Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 3:50 PM EST.
NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Quarterfinals - Game 3
Chicago +133 over Milwaukee
8:30 PM EST. We are not ones to overreact to just one game and you can be sure that this pick is not based on the Bulls' 114-110 win in Game 2 up in Milwaukee on Wednesday night. Rather, we’ve seen enough of the Bucks both this season and on their championship run last year to know what we are getting here. A one-man show. He’s an Oreo-loving, helluva cool guy, but he’s a one-man show nonetheless. Of course, we are talking about Giannis Antetokounmpo. Before you get your “what about Khris Middleton’s out” this is not to disrespect him, but to highlight just how shallow the defending champs are without their best guard.
If you read the press from the Milwaukee side, there is nothing to worry about and no reason to panic, after all, the Bucks have been here before and they have “The Greek Freak.” That’s true, at least the last point, they do have Antetokounmpo, but beyond that, there is much reason to panic.
The Bucks have been here before, absolutely, but that is not going to serve them well here. Milwaukee got theirs and when that happens, it can be much harder to get back to the top of the mountain. The Freak, loveable as he is, does not have that killer Michael Jordan-esq drive. You would never catch MJ throwing his strict diet and conditioning out the window to gorge on Oreos for a month. Again, it’s that child-like innocence that makes Giannis so endearing and marketable. Unfortunately, none of that is worth a spit when your team is down, their backs against the wall and you are all alone.
In case you didn’t watch Game 2 on Wednesday night, Khris Middleton, arguably the most underappreciated #2 in this league went down with a sprained MCL with less than seven minutes to go in regulation. After that, the Bucks folded. Is it realistic to think Milwaukee is going to rally here around their fallen man?
Enter the Bulls, who are hungry, even starving for some postseason success. It’s been a long long time since the glory days of the 90s, but if you squint hard enough, this crop of players in Chicago are the closest thing the Windy City has had to a contender since Bill Swerski’s Super Fans were all the rage on WBCM Radio (that’s an SNL joke for you kids). Da BULLS!
Before becoming riddled with injuries, the Bulls were the best surprise in the NBA, but they saw their stock tank along with their standing during the last month of the season. Like an underseeded team in the NCAAs, the Bulls were slotted much lower than they would have been otherwise. Now Chicago is healthy and sports a solid “Big 3” in Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and arguably our favorite player to watch this side of Trae Young in Nikola Vucevic. Vucevic is finally where he belongs, on a big stage to show what he’s got. It’s hard to believe he’s been in the league almost a decade and he’s not a household name. That is about to change.
At the beginning of these playoffs, the Bulls were priced like dregs. They were a 10½ point pooch in Game 1 and put a scare into the Bucks. Had a bounce or two gone their way, the Bulls likely would be looking at a 2-0 lead coming home. As it stands, they did what they had to in Milwaukee and they got the split. Now they get to strut their stuff on their home court. The United Center hasn’t hosted an NBA game this big in a long time and we assure the place will be jacked to the rafters, much like it was in Toronto during the Raptors storied run. Home court matters.
With Giannis charging into the belly of this beast all alone, we have to question how the Bucks are favored here. Other than their pedigree and these seedings, there is nothing on the surface or under the hood that suggest that Milwaukee is the superior side here and if you are believers, as we are, that the Bulls are of a much higher quality than your typical #6 seed, the latter is a moot point. Again, the Bucks are not a team that reeks of drive and desire. Even before they received their championship rings, the Bucks had a reputation for being a little soft. The great “Rowdy” Roddy Piper summed it up best, “You do not throw rocks at a man who’s got a machine gun!” Da Bulls outright is the call.
Chicago +133 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.66)