Nets Defeat Bucks in Largest NBA Upset in 27 Years

  • Bucks entered the game as 19-point favorites, lost by 3
  • Nets players were all backups and third-string players
  • PointsBet said that 94% of the money was bet on the Bucks
  • A “significant number” of bettors risked $1,000 on the Bucks to try to win just $32
Drawing of David vs. Goliath
The Brooklyn Nets managed the largest NBA upset since 1993 on Tuesday, when as 19-point underdogs, they defeated the Milwaukee Bucks, 119-116. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Lopsided matchup on paper

Sports have been a bit strange since they restarted during the pandemic and this week’s NBA action featured another oddity: the Brooklyn Nets pulled off the biggest upset in a decade and a half. The Nets entered Tuesday afternoon’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks as a 19-point underdog and not only covered the spread, but won the game outright, 119-116. According to ESPN, it was the largest point spread upset since April 6, 1993, when the Dallas Mavericks beat the Seattle Supersonics 109-107 as a 19.5-point underdog.

In the meantime, the Bucks had the best record in the league and boasted two All-Stars

The spread grew to such heights because the Nets had several players opt-out of the season’s restart and then had a few more starters declared out prior to the game. Only one starter in Tuesday’s game had more than four starts on the season and the other four combined for just seven starts. In the meantime, the Bucks had the best record in the league and boasted two All-Stars, including reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

But the Nets played hard and hit loads of three-pointers, while the Bucks themselves were without two starters and played a sloppy game. A third starter, Eric Bledsoe, was just returning from being out with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. It was apparent early on that the Bucks were also resting players; no regular starter played more than 18 minutes and only backups and deep bench players played in the second half.

Players react

Athletes don’t generally care about point spreads, but Brooklyn knew it was up against it heading into the matchup with Milwaukee.

“I’m sure a lot of people wasn’t expecting us to be having a close game,” said the Nets’ Chris Chiozza. “In the NBA, they’re one of the better teams, so they know they can’t come out and just overlook other teams’ best shot every night. I think we just played a great game.”

Garrett Temple said that he was aware that some of the Bucks’ starters weren’t playing, but even without them, “they have a group that can win a lot of games.” He added:

….we may see them in the first round [of the playoffs] so it’s something we were coming into, making sure we make a statement.”

The Bucks, at least outwardly, did not seem to be overly bothered by the loss. Coach Mike Budenholzer said he wanted to get everybody solid minutes and that it was important to a couple guys back in action who had been out for a while. He was most upset about the poor first half defense.

“It was fun, even though we lost,” said Bledsoe, who enjoyed playing in a real game for the first time in months.

Not many bettors cashed in

ESPN reports that despite the gigantic point spread, there were not many bettors who were willing to stake money on the Nets. At PointsBet, 94% of the money was placed on the Bucks.

PointsBet communications director Patrick Eichner said that there was a “significant number” of $1,000 bets on the Bucks’ moneyline, even though the return would have been minuscule. Milwaukee’s moneyline was -3,000, so that $1,000 bet would have only profited about $32 had it won.

BetMGM told ESPN that it did take a $600 bet on Brooklyn at 13-1; that bettor nabbed a $7,800 profit. The vast majority of the wagers either way were on the moneyline, rather than the point spread.

This was just the third time in 52 games over the past 30 seasons that a team favored by at least 19 points lost. It is even rare to see double-digit favorites lose a game. Prior to the Nets/Bucks game, The Action Network lists just 23 games since 1995 in which a 14.5-point underdog or greater won.