Should you bet the Bucks to erase 0-2 deficit and win the NBA Finals?
Only four teams have ever won the NBA Finals after falling down 0-2. On Sunday, the Bucks will begin their bid to become the fifth.
After dropping the first two games of the series, Milwaukee is now +375 at theScore Bet to win the Finals, while the Suns are a resounding -500 to win their first-ever title. With the Bucks heading home for Games 3 and 4, is it worth betting on Milwaukee to turn this series around as big underdogs?
A historic challenge
While a club can erase an 0-2 hole in the Finals - we've seen it four times before and twice this century - it's rarely worth betting at anything short of a long-shot price.
Here's a list of every team to fall behind 0-2 in the Finals since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976:
|2020||Miami Heat||Los Angeles Lakers||L 4-2|
|2018||Cleveland Cavaliers||Golden State Warriors||L 4-0|
|2017||Cleveland Cavaliers||Golden State Warriors||L 4-1|
|2016||Cleveland Cavaliers||Golden State Warriors||W 4-3|
|2009||Orlando Magic||Los Angeles Lakers||L 4-1|
|2008||Los Angeles Lakers||Boston Celtics||L 4-2|
|2007||Cleveland Cavaliers||San Antonio Spurs||L 4-0|
|2006||Miami Heat||Dallas Mavericks||W 4-2|
|2005||Detroit Pistons||San Antonio Spurs||L 4-3|
|2002||New Jersey Nets||Los Angeles Lakers||L 4-0|
|2000||Indiana Pacers||Los Angeles Lakers||L 4-2|
|1999||New York Knicks||San Antonio Spurs||L 4-1|
|1997||Utah Jazz||Chicago Bulls||L 4-2|
|1996||Seattle SuperSonics||Chicago Bulls||L 4-2|
|1995||Orlando Magic||Houston Rockets||L 4-0|
|1993||Phoenix Suns||Chicago Bulls||L 4-2|
|1989||Los Angeles Lakers||Detroit Pistons||L 4-0|
|1987||Boston Celtics||Los Angeles Lakers||L 4-2|
|1986||Houston Rockets||Boston Celtics||L 4-2|
|1983||Los Angeles Lakers||Philadelphia 76ers||L 4-0|
|1977||Portland Trail Blazers||Philadelphia 76ers||W 4-2|
Since the merger, 21 squads have taken a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals, and 18 of them (85.7%) won the series. In fact, more sides pulled off the four-game sweep (six) than lost the series (three) after going up 2-0, and only one other team (2005 Pistons) forced a Game 7 after an 0-2 deficit.
And it's not just in the Finals, either. Franchises that win the first two contests have won 339 of 365 playoff series (92.9%) dating back to the 1976-77 season and five of eight series this postseason - including Phoenix's two series wins in the two previous rounds.
The Bucks' current odds to win it all would suggest there's roughly a 21% chance they'll climb out of this 0-2 hole, which is significantly higher than the 14.3% success rate for former finalists or 7.1% rate for all playoff clubs. Is there a reason to back them at this price despite teams' past failures?
Bet the better team
Coming into this series, Milwaukee was the clear underdog (+170) given the uncertainty of star Giannis Antetokounmpo, who had missed two matchups before the Finals with a knee injury. The two-time MVP looked great in a 42-point, 12-rebound effort in Game 2, but his side still finds itself down two games to none.
If the Bucks can't win with an effort like that, their chances in this series are slim. Entering Game 2, Milwaukee had won nine of its last 11 games when Antetokounmpo scored at least 40 points, making Thursday's loss - which came despite a sluggish start from the Suns' offense - even tougher to bear.
The truth is, even with a healthy superstar, the Bucks simply aren't as good as Phoenix this year. The Suns were the better team in the regular season, they outscored their opponents by a title-worthy margin through the first three rounds, and they've showcased their depth and versatility brilliantly through the first two games of this championship series.
Even if Milwaukee wins Game 3, the victory likely won't be enough to tip the scales. The Heat lost Games 1 and 2 a year ago before beating the Lakers by 11 points in what seemed like a potential series-shifting Game 3. Instead, Miami lost two of the next three contests and became a footnote in a long line of clubs unable to erase an early Finals deficit.
The Bucks have the star power and supporting cast to turn this series around - much like the 2016 Cavaliers and 2006 Heat did in years past - and that starts with a must-win Game 3. But at these odds, you're better suited betting Milwaukee game-by-game than paying a modest price for a miracle.
C Jackson Cowart is a sports betting writer at theScore. You can follow him on Twitter (@CJacksonCowart) or email him at email@example.com.