The NBA world has run the gauntlet of emotions over the past six weeks. Disappointment due to an unceasing run of injuries to stars and role players alike; excitement from some of the most thrilling playoff games in recent memory; surprise at the twists and turns. Now, finally, anticipation.
After the Milwaukee Bucks took care of the Atlanta Hawks in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals on Saturday night, the NBA Finals are set. Awaiting the Bucks are the Phoenix Suns, who also needed six games to close out the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference finals.
You'd have to search far and wide to find someone who predicted this matchup prior to the season, and even once the playoff brackets were set there weren't many saying this was how things would go down. In fact, given their respective matchups, it wasn't even a guarantee that either team would escape the first round.
Speaking of predictions, now that the matchup is set, it's time to start thinking about which team will win. If you ask Vegas oddsmakers, it's going to be the Suns. They open as favorites for not only Game 1, but the entire series. Here's a look at the opening odds, via William Hill Sportsbook.
NBA Finals series odds
- Suns -170
- Bucks +150
Game 1 odds
- Spread: Suns -5.5
- Money line: Suns -220 | Bucks +190
- Over/under: 217
Those are fairly narrow odds, and are likely to change as we learn more about Giannis Antetokounmpo's status. The Bucks' star hyperextended his knee in Game 4 against the Hawks and hasn't played since. He escaped any serious injury, but it's unclear when he'll be back on the floor, and head coach Mike Budenholzer said the team is taking things "day by day." If Giannis is able to come back, that would be a big boost to the Bucks' chances, and could even make them the favorites if he's anywhere close to 100 percent.
For now, however, the Suns deserve to be the favorites. In fact, they'd have a strong argument even if Giannis was healthy. They have a true leader in Chris Paul, a strong shotmaker in Devin Booker, a legit big man in Deandre Ayton and a strong supporting cast. The fact that they finished No. 2 in the Western Conference was not a fluke, and since going down 2-1 to the Lakers in the first round, they've only lost twice.
It's difficult to make any sort of solid pick without knowing Giannis' status, but this is shaping up to be a competitive series, which is all you can hope for. In the regular season, the Suns won both meetings by one point.
Here's a look at the full schedule:
- Game 1: Bucks at Suns | Tuesday, July 6 | 9 p.m. ET | TV: ABC
- Game 2: Bucks at Suns | Thursday, July 8 | 9 p.m. ET | TV: ABC
- Game 3: Suns at Bucks | Sunday, July 11 | 8 p.m. ET | TV: ABC
- Game 4: Suns at Bucks | Wednesday, July 14 | 9 p.m. ET | TV: ABC
- Game 5*: Bucks at Suns | Saturday, July 17 | 9 p.m. ET | TV: ABC
- Game 6*: Suns at Bucks | Tuesday, July 20 | 9 p.m. ET | TV: ABC
- Game 7*: Bucks at Suns | Thursday, July 22 | 9 p.m. ET | TV: ABC