This might be the ultimate disrespect for the Atlanta Hawks.
The Hawks are coming off a dominant Game 4 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks list two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo as doubtful with a knee injury, and if we're being honest, he's probably doubtful until next season.
And still the Hawks are 2-point underdogs at BetMGM.
The line has moved toward the Hawks and it could flip to them being a favorite if Trae Young plays. He sat out Game 4 with a bone bruise in his foot. Even without Young, the Hawks demolished Milwaukee on Tuesday night. And that was mostly with Antetokounmpo.
It would take an incredible effort for the Bucks to win without Antetokounmpo. Nothing against Young, but what he does is a lot easier to replace.
The Bucks were 40-21 when Antetokounmpo played in he regular season and 6-5 when he didn't. The Bucks were at their best in this series playing small with Antetokounmpo in the middle, and that's hard with Milwaukee's other big men. Brook Lopez has been a good player for Milwaukee, but the Hawks have exploited him. Bobby Portis could do it, but he's not Antetokounmpo. Nobody is.
Part of the reason Milwaukee operates at a high level on offense is Antetokounmpo draws so much attention inside and it leads to open 3s. Milwaukee was eighth in the NBA in 3-point attempts and fifth in 3-point percentage in the regular season. Nobody needs to collapse inside against anyone else on the roster. Not to mention, Antetokounmpo was last season's defensive player of the year and controls what the Bucks do on that end.
The Bucks are a team built around Antetokounmpo, obviously. It's going to be incredibly hard for them to win again without him. And even though there was no structural damage found in Antetokounmpo knee, it seems incredibly optimistic to think we'll see him again, especially at full speed, before November. The odds don't reflect the challenge, and the Hawks almost have to be the play at +2 even though they're likely to get just about all of the action. This was Milwaukee's shot to finally get back to the NBA Finals and maybe get a championship. If they still raise the trophy, it'll be one of the craziest stories we've seen.
Here's the first look at the sports betting slate for Thursday:
No second NBA game, no NHL, no Euro 2020 ... what do we do?
Unless you're into betting NFL preseason football, we're close to heading into a dry spell.
There's still a couple weeks of big soccer, basketball and hockey games, but not too many. Major League Baseball will roll on and we'll find golf and tennis and there's always soccer going on somewhere, but we're just about to the point where you'll have time to do a lot of college and pro football research. Or, there's always Wimbledon for a little while longer.
Who cashed tickets on Wednesday?
Congratulations to the Phoenix Suns, who completed a great story by winning the Western Conference by finally slaying the Los Angeles Clippers in a big Game 6 win. The Suns making the NBA Finals wasn't on anyone's radar before the season, and now they're -190 favorites at BetMGM to win it all.
In the NHL, the Tampa Bay Lightning won 3-1 over the Montreal Canadiens, scoring a crazy goal in the final second of the second period that changed the game. The Lightning are up 2-0 in the series and while Montreal has been competitive at times in the series, the Canadiens have a big hole to dig out of.
It was a crazy day in Major League Baseball. The Milwaukee Brewers trailed the Chicago Cubs 7-0 after the top of the first inning, and won 15-7. Sorry to Cubs bettors who mentally cashed that ticket. In New York, Shohei Ohtani struggled and didn't make it out of the first inning against the New York Yankees, but a grand slam by Jared Walsh of the Los Angeles Angels off Aroldis Chapman tied the game late and the Angels ended up winning 11-8.
What's on tap for MLB?
There are 13 games on Thursday, including five in the afternoon. The Angels and Yankees play at 1:05 p.m. Eastern. The Yankees are -155 favorites at BetMGM after collapsing on Wednesday, and maybe the Angels are worth a look on Thursday. The Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox have had a heated series, and they finish it on Thursday afternoon as well. The White Sox are -145 but have a tough assignment against Twins starter Jose Berrios.
Perhaps the best game of the day happens in the evening, when the hot Washington Nationals face the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers are just -125 favorites, with Tony Gonsolin on the mound, and whenever the line creeps down for the Dodgers they're always a consideration for a bet. No matter how hot Washington is.
What's the best bet?
If the Bucks can beat an underrated Hawks team (and cover two points as well), it'll be impressive. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a unique player. He's hard to replace because the Bucks have (smartly) built their entire attack around him and nobody can replicate what he does. The Bucks might figure out a way to win without Giannis, but I need to see it first.
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