NBA Playoff Pick 'Em: Bet on Giannis to transcend in Bucks-Celtics Game 7

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo brings the ball up against the Boston Celtics in the first half of Game 2 of an Eastern Conference semifinal in the NBA basketball playoffs. (Charles Krupa/AP)

In the immortal words of Zaza Pachulia, “We’re going to Game 7 baby!” And we’re doing it twice! Sunday is a basketball fan’s dream. Two win-or-go-home games, featuring five of the brightest stars in the NBA solar system. The action on the court is going to be fire.

Let’s make the action off the court just as much fun. These are the games where legends are made, where stars shine just a little bit brighter. So today we’re going to theme our picks, and focus on those five stars: Dallas’ Luka Doncic, Phoenix’s Chris Paul and Devin Booker, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Boston’s Jayson Tatum. 

With the Warriors and Heat moving on, my series picks record moves to 10-0, so I’m going to continue to trust my pre-playoff predictions, which will inform tonight's picks. General tip for game 7s: Everyone is nervous, so with a few exceptions (like Giannis), hammer those unders.

Overall record against the spread: 22-23-1

Milwaukee Bucks (+5, +180) at Boston Celtics (-5, -220) – 3:30 p.m. ET / 12:30 p.m. PT

This series has been a stellar back and forth, with neither team able to secure back-to-back wins at any point. If Milwaukee can continue that trend and make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, this series would immediately become part of the myth building around Antetokounmpo. He’s been doing it essentially alone on offence, against the NBA’s best (and most physical) defence.

It’s been nothing short of breathtaking. Transcendent. And even though Antetokounmpo had 40 points and 20 rebounds in a game Boston managed to win by double digits, I want my money on the Giannis Transcendence. Now, Tatum is starting to build his own myth, with 46 points for the Celtics Friday in an elimination game. And he’s got far more help. But it’s not as if the Bucks’ role players are chumps.

Boston hasn’t had back-to-back nights of good offence yet, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer go away from Grayson Allen entirely after watching Tatum attack him repeatedly on switches. There are micro-adjustments to be made for Milwaukee, whereas Boston just seems to sink or swim on their shooting.

Boston has only beaten the spread about 42 per cent of the time as home favourites, while Milwaukee is even worse as road dogs at 37 per cent. It’s the classic stoppable force versus moveable object.

But when the chips are down, I want my money on Antetokounmpo. Milwaukee (+5) is the pick, but don’t be shy about the money line (+180) if you agree with me that they’ll win this one outright.

I’m also riding Giannis OVER 34.5 points, and I’m playing my usual Jrue Holiday OVER 1.5 steals. I might put a bit of action on the UNDER 206.5, as four of the six games in this one have been low scoring (to the tune of a 198 average combined score).

Dallas Mavericks (+6.5, +230) at Phoenix Suns (-6.5, -280) – 8 p.m. ET /5 p.m. PT

How incredible would it be if Doncic pulls this off? He’s basically on the same trajectory LeBron James was on four years into his now illustrious career. Dragging this team to the Conference Finals (and maybe Finals, with how sloppy Golden State has looked) that has no business being there would just be the cherry on top.

But across from him is a version of Paul that should be desperate. He would never cop to it, but if Phoenix loses this game it’s yet another failed title run for Paul, yet another blown 2-0 series lead. And this time it won’t be because he’s hurt, or because a teammate is hurt. Chris Paul needs this. I love his OVER 16.5, not only because he’s been solid at home in the post-season, but because it just feels like he’s due. I think Phoenix is going to gameplan around shutting down the Dallas shooters, limiting what Jalen Brunson can do, and relying on their help defenders to make Luka Doncic’s night difficult.

And when the Suns have the ball, expect them to be ruthless. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Paul and Devin Booker hunting switches onto Doncic, despite him being a pretty decent on-ball defender. If the Suns can gas Doncic out (a tactic that has worked in playoffs past), their depth and balance should carry the late game.  This line scares me, so I’m probably staying away, since Game 7s tend to be tense, tight and low-scoring. I think this one will be close.

Against the spread, I’ll take Dallas (+6.5) and the points, but I think Phoenix is winning the game, so I’m not making that bet. These are two great defences and two deliberate, calculating offences. I like the UNDER 205 for the game, and I think Doncic goes UNDER 34.5 points as well. And of course, Mikal Bridges OVER 1.5 combined steals and blocks, since he’s only failed to top that three times in the playoffs.

The Sicko Same Game Parlay of The Night pays off at +1100

• Phoenix Suns Money Line

• Mikal Bridges OVER 1.5 steals and blocks combined

• Chris Paul OVER 16.5 points

• Jalen Brunson UNDER 27.5 points, assists and rebounds combined

• Luka Doncic UNDER 34.5 points

As always, play safe and don’t chase.

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