It’s not that the Milwaukee Bucks or Golden State Warriors couldn’t win Game 7 on the road. The Bucks have already won twice at the Boston Celtics this round. The Golden State Warriors won Game 1 at the Memphis Grizzlies.
But neither team wants to push it.
There are two enormous Game 6 showdowns on Friday night. The Bucks are 1.5-point favorites at BetMGM against the Celtics. The Warriors are 8.5-point favorites against the Grizzlies. If the Bucks or Warriors win, they’ll advance to the conference finals. If they lose, it’s onto Game 7.
The Bucks somehow won Game 5 at Boston, despite trailing most of the game and needing a rally late. Big 3s by Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday in the final minutes set up a go-ahead layup by Bobby Portis, and then Holiday had two exceptional defensive plays in the final seconds to seal the win. It was a tremendous win and the Bucks won’t want to give it right back by losing at home in a potential clincher. Antetokounmpo will have a big game (take the over on any props you want for Antetokounmpo and he’ll probably cash most of them; Giannis has absolutely settled the “best player in the world” debates the past few weeks), but whether the Bucks can close out the Celtics probably comes down to how much help he gets.
The Warriors are big favorites but the Grizzlies play well without Ja Morant. They’re 20-6-1 against the spread without Morant in the regular season and playoffs. They’ve covered both games without him this series, including a shocking blowout win in Game 5. Golden State isn’t just walking to a Game 6 clincher. Memphis is a big underdog in part because Morant is out but that ignores that the Grizzlies have been just as good (better?) without him.
Home teams have been doing very well in the second round of the NBA playoffs. Both home teams on Friday need to continue that, to avoid a road trip for a Game 7. They’ll feel that urgency.
Here’s the first look at the sports betting slate for Friday:
Closeout games in NHL, too
There are three Game 6s in the NHL as well, and all three home teams are underdogs. The Pittsburgh Penguins are home underdogs (+105) with a chance to close out the New York Rangers. The Penguins aren’t favored due in part to the uncertain status of Sidney Crosby, who left Game 5 after being hit in the head.
The heavily favored Florida Panthers have been pushed by the Washington Capitals, but they can finish the series Friday. They’re -185 road favorites.
The Calgary Flames are also road favorites (-165) as they look to end the series against the Dallas Stars.
Good AL East matchup highlights MLB
The best game in a full MLB schedule Friday could be the Toronto Blue Jays at the Tampa Bay Rays. The Blue Jays haven’t taken off yet at 17-15, yet they’re -125 road favorites against a very good Rays team. It’s never the worst idea to take the Rays as a home underdog.
There aren’t many other great matchups for the weekend series, though the New York Yankees (-175) have Gerrit Cole on the hill against the Chicago White Sox. The San Francisco Giants are -125 road favorites against the St. Louis Cardinals in another good matchup.
What’s the best bet?
While there should be some concern about Antetokounmpo running out of gas after giving the Bucks everything he has this series, Milwaukee should be able to cover as a small favorite in a potential clincher. And I’ll take Memphis to cover too. Somehow, they have been a covering machine without Ja Morant.