MILWAUKEE BUCKS AT MIAMI HEAT (+3.5, 226.5)
Everyone knows that the Bucks are the most offensively prolific team in the NBA, leading the league in scoring average (119.6 ppg) while ranking second in field-goal success rate (48.0 percent) and fourth in 3-point shooting (38.4 percent). But there's one area in which the Heat have actually been more dangerous: Miami comes into Monday's encounter ranked fourth in the league in first-quarter scoring (29.6), ever-so-slightly ahead of Milwaukee (29.4). Look for the buckets to be plentiful in the opening 12 minutes of this one, making the Over on the 1Q total a strong option.
Pick: Over First Quarter Total
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FIRST HALF BET
Dominance has come fairly easily to the Bucks, who +12.8-point scoring differential is more than 5 1/2 points higher than the next-closest team. And as you might expect, has made Milwaukee a popular SU play, particularly on the HT moneylines; the Bucks have the No. 2 first-half point differential on the road (+4.4), behind only the Dallas Mavericks. But the Heat are one of the top home teams in the league; their +7.9-point first-half differential at AmericanAirlines Arena ranks No. 3 in the league, behind the Bucks and Lakers. Milwaukee is great, but Miami is a force on home court and should lead this one at the break.
Pick: Miami First Half Moneyline
We like this one to be a wide-open affair (as you'll see a little later on), and that should mean plenty of shots for Heat scoring leader Jimmy Butler. He comes in averaging 20.5 points per game on the season, though he's been more effective on the road (21.0 ppg, 48.4% FG) than at home (20.1 ppg, 42.1% FG). That said, he averaged an impressive 21.8 points in nine February games and will be looking to make his mark in this one after missing the previous meeting with the Bucks due to the birth of his child. Look for Jimmy Buckets to live up to his nickname and soar past his point prop.
Pick: Jimmy Butler Over 20.5 Points
Over bettors might feel a bit squeamish to pull the trigger given how strong the Bucks' defense has looked in recent games; Milwaukee enters the new week having held four of its previous six opponents below the 100-point threshold. But the Heat own the league's No. 5 scoring offense at home (117.5 ppg) and has averaged an impressive 122.7 points over its last three games. That coupled with the Bucks' noted scoring prowess and the fact that Miami has shown plenty of cracks on the defensive end of late, points to a strong Over play here.
Pick: Over 226.5
It might seem like folly to some to lean toward a Miami team that lost seven of nine games not so long ago – but the Heat have bounced back nicely with a pair of gut-check wins over Dallas and Brooklyn. And while the Bucks have played wildly impressive basketball for the majority of the season, they're a little less formidable away from Milwaukee. Miami, on the other hand, has been a red-hot cover option at AmericanAirlines Arena this season (19-9-1 ATS) and will have Butler in the lineup – a luxury it didn't have in its previous meeting with Milwaukee. The SU win might be a little too bold, but we like the Miami cover.
Pick: Miami +3.5