NBA betting: Brooklyn Nets open as big favorites over Milwaukee Bucks in East semifinals

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One second-round matchup in the NBA Playoffs is set, and it has the potential to be one of the best series of the postseason.

The Milwaukee Bucks, after sweeping the Miami Heat in Round 1, will face off against the Brooklyn Nets, who moved past the Boston Celtics in five games. It’s a showdown of the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in the Eastern Conference, and a showdown of two of the betting favorites to win the NBA Championship.

In this series itself, the Nets are the current betting favorites at BetMGM, listed at -200. That leaves the Bucks as the underdogs, but not as significant ones at +160.

The Nets, with the trio of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving, looked like a well-oiled machine in their series against the Celtics. Those three stars had not played alongside each other all that much during the regular season once Harden was brought aboard from the Houston Rockets back in January.

The offense is there, but the Nets will be challenged significantly by Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. This is the fifth consecutive season that Antetokounmpo has led the Bucks into the playoffs. Only once, though, have the Bucks advanced past the second round. The motivation is obviously there, and Antetokounmpo has a strong supporting cast led by Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday.

Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden (13) with Kevin Durant against the Boston Celtics in the second half of Game 5 during an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, June 1, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden (13) with Kevin Durant against the Boston Celtics in the second half of Game 5 during an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, June 1, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

The Nets and Bucks played three times during the regular season and the Bucks won two of those three meetings. The last two matchups came last month on May 2 and 4, with the Bucks winning 117-114 and 124-118 and covering the spread in both games. However, the Nets did not have all three of their stars available in any of those games.

The winner of this series could emerge as a significant favorite to win both the East and the NBA title. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Nets are listed at -120 to win the East with the Bucks next at +225. The Nets are the betting favorites to win it all at +185, with the Utah Jazz — the West’s top seed — next at +450 and the Bucks at +550.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia 76ers, the East’s No. 1 seed, are dealing with a knee injury to star big man Joel Embiid. Embiid’s health is now a huge storyline as the Sixers look to close out their first-round series against the Washington Wizards before likely facing the Atlanta Hawks in the second round. The Sixers are +400 to win the East and have +900 odds to win the NBA title at BetMGM.

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