There is always luck involved in a deep postseason run, and there is no denying injury luck has been in the favor of the Phoenix Suns up to this point of the season. However, one cannot deny the greatness of Chris Paul’s performance on Wednesday night in a close-out game with a trip to his first NBA Finals on the line. Paul was his vintage self in Los Angeles, drawing technical fouls with ridiculous acting jobs and ending the Clippers’ season with 41 points and no turnovers in arguably the best postseason performance of his career. According to ESPN, Paul is the fourth player to have 40 points and no turnovers in a Conference Finals game since turnovers became an official stat. The other three, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon, all went on to win the NBA Finals, and Paul’s team is favored to do just that.
As a basketball fan, it is great to see the Point God finally get his opportunity at a title. As investor in the Clippers to win an NBA title, there is certainly frustration in watching a title contender lose a close series with missed opportunities abound, but today is about Paul and the Phoenix Suns, who now await their opponent from the Eastern Conference.
Updated odds for every game can be found here.
Updated injury reports for every game can be found here.
Atlanta Hawks at Milwaukee Bucks (-4.5, 220.5)
The Milwaukee Bucks have officially ruled out Giannis Antetokounmpo for this contest with a knee injury, but the status of Trae Young continues to be an enigma. Despite the news that the Greek Freak would not play today the market moved a half-point in Milwaukee’s direction, and now we wait to see if the other star will be available. Since we know who is available for the Bucks there is a picture we can start to paint for the home team, but it is not exactly a replica of The Starry Night.
Antetokounmpo missed 11 games for Milwaukee this season and played only 33 minutes per game. In the time without Giannis on the floor the Bucks were outscored by 0.6 points per 100 possessions and their defense suffered immensely, going from a rating of 109.1 with Antetokounmpo to 116.7 without him. If Middleton and Holiday were on the floor, something we will see this evening, the net rating improved slightly to 0.6 but they gave up an astonishing 118.8 points per 100 possessions. Yet, the market has moved this total down from 220.5 to 215 at most shops. Giannis is worth something to the total, but one could definitely make the argument that this total should actually move up, not down.
Having said that, it is hard to handicap this game without knowing what Young’s status will be. The Hawks’ offensive rating drops to 107.3 per 100 possessions in the minutes with Young off the floor and the team is outscored by 4.6 points over the course of 100 possessions. That did not manifest itself in Game 4 but that game could obviously be an outlier performance for this team. Atlanta torched Milwaukee’s defense on Tuesday night, shooting 38.2% against the league’s second-worst perimeter defense and hitting 64.0% of their mid-range shots. The shooting from mid-range could drop, but there is certainly a chance the Hawks can maintain the solid shooting tonight, especially with no Giannis on the floor, regardless of Young’s status.