paul George: +1000||James Harden: +1600||Bam Adebayo: +2000||Kemba Walker: +2000||Giannis Antetokounmpo: +2800|
Finally, Kawhi Leonard remains atop the board for Finals MVP, sitting at +240. LeBron James is close behind at +400, with Jimmy Butler, Anthony Davis and Jayson Tatum rounding out the top-five all at +900.
While oddsmakers see the Clippers as the most likely title-winner, James and Davis potentially splitting Finals MVP votes is baked into the odds. Paul George (+1000) is very much in the conversation, but it's tough to imagine a scenario in which the Clippers win it all without Kawhi Leonard spearheading the attack on both ends.