Bucks-Hawks Game 1 best bets: Can Atlanta steal 3rd straight opener?
Both the Bucks and the Hawks enter Wednesday's contest fresh off a Game 7 victory on the road against a team that outscored them by 20 points in the second round. Which club will take a crucial 1-0 lead in these conference finals?
As we noted in our series preview, these teams are not as far apart as they may appear. After March 1, when Atlanta fired head coach Lloyd Pierce and promoted Nate McMillan, the Hawks boasted a better regular-season record and net rating than the Bucks. However, Milwaukee has been the more impressive postseason team thus far.
Is that enough to justify this line? The Bucks are 0-3-1 against the spread in their last four games as favorites of eight points or more, and they won just two of seven contests against the Nets by that margin. Conversely, the Hawks have dropped just four playoff games by at least eight points and are 8-4 ATS in 12 postseason contests, winning three of their last four outright as an underdog.
It's not like the Bucks have played their best basketball in Game 1s, either. Milwaukee needed an overtime game-winner to beat a Heat team that folded in four contests, and it was crushed by Brooklyn in an eight-point loss that wasn't as close as the final margin.
Compare that to Atlanta, which stole Game 1 on the road in dramatic fashion against both the Knicks and the 76ers. Trae Young averaged 33.5 points and 10 assists in those contests and will likely need a big performance Wednesday to pull off the upset, though his teammates have stepped up lately with key contributions from deep.
Don't expect this game to be a barn burner: The Hawks are 9-2-1 to the under this postseason, while the Bucks are 7-4 to the under and own the NBA's best defensive rating (102.8) in the playoffs. If this contest grinds to a halt, Atlanta's shot-making at nearly every position should loom large down the stretch and help keep this game within a possession or two.
Pick: Hawks +8, under 225.5