The NBA Conference Finals are fast approaching and already in the West, we know the two teams who will be vying for that title as the Phoenix Suns will take on the Los Angeles Clippers. In the East however, much is left to be decided as both semifinals have gone to pivotal game sevens. The first of which takes place tonight (8:30 PM ET, Saturday) as the Milwaukee Bucks take on the Brooklyn Nets for the right to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
There they will meet the winner of the Philadelphia 76ers/Atlanta Hawks semifinal, which takes place on Sunday. For this preview and predictions’ article, we’ll be focused on Bucks/Nets and offering our picks for which team we think will win tonight’s do-or-die game seven.
How We Got Here
It would be impossible to tell the story of a game seven without going back over the events that led here. Interestingly enough, going back to early in this series, the idea of a game seven felt like a pipe dream given how the Nets dominated over the first two games.
After a close win in game one, the second-seeded Nets proceeded to blow out the Bucks in game two, winning by just shy of 40 points. If at that point you had given up on Milwaukee, you wouldn’t have been alone as Brooklyn looked poised to fulfil the hype and easily make their way to the conference finals. So rarely are things that easy, especially in this year’s postseason as injuries have reared their ugly head. Brooklyn still prevailed, winning that second game despite missing James Harden from the lineup.
With their backs against the wall, the series headed to Milwaukee for two must win games at home for the Bucks. Milwaukee did just that as they relied on their own stars and sharpshooting prowess to win games three and four before heading back to Brooklyn. As the series shifted in momentum however, something else had happened. The Nets once again found themselves preparing to play a game without one of their superstars.
Entering this postseason with a big three that many believed to be unbeatable, the Nets entered game five with just one of them as in addition to Harden not being at 100 percent, Brooklyn was without Kyrie Irving, who sustained an injury in game four and has yet to re-take the court since. The best team money could buy was now reliant on one man, Kevin Durant, and a bunch of guys who would best be described as role players. But as he so often has in his career, Durant was unstoppable. The moment was his and he nearly single-handedly willed the Nets to the game six victory and 3-2 series lead. The ball, and their season, was now headed to Giannis Antetokounmpo’s court. Could the big man equal Durant’s feat and save the Bucks from elimination?
The answer was yes and it wasn’t even particularly close. Antetokounmpo put in one of his best performances this postseason, finishing with another 30-point game and 17 rebounds. The Bucks cruised to victory, never once trailing in the game. This time, Durant wasn’t enough to bring the Nets back.
Keys to the Game
So it all comes down to this. The best two words in sports if you’re a fan. Perhaps the two most nerve-wracking if you’re a player: game seven.
The Nets enter this game favored by just two points. Sure they’ll be at home and that crowd will no doubt be such a boost. The biggest issue staring down the Nets right now is health. Harden is playing through an injury and has clearly not looked like his usual top-scoring self. Irving has been ruled out for game seven. So it will once again rest on Durant’s shoulders if the Nets hope to keep their season alive. For the Bucks, they are the picture of health in comparison to the woes Brooklyn is suffering. Milwaukee will have their starting five intact which includes Khris Middleton, who is coming off one of the best games in his career following his 38-point scoring outburst in game six.
It’s hard to put the injuries aside as that has been a huge part of the narrative this series. However, injuries aside, there are other keys to this game for both teams. For the Nets it comes down just to being themselves. Almost no team is more dangerous than Brooklyn when they hit their sets. Durant can make a jumper almost at will. Harden, even hampered, can still get calls and get to the line. The bench is full of guys who have played their roles to perfection this year. Injuries are likely why the Nets didn’t get the top seed and injuries may be why they get sent home.
That and the Bucks, whose own keys to the game rely on the team’s ability to start getting the three ball to go down again. Middleton’s game 6 efforts aside, the Bucks have really struggled downtown, which had been an area of strength for them to this point. Now, clearly they can win without the three as they’ve done so three games this series. But Milwaukee is at its best when it is draining shots deep so that is definitely something to keep an eye on as this game progresses.
Our Preview’s Milwaukee Bucks vs Brooklyn Nets Game 7 Predictions’ Verdict & Picks
This has been an incredible series, one where both teams have seen their superstar step up in a major way. One game, 48 minutes remain to decide who advances to play either the Sixers or Hawks. This game isn’t Giannis vs Durant, though both guys will need to continue carrying their load. Basketball is a team game and you never know where the unlikeliest of heroes will come from.
The Nets have yet to lose a home game this series. In fact, they haven’t lost a home game since April 30th. Playing at home means something to these teams and home court advantage may just be the deciding factor that puts Brooklyn into the Eastern Conference Finals. So the predictions for this Game 7 preview are:
- Take the Nets -1.5pts on the spread @ -110 with Intertops. It is -2pts with Bovada, Bookmaker and BetOnline.
- Look for the 216 total points @ -110 with any of the four above named sportsbooks.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.