The Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks meet in the NBA Finals to determine a champion for the 2020-21 NBA season. A grueling 72-game regular season and postseason marred by injuries has come to the last stop. The Suns will be looking for their first title while the Bucks hope to add a championship for the first time since 1970-71. Here’s a look at how we think the series will play out.
Suns vs. Bucks odds
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Suns are favorites to win the series at -185. The Bucks are +150. There’s a big reason why Phoenix is favored, which we’ll get to with the injury report. The Suns finished the season in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, resulting in the West’s No. 2 seed and the league’s second-best record. The Bucks ranked in the top 10 in both categories as well, resulting in the East’s No. 3 seed. Milwaukee’s offseason trade for Jrue Holiday has paid off with the franchise’s first Finals appearance since 1973-74.
Suns injury report
The Suns had to deal with an injury to Chris Paul early in the playoffs, but have otherwise stayed healthy. Paul also went into COVID health protocols during the conference finals, but returned in Game 3 and looked like his normal self. While other teams saw their stars go down, Phoenix was able to stay on the court. Cameron Johnson is listed as “day-to-day” with an illness, but is expected to be ready for Game 1 Tuesday.
Bucks injury report
Giannis Antetokounmpo is dealing with a hyperextended knee and missed the last two games of Milwaukee’s 4-2 series win over the Hawks. With his status up in the air, it makes sense for the Bucks to be substantial underdogs heading into the series. Antetokounmpo is expected to play at some point in the Finals, but when will that be? Will he be 100 percent when he returns? The Bucks are already without Donte DiVincenzo for the season due to a foot injury, but Antetokounmpo is the big question mark. He’s officially listed as “day-to-day”.
Who will win the 2021 NBA Championship?
This answer largely hinges on Antetokounmpo’s status. After all, he’s a two-time league MVP and a Defensive Player of the Year winner who will easily be the best player on the floor if healthy. Let’s assume the Greek Freak is 100 percent if and when he does return.
Scenario 1: Antetokounmpo doesn’t play in the Finals
This seems unlikely given what the Bucks have said about the injury, but there’s a chance Antetokounmpo doesn’t play in the Finals at all. Milwaukee or Antetokounmpo will decide the risk of long-term injury outweighs the short-term benefit of having him play at less than 100 percent. In this scenario, the Suns would be clear favorites and likely emerge victorious in five or six games. Khris Middleton and Holiday will make it competitive, but don’t have enough to take down Phoenix.
Scenario 2: Antetokounmpo plays in the Finals at some point
There’s a high chance Antetokounmpo misses a few games early in the series. Depending on how results play out, the Bucks could hold him out longer. Game 3 seems like the sweet spot at the moment, but there’s a chance Antetokounmpo comes back earlier. When he returns, the Bucks immediately become the superior team on paper. Assuming he misses two games and Milwaukee loses both, the Bucks would still be primed to take the series in seven games. If Milwaukee splits the games in Phoenix, the series could wrap up in six.
Scenario 3: Antetokounmpo plays in Game 1
DraftKings Sportsbook might not adjust the lines right away, but the Bucks would probably be favored in this scenario. If Antetokounmpo plays from Game 1, Milwaukee becomes the superior team on paper and has the best player on the floor. The Suns are a good unit and will keep things competitive using the “underdog” label, but the Bucks take the series in six games.
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