Both the Miami Heat and the Milwaukee Bucks will have a lot to play for when they tip-off at Fiserv Forum on Saturday night, which will make the matchup a rare treat this late in the season when most other teams already have their regular season fates sealed. The Heat and Bucks are both safe from the play-in tournament, but there’s still the possibility for change in the order of the top six seeds in the Eastern Conference.
Free Picks: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Miami Heat
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More specifically, it’s movement between the second and third seeds as well as a tight race between the teams currently sitting in the fourth, fifth, and sixth seeds. While the Philadelphia 76ers locked up the top spot with their trouncing of the Orlando Magic on Friday night, the second and third seeds are still very much up for grabs.
The Brooklyn Nets are currently holding the second seed, but they are just one game ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks with two to play. Since the Bucks won two of the three meetings between the two this season, they have the tiebreaker, which means if they win both of their final two games and Brooklyn drops one, it’s the Bucks who will get the coveted second seed and take on the winners of the play-in in round one.
If the Bucks aren’t able to catch the Nets, they’ll be stuck in third place and looking at a likely date with either the New York Knicks or the Miami Heat in the very first round. Not exactly ideal. The Heat, who will take on the Bucks on Saturday night, are in their own battle for playoff positioning.
As of this writing, the Atlanta Hawks sit in fourth place with one game to go, while the Heat and Knicks sit tied in the fifth and sixth spots, with the Heat holding the tiebreaker over New York. That means that if the Heat can win their final two games, they can take the fourth seed if the Houston Rockets can also upset the Hawks on Saturday, as they have the tiebreaker over the Heat.
So, there’s a lot at stake for both teams, which makes this a more interesting and tougher NBA pick than the others we’ve been making lately. The Heat and Bucks split a pair of back-to-back matchups in late December, though Jimmy Butler wasn’t available for Miami in either of those clashes. Clearly, Jimmy Buckets’ presence in the lineup will make a big difference for both sides this time around.
The Heat have gone 33-19 this season when Butler is in the lineup, including wins in his last seven straight starts, which goes to show how hot Miami is right now. The Heat are definitely living up to their name, and it’s at just the right time as we head into the playoffs.
They are winners of four straight and eight of their past ten, but they’ve not just done it on the scoreboard, they’re doing it in sportsbooks as well: they have covered the spread in four straight games and in six of their past seven outings. At this point in the season, it’s all about momentum and matchups, which is why we like Miami as a top pick here.
The Bucks made a big time acquisition when they got Jrue Holiday in the offseason, and he will be a huge difference-maker, but other than that, these two teams are pretty similar to the ones that clashed in the second round of the playoffs in the bubble last season. There was no contest there, as the Heat rendered Giannis Antetokunmpo ineffective while they dismantled Milwaukee in a dominant five-game series win.
Milwaukee has also won two straight and seven of their past eight, but they have failed to cover the spread in each of their past five games, beating but not dominating teams. We certainly don’t expect them to dominate Jimmy and the Heat on Saturday night, which is why we like a Miami spread for this matchup as one of our best bets for today.
We’re going to take the Heat at a solid +3.5 NBA point spread at acceptable -122 NBA odds in what we’d expect to be a very tight, toss-up kind of game. These are the situations in which Butler has thrived, and we’d expect the scrappy underdogs to continue their dominance of the Bucks with a sixth cover in the past eight meetings.
- Miami is 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games
- Milwaukee is 0-5 ATS in their last 5 games
- Miami is 5-2 ATS in the last 7 meetings
- Milwaukee is 0-4 ATS in their past 4 games after an ATS loss
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The Golden State Warriors will host the Memphis Grizzlies in the final play-in game, which will determine the Western Conference’s eighth seed.
The Washington Wizards will host the Indiana Pacers on Thursday night with the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference on the line.
The Washington Wizards are high-tailing it into the East’s play-in tournament for which they’ll head to Boston to take on the Celtics on Tuesday night.
Alex is an alumnus of Ryerson University's RTA Sport Media program, a contributing NHL, NBA, and MLB writer in the BetPicks.ca team. He has been writing on sports, betting, and fantasy contests for several years, including pitstops as an NFL Editor for theScore and as one of the lead NBA news writers for fantasy sports site FantasyPros. As a lifelong athlete, bettor, and sports fan, Alex is uniquely qualified to help you reach the sports betting success that you've always dreamed of and your wife never believed you could achieve.