Thursday features Game 2 of the NBA Finals between the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns starting at 9 p.m. ET.
Giannis Antetokounmpo returned to the lineup after hyperextending his knee in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals and put up a 20-point, 17 rebound double-double at less than 100 percent. It was not enough as the Suns topped the Bucks 118-105. The Bucks shot 44 percent from three and were plus one with Giannis on the floor and still were not close to winning.
The Suns lost Dario Šarić for the series (and longer) with a torn ACL as well.
The Suns are 5-point favorites over the Bucks, with the total set at 220.5 points.
Antetokounmpo’s performance cannot be ignored considering how bad the knee injury looked. He also showed some limitations because of the knee, particularly closer to the rim on offense while evading defenders.
Antetokounmpo also saw minutes at center later in the game after Chris Paul did his best to pick and choose his victims, namely Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis. While not wholly their fault, Lopez more than Portis excels at playing Milwaukee’s drop defense. No surprise that Antetokounmpo leads all players in projected fantasy points according to our NBA Model. Paul had his way for majority of Game 1 and will do the same unless Jrue Holiday guards him. Holiday was on Devin Booker but may have to change defensive assignments if Milwaukee hopes to slow the key player in the Suns’ offense.
Holiday was 0 for 4 from 3-point range, as well as 4 for 14 overall, and found himself on the verge of a triple-double. He must contribute more scoring, simply put. He is also one of Milwaukee’s better free-throw shooters and has to find a way to get more attempts. Holiday has maxed out at six over the past month but four more free-throw attempts matter.
Booker had a difficult Game 1. He made up some for his second consecutive poor shooting from three-point range with another perfect game from the free-throw line. Booker has missed four attempts since the beginning of the Western Conference Finals.
Khris Middleton is another player who needs to get to the charity stripe, but his 29-point effort helped keep Milwaukee from being laughed out of the arena. Middleton has made double-digit field-goal attempts in four of his past five games. His salary dropped $600 on DraftKings, making him more palatable when trying to fit in a lineup with Antetokounmpo.
Lopez gets a redo after Game 1. He still topped his projection in only 22-plus minutes. As long as some defensive changes are made to not give Deandre Ayton anything he wants, he will be worth his salary and then some.
Ayton made all six of his free throw attempts in Game 1. That is what I took from his monster double-double. The Sun won the game at the free throw line and Ayton’s perfection from there helped. Also, the Bucks have no one player who could slow Ayton for an extended period of time. He is second behind Mikal Bridges as the top MVP option on FanDuel.
I don’t expect a repeat performance from Bridges on the offensive end. His 13 shot attempts were the most since Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, and as long as Antetokounmpo responds to treatment, he should see his minutes increase.
The Cameron Johnson salary bump on DraftKings makes him a fade. Jae Crowder can match and exceed Johnson’s production and is now cheaper on DraftKings. Crowder will be asked to do more with Šarić out for the series, and I doubt Crowder posts a second goose egg scoring in as many games.
Bobby Portis was exposed by Paul and will be utilized in specific situations to hide him from the cerebral point guard. A rebound from Lopez will also limit Portis’ minutes.
Cam Payne’s playing time has dried up with Paul healthy. He hasn’t played 20 minutes in a game since Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.
Values & Punts
Torrey Craig ($2,400 on DraftKings, $7,000 on FanDuel): Šarić’s injury opens secondary minutes that could be split between Craig, Cam Johnson, and even Frank Kaminsky depending on lineup construction by head coach Monty Williams. Craig can get hot and an unsung hero in DFS play.
Jeff Teague ($1,400 on DraftKings, $6,000 on FanDuel): Milwaukee’s depth/bench trust issues is one of the bigger stories of this series. Teague played two fewer minutes in Game 1 than Bryn Forbes, and Teague’s experience could earn him equal/more playing time than the rookie.
Pat Connaughton ($4,000 on DraftKings, $8,000 on FanDuel): Connaughton is the most trusted bench option for the Bucks but has been a disappointment. If he does not score off the bench, then Game 2 will look bleak for Milwaukee. His salary dropped $800 from Game 1. It did so similarly before Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals and Connaughton put up 30 fantasy points.