Both teams have waited a long time
The NBA Finals are always highly anticipated each and every season. While the same teams seemingly appear again and again in the championship, the 2021 renewal delivers something unique.
The Milwaukee Bucks are playing in their first NBA Finals since 1974, having won their sole NBA Championship back in 1971. The Phoenix Suns haven’t gotten to the final hurdle since losing out to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in 1993 and have never captured the title.
With both teams looking to end decades-long droughts, this is one of the more distinctive NBA Finals in recent years. The two teams that entered the league together in 1968 as expansion teams now square off for the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy.
When do the NBA Finals take place?
The best-of-seven series begins on July 6 at the Phoenix Suns Arena in Arizona:
The full series schedule is as follows:
Game 1 – July 6 (9pm ET) Phoenix Suns Arena
Game 2 – July 8 (9pm ET) Phoenix Suns Arena
Game 3 – July 11 (9pm ET) Fiserv Forum
Game 4 – July 14 (9pm ET) Fiserv Forum
Game 5 – July 17 (9pm ET) Phoenix Suns Arena (if necessary)
Game 6 – July 20 (9pm ET) Fiserv Forum (if necessary)
Game 7 – July 22 (9pm ET) Phoenix Suns Arena (if necessary)
Which team is the favorite?
At the start of the season, the Phoenix Suns were outsiders to win the NBA Championship, being available at odds of anywhere from 40/1 to 100/1. The Bucks were second-favorites at 5/1, behind only the Los Angeles Lakers.
The tables have now turned following an impressive season by the Suns. They go into Game 1 as the favorites to come out on top in this series, despite not being in the playoffs for a decade.
A key reason why bookmakers have the Suns as -190 favorites to win the series is the health status of two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who suffered a frightening-looking knee injury in the Eastern Conference Finals. He is listed as doubtful for Game 1 and it remains up in the air when and if he will play against the Suns at all.
What are the experts saying?
The experts are seemingly finding this NBA Finals a very tough one to call. A lot of predictions ride on how healthy Giannis actually is and if he can have a big impact on the series.
Former Phoenix Suns star and “NBA on TNT” analyst Charles Barkley believes that the Bucks have what it takes to go all the way in the series. He thinks that even with Giannis injured, the Bucks will take care of business as Jrue Holiday will step up to the plate. Barkley is on a hot streak with his predictions as of late and has guaranteed that the Bucks will come out on top:
Barkley still hopes with “all his heart and soul,” though, that the Suns will win. NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal is of the opinion that the Bucks are going to win in six games, with or without Giannis playing a big role.
Siding with the Suns, former NBA champion Kenny Smith thinks that “this is their year.” He spoke about how they haven’t been making mistakes and don’t throw away games, that they have to be beaten by a better team. Smith referred to the lack of turnovers conceded by Chris Paul and the team’s depth of sharpshooters.
What are some NBA Finals trends?
While the NBA Finals tends to take on a life of its own each year, there are some trends that tend to crop up consistently.
Since 2000, just four of the NBA Finals series have managed to reach game seven.
Of the past 13 NBA Finals (excluding the 2020 series as it was played at a neutral venue), ten of them were won by the team that had the home court advantage. In the 2020-2021 playoffs so far, the team with home court advantage has won nine of the 13 series.
Since the NBA Finals MVP award has been handed out, the recipient has been on the winning side every time except for one occasion. In 1969, Jerry West won the award even though his Lakers lost the series to the Boston Celtics. Therefore, bettors should focus their MVP bets on a player on whichever team they think is going to win.
Of course, the favorites are expected to do better more times than not. However, many people go with the underdog in order to get better odds. Since the 2009 NBA Finals, only three times have the betting underdogs managed to win the entire series.
What are some popular NBA Finals markets?
There are many different betting markets available for both the entire NBA Finals series and for each individual game. Here are some of the most popular options:
The most straightforward type of bet for the NBA Finals is betting on what team you think is going to win the entire series, as well as which side will be victorious in certain games. For Game 1, the Phoenix Suns are the favorites to win with all of the major sportsbooks, most offering about -250 for the win.
Another popular market sees a handicap applied to the favorite in the betting. This usually sees equal or close to equal money paid out on both the favorite and the underdog after the handicap is applied. For Game 1 of the NBA Finals, most sportsbooks have the Phoenix Suns as a six-point favorite. BetMGM, William Hill, and the Borgata are offering odds of -110 on the Suns -6.
Betting on whether or not you think the total points one team or both teams will score in a given game will be over or under a specified total is a popular option. For Game 1, the most common over/under market for total combined points is 208.5. As of this writing, BetMGM and Borgata have the best odds for over 208.5 points, followed by Unibet, DraftKings, and PlaySugarHouse. William Hill is the most generous with the under.
You will come across a large selection of prop bets for both the games and individual players. For example, you can bet on the winning margin of specific games or which team will score first.
For player prop betting, you might wager on who you think will have the most assists or points in a given game. Here is a look at the betting for certain players scoring ten or more points in Game 1:
Betting on the player who you think will shine the most during the series and be crowned as the NBA Finals MVP is always a market that takes in a flurry of bets. Before the series, Chris Paul is the favorite to take home the MVP crown with most sportsbooks that offer such a market, such as PointsBet and DraftKings:
Bring on the action
It’s fair to say that this was not the NBA Finals pairing that anyone really expected when the season began. The Suns showed throughout the playoffs that their young players could handle the pressure, aided by the veteran leadership of Chris Paul.
The Bucks proved that they could overcome agonizing defeats in recent years in order to make it to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1974. Whatever happens from here on out, the stage is now set for an exciting series for basketball fans and sports bettors alike.