Entering the fourth quarter on Sunday evening, the Hawks found themselves with a 85-83 lead over the Bucks and a chance to take a 2-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals. However, Khris Middleton had other plans.
Milwaukee’s oft-maligned sidekick outscored Atlanta in the fourth quarter, dropping 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the floor and 4-of-6 from deep. It was part of a fourth quarter in which the Bucks outscored the Hawks 30-17 and held the home team to 0.773 points per possession on the way to a win (and cover) on the road. It was a competitive game with a somewhat lopsided result, and there is a chance that is the nature of this series going forward.
Through three games, the Bucks are 2-1 SU/ATS with a + 13.8 net rating -- and their two victories have come by a combined 45 points. Sure, that number is greatly skewed by a 34-point victory in Game 2, but a + 59.1 net rating in the fourth quarter on Sunday night shows the potential gap between these two clubs. The market has responded as such, with Milwaukee installed at -6 at the open for Game 4 in Atlanta. A number that high tells us the Bucks should be an 11-point favorite at home, a massive adjustment from the Game 1 number in Milwaukee.
Here is my betting preview of Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals:
Los Angeles Clippers at Phoenix Suns (-6.5, 218)
Despite holding a 3-1 series, lead the Phoenix Suns have a -0.5 net rating. That tells you all you need to know about the competitive nature of this series and the missed opportunities for the Clippers. The market overreacted to Los Angeles’ loss in Game 4, opening the Suns as a 6.5-point favorite initially on Saturday night, but the market has corrected that issue and Phoenix is laying 5.5 at almost every shop. A 7.5-point swing is pretty strong for a Los Angeles team that has a + 5.3 net rating over the two games at home.
The obvious issue for the Clippers in Game 4 was shot-making. The best shooting team in the league went 5-of-31 from 3-point range on Saturday, and 0-of-12 when it had the opportunity to take the lead. According to the NBA.com tracking data, the Clippers shot 15.4% on open 3-point attempts and 27.3% on wide-open attempts. Los Angeles clearly can generate the open looks it needs, but if those shots are not falling then the offense struggles (as we saw on Saturday night). The shooting on open looks has been an issue throughout this series for the Clippers, as they have had 19.2% of their 3-point attempts considered open (defender 4-6 feet away), but they are hitting just 31.3% of them. Should the shooting correct itself, this is a game in which the road team is very live to cover.
Regardless, this is a series in which both teams have struggled to generate offense. Neither squad is averaging more than 1.078 points per possession, and on top of that they averaging fewer than 94 possessions per 48 minutes. It has resulted in a series that has seen three unders through four games. The market has adjusted the total in a large way, with 214 being the prevailing number at most shops. Given what we have seen so far in the series, it is hard to believe this game will pick up the pace, but should the Clippers’ shooting find its level, it is possible a low total finds the over here.